“Relief: neutral form of aid or political communal mobilisation? The politics of aids during the July war and the humanitarian principle of neutrality”

May 21, 2015

On the 21st of May 2015, Lebanon Support organized a roundtable on the politics of humanitarian aid in Lebanon, the humanitarian principle of neutrality and the local politically engaged forms of relief provided during the July war.  The roundtable was the third of a series of discussions addressing local experiences, expertise and responses to crises and conflicts in past humanitarian emergencies from 2006 and 2007. These discussions and research are featured on the Humanitarian Knowledge Base Project to disseminate papers and research published on our online platform the CSKC (Civil Society Knowledge Centre) and to stimulate debate within civil society spheres in Lebanon.

The discussants were Heba Hage-Felder, Head of Cooperation at the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), and Raed Ataya, Program Coordinator at Nabaa Association. The session examined a paper commissioned by Lebanon Support and published at CSKC, written by Lamia Moghnieh on the issue of neutrality of aid intersecting with local political engagements with aid during war and violence in lebanon, taking the case of the July War in 2006.

The paper addressed the different assumptions embedded in conducting neutral and political humanitarian aid, in the context of the July war in 2006.  Discussants raised the issue of neutrality of aid, a humanitarian principle that is used differently by global humanitarian agencies according to their own political agendas and commitments to community-based aid. Neutrality is not the same everywhere but it depends on the humanitarian agency that adopts it. Discussants also gave an elaborate description of what a local form of political engagement of aid would look like concretely through the experience of Nabaa association during the July War and in Nahr El Bared.

Attendees debated several topics  in the discussion, notably the challenges faced by international organizations and agencies in providing aid during times of conflict and tension and the ways in which organizations can  access an emergency zones efficiently, ethically and professionally.  The tension between a politically charged environment and humanitarian neutrality was also discussed.

Furthermore, an attendee raised the difficulty in providing sustainability in the face of the continuous standardization of aid during emergencies. The increasing forms of indicators, adopted by humanitarian agencies and organizations, which have become a new kind of standardized apolitical markers through which aid distribution is justified, were also discussed, as well as the problems that emerge from putting these criteria and indicators in different local contexts of aid.