Excerpts of a Foreign Aid interview with David Millibrand, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee
I think that the best thing that you can say about humanitarian aid around the world is it’s genuinely saving lives. … And I think that the premium on that kind of life saving in the midst of conflict; international agencies employing local people and making the difference between life and death by addressing, above all, health needs, water and sanitation needs is the most heroic and the most humbling thing to see. And the truth is that nongovernmental organizations are being pushed into the front line as more countries, 30, 35 countries around the world, are consumed by increasingly violent, increasingly chaotic, increasingly lawless conflict.
So, the upside of the story is that in the midst of chaos and conflict, there is some fantastic work being done. The downside is, or the challenge is, not just that there’s more and more need for this kind of international humanitarian work, 60 million people now, according to the UN, displaced by conflict and disaster by the end of last year, but their needs are changing. They’re more urban rather than in refugee camps. They’re long term rather than short term. They’re in the midst of armed opposition groups, not countries fighting according to certain Geneva Conventions and other rules.
So, the challenge for the humanitarian sector is to reach more people, but it’s also to reach them in a more fulfilling and deeper way, so that we’re doing more than just keeping them alive.
If you think about the change that’s happened in international development since the inauguration of the Millennium Development Goals 15 years ago, the revolution there has been the application of top-grade social science … that have taught us best practice in vaccination, in education, in water and sanitation. Read more