Coordinating Humanitarian Assistance: A Comparative Analysis of Three Cases

TR Number
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Virginia Tech

For many years the United Nations (UN) has sought to coordinate its numerous agencies and other humanitarian relief actors during responses to natural disasters and complex emergencies. Its success in this endeavor has been mixed. Through an analysis of three different humanitarian relief operations-the Rwanda genocide in 1994, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's intervention in Kosovo in 1999, and the floods of 2000 in Mozambique-this paper describes more fully the conditions under which coordination efforts occur. Specifically, this essay argues that successful and effective coordination in each particular crisis depends on the extent to which certain capacity and contextual conditions were present. In addition, it suggests that the often-touted "coordination by command" approach, a top-down style of coordination, should not be assumed by the UN since, as the literature suggests, this notion is quite contentious among nongovernmental organizations and United Nations staff alike. This paper critiques the utility of pursuing this model and offers instead an alternative vision of a pragmatic facilitation role for UN agencies in humanitarian relief operations

humanitarian assistance, NGO, Mozambique, UN, Kosovo, coordination, Rwanda