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Doing Good, But Looking Bad? Two Humanitarian NGOs in the Eastern DRC
Unformatted Document Text:  1 Dennis Dijkzeul is Professor in the Management of Humanitarian Crises at the Institute of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict of the Ruhr University Bochum in Germany; Claude Iguma Wakenge is ?ccordinateur?? at the Institut Superieur de Développement Rural in Bukavu, DRC. 2 See for example http://fic.tufts.edu/downloads/SurveysMethodsfinal.pdf. 3 Literally, perception refers to the process of acquiring, selecting, organizing, interpreting, and understanding sensory information. In almost all research on humanitarian action, the term is used synonymously with view, and sometimes with the related terms interpretation, belief, or critical opinion. The main point of perception as a concept is that it does not refer to some “objective reality” but to the subjective interpretation of events, and allows for cultural differences. To the extent that perceptions shape behavior, as for example with the acceptance of humanitarian activities or principles, they can have important – sometimes unexpected – consequences. 4 Although it may hold after some sudden-onset natural disasters. But even in those natural disasters local views still matter. 5 This is also true of related fields that concern themselves with crises and conflicts. Goodhand (2006: 159) argues that only limited systematic analysis has been carried out “between aid interventions and the dynamics of peace and conflict.” Especially, at the local micro-level such research has been lacking. In addition, local perceptions have often been neglected in international peacebuilding efforts, which has hampered the effectiveness of these efforts (Talentino, 2007). Similarly, MacGinty argues “The implementation of [a] peace accord becomes a technocratic exercise of tacking boxes, counting heads and weapons, amending constitutions, and reconstructing housing units, while the more thorny affective and perceptual issues of reconciliation, exclusion, and the restoration of dignity are left unaddressed” (MacGinty, 2006: 3-4). In addition, the ICRC “People on War” project was instigated 50 years after the signing of the Geneva conventions when “after decades of working and speaking for people affected by armed conflict, the ICRC felt it was time to seek views on the limits in war form the victims themselves [sic, DD]… [The report asked] are there shared moral standards that formal law and military practice can build on?” It found that this was indeed the case (See Greenberg Research Inc., 1999). 6 The joint evaluation led to important initiatives to improve humanitarian action, such as the Sphere Guidelines, People in Aid, and the Humanitarian Accountability Project. While these initiatives can lead to important improvements in humanitarian management, they also receive considerable criticism. Some argue that their adoption often only goes skin deep and does not sufficiently take local perceptions into account. Moreover, these initiatives insufficiently succeed in addressing the broader systemic/structural factors, such as global inequity, securitisation, and politicisation that deeply influence humanitarian action (See Dijkzeul: 2004). 7 In general, studies on health care quality, access, utilisation, and cost recovery touch on local perceptions, but it is simply not their main focus (e.g., Van Herp, et al., 2004; Dijkzeul and Lynch, 2005; Lawson, 2004; Litvack and Bodart, 1993). 8 This research was part of a cooperative effort to develop a generic field guide to analyze refugees’ views of healthcare services (see Williams and Burke, 2002). 9 Perhaps this is because outsiders carry out these studies, not the agencies themselves. If humanitarian organisations carry out such studies, they have not published them. 10 For more details about the Congolese health system, see Van Herp, et al. (2003), Coghlan (2006) and Dijkzeul and Lynch (2005, 2006). 11 Dennis Dijkzeul works at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, and has worked regularly in the eastern DRC as a consultant or independently on humanitarian management issues. Claude Iguma works at an institute of higher education, l’Institut Superieur de Developpement Rural, in Bukavu, and has considerable working experience with local NGOs, such as RIO, and international NGOs, such as the Life and Peace Institute. The Ruhr University provided funding for the research with a grant. 12 By coincidence, we met a deeply frustrated manager of one of the organisations studied. He explained that his staff occasionally failed to plan logistics properly, despite training, regular control, and even sanctions (e.g., forced unpaid leave). Aware of the bad impression and additional transport costs that this caused, he mentioned in frustration that despite all efforts the same problem would recur every few months. 13 Nobody referred to , or to articles on Digital Congo, a website with Congolese news, about this issue. 14 As the eastern DRC is predominantly Christian, its citizens do not have any fundamental problems with humanitarian action by western organisation in comparison with aid in traditionally Islamic countries, such as Afghanistan and Somalia. 15 In this respect, there is no clear definition of humanitarianism. One can surely state what the components are of humanitarian action, but it is much harder to state where a humanitarian crisis begins and where development begins.

Authors: Dijkzeul, Dennis.
