Can Globalization Transform Humanitarian Aid?
We are living in an increasingly globalized world. This unsurprising fact raises critical questions that policymakers and the international development community often fail to address. Because of an ever-expanding and interconnected world, the ability of individual states to affect global systems increases and humanitarian assistance programs must likewise scale up. How, then, must global relief strategies, such as those set by international bodies like the United Nations, shift as conflicts increase in complexity?
The severity and complexity of current and ongoing humanitarian crises necessitate the need to understand and harness this connectivity to facilitate sustainable and long-term solutions. Today, we as an international community are facing some of the greatest challenges the world has seen in recent memory. The worst refugee crisis since World War II now counts more than 50 million worldwide and as of June 2015, one in every 122 people had been displaced by war, violence, or persecution. In Syria alone, there are upwards of 7.6 million internally displaced persons.
As globalization increases, so too does the capacity of states to impact international economic, political and development systems. Similarly, as conflicts in so-called fragile states increase in complexity, the need for a robust and globally inclusive humanitarian response to combat new challenges is augmented. This is because, more than ever before, globalization is enabling conflicts and their destabilizing consequences to be “exported” in the form of economic instability and political unrest.
There is no greater example than the Syrian Civil War, the events of which have had devastating sociopolitical and humanitarian consequences for both the Middle East region and the world. The ongoing crisis in Syria likewise presents a timely opportunity to analyze and understand the value of regional connectivity and global cooperation on the efficacy of humanitarian assistance programs.
Syria’s civil war is entering its fifth year, and estimations of casualties vary from 149,016 to 350,760–figures that increase each day. In grappling with complex humanitarian situations like the Syrian conflict and refugee crisis, regional connectivity and cooperation is key to working toward a sustainable and long-term solution. To be sure, the particular responses cultivated must be tailored by region, as development policy and practice in the Middle East and North Africa naturally manifests differently than in Latin America, East Asia, or Europe.
To be truly effective, global relief strategies must be adjusted so as to incorporate a greater degree of cooperation from a more expansive set of actors. Broader cooperation at both the national and local levels–intra- and inter-regionally–is needed in order to facilitate robust and effective responses to humanitarian crises. The spectrum of stakeholders must be expanded to include all levels of society–from policy makers and representatives of international organizations to grassroots development practitioners and local community members. In turn, such cooperation can facilitate humanitarian interventions that are broader in both scope and impact–interventions that take into account local histories and circumstances, and in doing so, address both short and long-term needs of specific communities.
For example, governmental organizations like the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) support local actors in both civil society and the government, encouraging cooperation between countries to catalyze development-related change and to implement global development objectives regionally. The efficacy of these programs has been proven: with increased connectivity and involvement from diverse stakeholders at every level of the policymaking process, development programs are better able to address local and regional challenges while encouraging solutions that are also globally inclusive and take advantage of interregional connectivity.
The increasingly complex nature of conflict in the world today demands a development response that is globally oriented yet also takes into account local histories and circumstances. In the face of ever-increasing war, conflict, and development challenges, strengthened regional and international cooperation, and increased “buy-in” from actors at all levels of society is critical in ensuring a robust humanitarian response. Such a response must meet both current and future needs of at-risk populations; only then will we be able to fully provide the necessary social protections for vulnerable communities and address new challenges as they arise. Globalization, itself a source of transformative change, necessitates the implementation of a relief strategy that is equally transformative. By capitalizing on our increased connectivity, we can best address the increasingly complex humanitarian challenges we face.
Kate Moran is a Program Assistant for the Middle East and North Africa at the Center for International Private Enterprise, an international NGO that works to strengthen democracy and promote market-oriented economic reform. She has a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic from Emory University, and currently serves as a Humanitarian Assistance Fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy.
Originally published in The Huffington Post.
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