Humanitarian aid and fragile states

Following on from the last post about the impact of the CSR on UK aid policy, the focus on ‘fragile states’ suggests a positive relationship between humanitarian aid and conflict resolution. Yet, in reality, this relationship is far from certain.

Rebuilding peace after conflict requires the creation of stability,  restoration of justice, effective and efficient government (both local and central), the resumption of secure livelihoods, etc. In other words, post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding requires governance and building security primarily, not just the arrival of humanitarian international.

That is not to deny the place of aid in such processes. But its place is to support the establishment of governance and security – and it is these which will create conditions for peace and stability, not the act of providing aid itself (important though this is).

Of course, most aid workers (or, at least many) understand this only too well. But the public rationale of DFID’s new focus makes it sound too easy: spend more, see more peace and stability. Given the suspicion of many in the UK (and hostility of some media outlets, such as the Daily Mail) towards the increased international aid budget, it is imperative that the complexities of engaging in the task of peace building and reconstruction are not presented as a simple equation of more aid = more peace, but treated as the difficult task that it really is.

See the video by my colleague Jonathan Goodhand on humanitarian aid and winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan:



About Mike Jennings

I am Reader in International Development and Head of the Department of Development Studies at the SOAS, University of London. I research, teach and write on Africa, and the history and politics of international development in sub-Saharan Africa. Research areas include: - The history of development in Africa, from the late nineteenth century to the current day - Politics of East Africa (Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda) - the role of non-state providers (NGOs, FBOs and self-help groups) in welfare service provision - Social aspects of health, including HIV and AIDS, and malaria
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