4. When and where to get specialist help

A CARE CO should consider consulting an expert in conflict sensitivity if an emergency response is being implemented in an area currently experiencing conflict or with a history of violent conflict that could re-emerge. It is particularly important to call in help where the CO and its staff have no or little experience of conflict-sensitive approaches (the CO should first establish whether any emergency response staff has expertise in conflict sensitivity gained elsewhere). Often, staff will not realise the potential for the CO’s response may have a negative effect on conflict dynamics. In this case, external support can help them to recognise potential impacts and guide them to act accordingly.

Support may be available through local organisations with expertise in conflict sensitivity. If there is no obvious local resource organisation, the Regional Humanitarian Coordinator with support from CARE member partners can advise, suggest approaches and resources, refer the CO to experts elsewhere within CARE (ideally in the appropriate region), or recommend external consultants.

Rwanda 1994-95

Militarisation of the refugee camps of those fleeing Rwanda to Eastern Zaire (1994-95) was the catalyst for development of conflict-sensitive approaches. Mass exodus of the Hutu community was a deliberate policy of those who had committed genocide against Tutsi and moderate Hutu neighbours, as they expected international aid to flow to the refugees. They subsequently took control of the camps and exploited relief to consolidate their own power and launch attacks against Rwanda. The camps became places of violence and intimidation, and subsequent fighting resulted in over 200,000 camp inhabitants being killed. Agencies prioritised relief, but sidelined the regard for human rights and international humanitarian law. For example, the obligation to separate and possibly intern combatants under international humanitarian law was ignored. By prioritising relief to these camps while initially neglecting those remaining in Rwanda (who were vulnerable due to war-related damage, food shortages and psychological trauma), aid operations caused further divisions.

Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS)

OLS is promoted as a ‘success story’ of aid, with groundbreaking negotiated access from both Sudanese Government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) creating ‘corridors of tranquility’ for humanitarian access. However, OLS enabled both parties to the conflict to consolidate their hold over their respective populations and to prepare for renewed violence – war recommenced within a year. There are some fundamental problems with the notion of ‘corridors of tranquility’. Delimiting humanitarian zones implicitly legitimises the conduct of war in other places – civilians outside them become ‘fair game’(Africa Rights, 1994). OLS highlights how relief allows armies to re-equip for renewed violence, and that humanitarian access can unintentionally legitimise violence in certain circumstances.

Somalia 1992

In Somalia, following the military intervention in 1992, humanitarian assistance was drawn into a symbiotic relationship with the militias. High aid diversion rates and violence against humanitarian actors required the use of security and haulage contractors whose interest lay in maintaining violence.

South-East Asian tsunami

At the time of the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, Indonesia’s Aceh Province had been under a state of emergency after decades of conflict between Gerakan Aceh Merdeka (GAM) and the Indonesian government. Huge levels of aid subsequently flowed into the newly opened-up province to assist victims of the tsunami, but little was available to assist other areas affected primarily by the conflict. This led to a disparity in assistance and increased insecurity as former GAM fighters returned to tsunami-affected areas where others were receiving assistance.