Humanitarian responses to conflicts in Lebanon and the Near East
by Humanitarian Practice Network April 2007

The conflicts between Israel and Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) in 2006 led to a significant international humanitarian response and again raised concerns about the protection of civilians and breaches of international humanitarian law as the numbers of civilians killed and injured quickly escalated. In Lebanon the conflict was unexpected and brief, but at its height displaced one quarter of the population and led to the destruction of villages and infrastructure throughout the south of the country. In oPt the conflict came on the back of a freezing of international aid to the Palestinian Authority and clampdowns on movement and access that had already resulted in a deterioration in humanitarian indicators.

The articles in this edition of Humanitarian Exchange examine some of the distinguishing features of the emergency response which was undertaken by international humanitarian and UN agencies, donors, human rights and advocacy groups and a raft of local actors in response to the escalation of conflict in the region from July 2006. Despite a swift transition to early recovery after the ceasefire in Lebanon, chronic poverty, insecurity and access issues continue to affect agencies’ ability to provide adequate and appropriate humanitarian relief in oPt. The political causes and economic and social after-effects of the conflict continue to affect the economic and physical security of populations in the Near East, and humanitarian agencies continue to face serious challenges and dilemmas, some unique to this politically highly-charged situation, others more familiar from other humanitarian contexts.

The articles in this edition highlight some of the peculiarities of humanitarian practice in the Near East and in response to these crises. This includes the impact of international politics and aid policy in both Lebanon and the occupied Palestinian territories; the effectiveness of the humanitarian response in Lebanon in coping with displacement in a middle income country, coordination and the protection and physical safety of civilians; and working with armed groups not only party to the conflict, but on various terror lists in the context of the wider international security agenda.

This edition also presents articles on a range of other subjects of concern to policy-makers and practitioners in the humanitarian sector. The policy and practice articles in this edition look at the operational issues for agencies of integrated missions in Haiti and Sudan, the Tsunami Evaluation Coalition’s synthesis report, and coordination through clusters during the Pakistan earthquake response. Included also are lessons learned from programmes using cash distributions in Southern Somalia, shelter programming after two years of tsunami recovery in Sri Lanka and Aceh, and disaster diplomacy.

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