Denial, Delay, Diversion: Tackling Access Challenges in an Evolving Humanitarian Landscape
A REPORT OF THE CSIS TASK FORCE ON HUMANITARIAN ACCESS
September 18, 2019 :: 68 pages
Principled humanitarian action is under attack around the world. Globally, 70.8 million people are considered forcibly displaced by armed conflict and nearly 132 million people need emergency humanitarian assistance. At the same time, there has been a steep escalation in the deliberate, willful obstruction of humanitarian access, impeding the ability of humanitarian aid to reach the most vulnerable people and vice versa. As humanitarian emergencies become increasingly complex and protracted, blocked humanitarian access will only increase without urgent action.
To ensure the ability of aid to reach those who need it most and to uphold the principles of international humanitarian law, the United States should elevate humanitarian access as a foreign policy priority and work to reconcile tensions between critical national security measures and the growing needs of vulnerable populations in fragile, conflict-affected states…
We propose action in four key areas. The full list of recommendations can be found in Chapter Five.
:: Elevate humanitarian interests and make access a foreign policy priority.
The United States should overtly elevate humanitarian issues alongside foreign policy and national security priorities, making them a sustained focus of high-level diplomacy with partner governments
and allies and at the United Nations.
:: Strike a new risk balance.
The United States, other donor government, and the United Nations should reconcile tensions between national security and humanitarian interests, including in counterterrorism regulations, and establish mechanisms for a transparent, predictable, and durable balance that better protects the integrity of humanitarian operations and staff in conflict areas.
:: Increase accountability and harness the power of data.
The United States, other donor governments, and the United Nations should empower partners and UN agencies to safely and more effectively document and share data on obstruction of humanitarian access, strengthen required annual reporting on and monitoring of access constraints, and increase the political and reputational costs of access denial by states and armed groups.
:: Bolster training and technology.
The United States, donor governments, and UN agencies should collaborate with humanitarian actors to build frontline humanitarian negotiation and diplomatic skills. Officials in donor governments should be trained and equipped to support frontline negotiations and humanitarian operations. The United States and other donors should continue to fund and focus on innovative technologies and practices that can overcome access challenges.