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Abstract

The challenges faced by non-governmental organizations seeking to mitigate violence within the context of “complex humanitarian emergencies” create new dilemmas and require new strategies. These emergencies arise from violence inflicted by one group against another within the confines of a state, from the capture of state institutions by one group, or by the collapse of these institutions and the failure of governance. They develop within a context of disengagement by the major powers and the privatization of emergency assistance. I first analyze the dimensions of complex humanitarian emergencies, define the dilemmas humanitarian NGOs face and their implications for conflict resolution, and examine the changing international context to establish the scope of disengagement and privatization. I then assess the troubling evidence that humanitarian NGOs have contributed inadvertently to the escalation of violence rather than to conflict resolution. I explore three possible strategies, some of them counterintuitive, which could contribute to the mitigation of the violence and to conflict resolution.

Author Bio(s)

Janice Gross Stein is the Harrowston Professor of Conflict Management and Negotiation at the University of Toronto and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. She currently serves as the Director of the Munk Centre for International Studies. Dr. Stein has co-authored and co-edited several books.

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