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1
Dennis Dijkzeul is Professor in the Management of Humanitarian Crises at the Institute of International Law of Peace and
Armed Conflict of the Ruhr University Bochum in Germany; Claude Iguma Wakenge is ?ccordinateur?? at the Institut
Superieur de Développement Rural in Bukavu, DRC.
2
See for example http://fic.tufts.edu/downloads/SurveysMethodsfinal.pdf.
3
Literally, perception refers to the process of acquiring, selecting, organizing, interpreting, and understanding sensory
information. In almost all research on humanitarian action, the term is used synonymously with view, and sometimes with
the related terms interpretation, belief, or critical opinion. The main point of perception as a concept is that it does not refer
to some “objective reality” but to the subjective interpretation of events, and allows for cultural differences. To the extent
that perceptions shape behavior, as for example with the acceptance of humanitarian activities or principles, they can have
important – sometimes unexpected – consequences.
4
Although it may hold after some sudden-onset natural disasters. But even in those natural disasters local views still matter.
5
This is also true of related fields that concern themselves with crises and conflicts. Goodhand (2006: 159) argues that only
limited systematic analysis has been carried out “between aid interventions and the dynamics of peace and conflict.”
Especially, at the local micro-level such research has been lacking. In addition, local perceptions have often been neglected
in international peacebuilding efforts, which has hampered the effectiveness of these efforts (Talentino, 2007). Similarly,
MacGinty argues “The implementation of [a] peace accord becomes a technocratic exercise of tacking boxes, counting
heads and weapons, amending constitutions, and reconstructing housing units, while the more thorny affective and
perceptual issues of reconciliation, exclusion, and the restoration of dignity are left unaddressed” (MacGinty, 2006: 3-4). In
addition, the ICRC “People on War” project was instigated 50 years after the signing of the Geneva conventions when
“after decades of working and speaking for people affected by armed conflict, the ICRC felt it was time to seek views on the
limits in war form the victims themselves [sic, DD]… [The report asked] are there shared moral standards that formal law
and military practice can build on?” It found that this was indeed the case (See Greenberg Research Inc., 1999).
6
The joint evaluation led to important initiatives to improve humanitarian action, such as the Sphere Guidelines, People in
Aid, and the Humanitarian Accountability Project. While these initiatives can lead to important improvements in
humanitarian management, they also receive considerable criticism. Some argue that their adoption often only goes skin
deep and does not sufficiently take local perceptions into account. Moreover, these initiatives insufficiently succeed in
addressing the broader systemic/structural factors, such as global inequity, securitisation, and politicisation that deeply
influence humanitarian action (See Dijkzeul: 2004).
7
In general, studies on health care quality, access, utilisation, and cost recovery touch on local perceptions, but it is simply
not their main focus (e.g., Van Herp, et al., 2004; Dijkzeul and Lynch, 2005; Lawson, 2004; Litvack and Bodart, 1993).
8
This research was part of a cooperative effort to develop a generic field guide to analyze refugees’ views of healthcare
services (see Williams and Burke, 2002).
9
Perhaps this is because outsiders carry out these studies, not the agencies themselves. If humanitarian organisations carry
out such studies, they have not published them.
10
For more details about the Congolese health system, see Van Herp, et al. (2003), Coghlan (2006) and Dijkzeul and Lynch
(2005, 2006).
11
Dennis Dijkzeul works at the Ruhr University in Bochum, Germany, and has worked regularly in the eastern DRC as a
consultant or independently on humanitarian management issues. Claude Iguma works at an institute of higher education,
l’Institut Superieur de Developpement Rural, in Bukavu, and has considerable working experience with local NGOs, such
as RIO, and international NGOs, such as the Life and Peace Institute. The Ruhr University provided funding for the
research with a grant.
12
By coincidence, we met a deeply frustrated manager of one of the organisations studied. He explained that his staff
occasionally failed to plan logistics properly, despite training, regular control, and even sanctions (e.g., forced unpaid
leave). Aware of the bad impression and additional transport costs that this caused, he mentioned in frustration that despite
all efforts the same problem would recur every few months.
13
Nobody referred to , or to articles on Digital Congo, a website with Congolese news, about this issue.
14
As the eastern DRC is predominantly Christian, its citizens do not have any fundamental problems with humanitarian
action by western organisation in comparison with aid in traditionally Islamic countries, such as Afghanistan and Somalia.
15
In this respect, there is no clear definition of humanitarianism. One can surely state what the components are of
humanitarian action, but it is much harder to state where a humanitarian crisis begins and where development begins.


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