Remember those 10 crises and trends to watch in 2019 we presented back in January? We’ve been keeping an eye on them, reporting on how areas from climate change to political transitions in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo are impacting humanitarian needs and response. With 2019 just about half over, it’s time for an update.
Here’s what’s changed over the past six months, what we’re paying special attention to, and how it may affect the lives and livelihoods of people on the ground. Look for two updates every day this week, including today's on infectious diseases and anti-terror compliance.
Taxpayers, governments and aid agencies all agree that keeping aid out of the hands of extremists like so-called Islamic State, Boko Haram, or al-Shabab is a big priority. But will donors’ impossible demands on diversion actually stop aid from reaching innocents in need?
US lawmakers tweaked counter-terrorism laws and promptly made most US aid to Palestine open to legal challenge. The fear of cash aid leaking into terrorist pockets also caused a policy flip-flop by the UK in northeastern Syria.
Why we’re watching:
NGOs argue that donors are not taking their fair share of the risks of delivering aid to warzones like Yemen, Syria, or Somalia. Donors, NGO advocates say, are trying to wash their hands of liability under the guise of “zero-tolerance”.
Some cases are clear-cut: in Syria, staff of an American aid group were caught systematically passing millions of dollars worth of food packages to militants, according to USAID investigators. But how detailed should NGOs’ due diligence be? Who is legally to blame if small amounts go astray? In May, the issue marred the re-launch of NGO alliance Start Network. Former member Norwegian Refugee Council stepped aside, saying it couldn’t agree a counter-terrorism clause open to vague interpretation.
Keep in mind:
Some 70,000 civilian wives and children of IS fighters are now encamped at al-Hol, Syria and present a test case of humanitarian principles and of donor risk appetite. Looking ahead, a creeping advance of counter-terrorism conditions attached to aid grants will become a battle between security and humanitarian agendas.
(TOP PHOTO: Aid distribution on the Syrian Turkish border.)