Aid under Fire: people principles and practices of humanitarian aid in Angola
10 / 2006 - 02 / 2011
Humanitarian aid prides itself for delivering principled aid that is needs-based, neutral and independent. These principles, defined by the Red Cross and subscribed to by 300 agencies around the world, are meant to forge the trust needed to get access to people in need while protecting the safety of the aid workers. However, numerous other actors too provide aid or otherwise intervene in conflict situations. This is particularly clear in the country of Angola that has known conflict since 1961. Different external actors have intervened in the country for a diversity of motivations. The question is what difference it has made whether aid was provided by principled humanitarians or by other parties? How do humanitarians secure their status as neutral organisations and is their aid really more need-based?
Research into these questions is highly relevant to current discussions on humanitarian aid. After having ministered to the survival of countless people in every major crisis since Henri Dunant founded the Red Cross in 1859, humanitarian aid itself has recently come under fire. Rapid changes in the field of intervention, devastating evaluations, the multiplication of humanitarian actors, and the eroding legitimacy of aid have thrown the sector in a crisis of identity (what is humanitarianism today?) and a crisis of legitimacy (who are trustworthy humanitarians?).
The research focuses on the humanitarian complex through studying everyday practices of policy and decision making and by following programmes at the interfaces of intervention. The core of the research consists of two PhD projects that focus on the impact of aid on both livelihoods and rural institutions in Angola, and a multi-sited ethnography on the understanding, motivations and practices of major international stakeholders in the Angola conflict.