Refugee return and accountability
by HPN June 2003

Welcome to this, the first edition of the bi annual magazine of the Humanitarian Practice Network. So what are the differences with the Relief and Rehabilitation Network that you have seen around for the past six years, with its Newsletter, Network Papers and Good Practice Reviews? There are new names, new designs and a lower full annual subscription price. But rest assured, there is more continuity than rupture, and the changes we are making are intended to increase our value to you.

The RRN Newsletter has now become Humanitarian Exchange. Why? Well, we dropped ‘Newsletter’ because some of you found the label confusing since it actually covered a fully-fledged magazine. ‘Humanitarian’ better indicates the range of subjects we work on, which go well beyond relief and rehabilitation. The name change also signals more clearly a commitment to certain values and principles, including those of humanity, compassion and a sense of service to distressed people. Anyone can do relief and rehabilitation, including for profit, but that alone is not enough to be truly humanitarian.

‘Exchange’ refers to the fact that we want to be a place where policy and practice meet, for practice to become more policy-informed and policy more grounded in what we learn from practice. We also want to help exchanges of information and experiences between organisations, and between countries. Finally, we would like to encourage more intensive and extensive exchanges between those who provide assistance and protection, and those they help.

So no, we have not ‘floated’ ourselves onto a humanitarian ‘stock exchange’. Humanitarian action in practice is often about managing dilemmas and making trade-offs, but it is not, and should not be allowed to become, a business where values and assets can simply be ‘traded’. Still, we hope we can offer you value, of a different kind.

Our new design is a set of new clothes, but not a new fashion and certainly not a change of identity. We remain committed to providing you with high-quality, readable and relevant resource materials, in English and French. Humanitarian Exchange will appear twice a year, rather than three times, as was the case with the RRN Newsletter. Not because there are fewer issues to highlight and comment upon, but to enable us to concentrate more on the Network Papers and Good Practice Reviews, which are one of our distinctive features. Our website (www.odihpn.org.uk) will get a new look, and will become an even more valuable resource and gateway to other sources of information.

We would like to see humanitarian action become a more knowledge-based endeavour, without losing the humanity, compassion and solidarity that constitute its ethical and emotional origin. We will help you to document and disseminate your experiences and initiatives, keep you up to date with debates and new developments and provide you with practical resource materials for your daily work. We believe that this is necessary for individual and organisational learning. But by itself it cannot be sufficient. It is up to you to take it further, in your practices and policies.

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