Livelihoods, conflict and civilian security

26 April 2007 12:00 - 13:30 GMT+00
Public event

Speakers:

Cathy Huser, Protection Adviser, International Committee of the Red Cross

Nicholas Crawford, Head of Emergencies and Transitions Unit, World Food Programme

Susanne Jaspars, Independent Consultant

Chair:

Sara Pantuliano, Research Fellow, Humanitarian Policy Group, ODI

Description

There is a strong and well-documented interaction in situations of violent conflict between threats to physical security and threats to livelihoods and subsistence. Factors that affect one tend to impact on the other, both at the household and community levels and in more systemic ways, for example through the destruction of critical resources and the disruption of markets. For this reason, it is logical to consider issues of protection and of livelihood support together when responses are being developed, but this has tended not to be the case. Despite clear overlaps in the conceptual frameworks and assessment methods used in each of these two approaches, the humanitarian community have developed protection and livelihoods interventions largely independently of each other.

This meeting explored what kinds of livelihoods interventions can best promote the security of vulnerable populations while ensuring their access to basic subsistence.

This second meeting came about as a result of research undertaken at HPG exploring what approaches humanitarian agencies are actually practicing in the field with respect to protection of civilians in contexts of conflict. HPG’s work had included three case studies in northern Uganda, Darfur, and Colombia. A particular aspect that became clear was the importance of linking analysis of livelihoods to analysis of protection issues, seeing that threats to livelihoods and threats to physical security were very much interrelated or overlapping, and that interventions to support either of the two were often mutually beneficial – livelihoods assistance can help reduce civilians’ exposure to threat and violence and protection interventions can help enhance livelihoods strategies. Following up on this work, HPG has worked with Tufts on a joint research project exploring further the interaction between livelihoods analysis and protection to look at how the two can be practically linked to improve humanitarian programming.

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Sara Pantuliano opened the meeting introducing the meeting series and today’s meeting in particular. Today’s meeting came about as a result of research undertaken at HPG exploring what approaches humanitarian agencies are actually practicing in the field with respect to protection of civilians in contexts of conflict. HPG’s work has included three case studies in northern Uganda, Darfur, and Colombia. A particular aspect that became clear was the importance of linking analysis of livelihoods to analysis of protection issues, seeing that threats to livelihoods and threats to physical security were very much interrelated or overlapping, and that interventions to support either of the two were often mutually beneficial – livelihoods assistance can help reduce civilians’ exposure to threat and violence and protection interventions can help enhance livelihoods strategies. Following up on this work, HPG is working with Tufts on a joint research project exploring further the interaction between livelihoods analysis and protection to look at how the two can be practically linked to improve humanitarian programming.


Cathy Huser: Protection and Livelihoods Linked: An ICRC Perspective
Cathy Huser presented ICRC’s approach to protection and its link to assistance and livelihoods support. While ICRC strictly differentiates between protection and assistance, which might not necessarily be applicable to other actors, it does refer to the ‘holistic approach’ of its work. This includes all of its assistance and protection subsets, which, in a broader understanding of protection, might all be considered ‘protection’ in a very similar way to how others use the term.

The presentation first laid out both concepts – protection and livelihoods support – from ICRC’s perspective and then compared and discussed the linkages between the two. It also outlined the way that ICRC uses the two to strengthen each other. In their view, the targets for assistance and protection actions are different: while assistance is targeted at people in need who are caught in difficult circumstances, protection interventions are aimed directly at duty bearers with the intent to indirectly benefit the people in need. ICRC sees livelihoods support and protection as very distinct concepts requiring very different skill sets in interventions, even though they are very much linked.

ICRC’s protection work involves face-to-face discussions with duty bearers to get them to accept and respond to their legal duties. The objective is to prevent, stop, and avoid recurrence of violations, so that the consequences of conflict for the civilian population are minimised. Protection analysis typically looks downwards towards the individual and ultimately arrives at detailed incidents of violations. Who did what to whom? What was the intent, was it deliberate, is it a part of a deliberate policy?

ICRC’s assistance work is directed specifically at those suffering the consequences of abuse. It aims to mitigate, alleviate, and overcome the consequences of the violation, helping people to cope, sustain, maintain, and strengthen their capacities. This requires a comprehensive analysis of the humanitarian consequences of the actions of authorities or duty-bearers, which the ICRC uses to strengthen the argument to persuade them to change their behaviour. Assistance is also fundamentally used to increase access to authorities and build the trust of communities, so is a vehicle to initiate and strengthen its protection work. In a sense, assistance analysis looks in the opposite direction from protection starting from individual needs or examples, i.e. malnutrition, to generalisations for the whole community. It asks: what are the humanitarian consequences of violations? To what extent are authorities willing and able to address the consequences?

Taken together, the analyses of both protection and assistance has led to a coherent holistic strategy of response.


