There is an unbridgeable, but largely unappreciated gap between the neat rationality of development agencies’ representations which imagine the world as ordered and manageable and the actualities of situated social practice” – Mark Hobart, 1993, ‘Introduction: The Growth of Ignorance?’ in M. Hobart (ed.) An Anthropological Critique of Development: The Growth of Ignorance. London: Routledge, p.16.
Equally, there is a(n) (un)bridgeable gap between the ‘humanitarian’ and the ‘development’ (policies, practices, assistance, aid, agencies, etc). In many parts of the world they just can not be separated. In preparing for the World Humanitarian Summit (Istanbul, 2016), the organizers have held regional consultations, workshops and various other events (in the Middle East as well) to map the regional and global (humanitarian) needs, problems, views and priorities. Within this framework organizers of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) – in preparing for a consultation for the Middle East and North Africa – commissioned a research on local stakeholders’ and people’s views. Not only a summary of the regional consultation (Amman, March 2015, see Scoping Paper) is available, but an illustrative ‘whiteboard animation‘ can be accessed too.
As far as the interviews are concerned they were conducted with a mix of men, women, youth and community leaders in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine and Yemen between November 2014 and February 2015. Majority of the focus group interviews were conducted face-to-face (bits of them were recorded and posted on youtube), but an online questionnaire was also applied. Quite a bit part of the published WHS/Mena report (Preparatory Stakeholder Analysis) is about how and what respondents think about aid agencies and the (non-)existing (?) differences between the humanitarian and political dimensions of problems in the region.
According to the report – as summarized by IRINNews – aid agencies are partial, unaccountable and potentially corrupt, and they fail to meet refugees’ most pressing needs; there is a systematic lack of consultation about people’s needs, a failure to protect the most vulnerable, confusion over which agency was responsible for what, duplicated aid, as well as instances where help was perceived to be withheld or prioritized due to political or religious affiliation.
To be con’t…