Susanne Jaspars
Susanne Jaspars discussed two things that she felt Cathy Huser had also touched on: the need for combined livelihoods and protection strategies and the way in which assistance can minimise threats to civilian security (provide protection). The strategy of belligerents is often specifically aimed at undermined the livelihoods of certain populations, which means that considerations of livelihoods security are often directly linked to the politics of conflict. Livelihoods analysis thus has to incorporate political analysis of conflict. She also stressed that livelihoods assessments should focus on the processes, institutions and policies that are part of the conflict instead of relying solely on looking at assets and livelihood strategies, economics, and other aspect of the livelihoods framework. Interventions that are focused entirely on economics will not address the political context of livelihoods strategies, which is where there is a clear link with protection.

Susanne then discussed some examples of how assistance can enhance civilian protection. Food aid, the most common response, often demonstrates the link between assistance and protection. Often those suffering violence are also being marginalised and being prevented from accessing food. Protecting the most vulnerable in this case means ensuring that they received the food aid they need. Food aid in Darfur, for instance, also gave people protection by allowing them to stay put and avoid the risks of travelling. It also reduced their needs so that they were less at risk of exploitation and could bargain for better wages. Susanne concluded by emphasising that livelihoods assistance interventions can enhance protection and are a very useful and practical part of a greater protection strategy but certainly can’t provide it on their own.


Nick Crawford: Protection: an overview of WFP’s experience to date
Nick Crawford presented on WFP’s own protection project speaking particularly about the language and approach used presently and its usefulness for an implementing agency whose aim is to be life-saving or livelihoods saving. WFP’s has been exploring a number of issues in relation to protection including:

• How far it can go when trying to deliver on its mandate;
• What its options are when the objectives of saving lives or livelihoods are being undermined by a ‘protection crisis’;
• Whether it is enough to simply draw the line at delivering food;
• What it should do in a situation where human rights violations are witnesses;
• Whether WFP’s large size and importance offers a greater potential to influence situations

Given that many agencies and other actors seem to have different understandings of what ‘protection’ actually means, WFP has also done some thinking around trying to define the term. For them, protection is about safe and dignified programming that does not create new risks for people.

WFP’s protection work has also considered humanitarian principles and looked at how it could better contribute to the work of other UN agencies, such as information gathering for example for UNHCR.

One key conclusion was that the scope of WFP is very limited in relation to addressing and contributing to protection. Concerns have also been raised about whether taking on this new set of protection activities may divert attention away from the need for others to address the protection issues with political action. That said, Nick stressed that there is certainly scope to do more by improving the capacity of WFPs analysis and understanding and by using its great size and coverage influence actors that might be more usefully leveraged to change their behaviour in ways to improve protection.

Nick ended by referring to Susanne’s point that food aid had had a protective impact. Other than the example of the decision to support host populations with food-aid, the protective impacts were all by-products of what WFP does as it is, without adding new, more explicit, considerations of protection. Perhaps it is enough for WFP to concentrate on getting food delivered appropriately and timely given the limitations of what more we can do and knowing that there are protective outcomes from simply accomplishing that.


Discussion

In the discussion the fact that there is indeed confusion about the word ‘protection’ was reinforced. The point was made that a possible way over this issue might be to focus on the purpose of protection – civilian security. This would have the effect of taking the emphasis away from the protector by highlighting what is trying to be achieved (and people’s vital interests as a whole) which would include their livelihoods and ability to access assistance as well as their physical security. One of the crucial questions for assistance agencies is how to secure access to those in need. The denial of access to relief and to the means of subsistence are protection issues but this does not get enough attention in these discussions.

Points and questions raised in the discussion included:

• The role of research in providing innovative policy recommendations as well as a space for continuous dialogue and debate between different actors.
• The fact that a large part of insecurity can be due to lack of access to assistance and other resources. If food can be delivered adequately, a great deal can be achieved in terms of protecting people.
• The vital function WFP can play in complementing other partners in insecure areas in order to have a protective impact. There are positive and less positive examples of these strategies in Sri Lanka, and in West Africa which show the potential of harnessing these synergies but also the importance of doing it in an informed manner..
• The importance of looking at the causes of livelihood insecurity and identifying what options people have within specific contexts so that recommendations can be made regarding policies, institutions, processes and what needs to change to improve things (such as more adherence to IHL). In Darfur, for instance, a number of recommendations were made including: the establishment of land and livestock compensation/reconciliation commissions.
• The fact that a wide range of international processes can influence a situation, so recommendations should take into account much more than immediate humanitarian responses. This might include looking at options that go beyond immediate food security and thinking of more general protective responses. The recommendations made in 2004 to expand WFP operations beyond IDP camps and distribute to wider areas are an example of this.
• The importance of being clear about who holds the duty to protect, and ensuring that adequate pressure is applied to ensure that they uphold their responsibilities. Current trends have tended to transfer responsibility to third parties which is dangerous.
• Whilst it is good that more people are getting involved in protection, this comes with certain risks. The wider range of actors now considering putting pressure on duty bearers to protect has the potential to cause confusion and allow authorities to ignore, or be selective about engaging with, some of the many actors appealing to them.

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