Jonathan Dowdall: Conflict of Interests in EU’s Humanitarian Aid

The European Union’s humanitarian engagement in Libya risks leaving aid organizations that would work in the block dealing with a conflict of interests, a Belgium-based defense and security affairs journalist observes.

Jonathan Dowdall explains the EU provides humanitarian aid for Libya mainly through the European Commission’s Directorate General of Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection. But it is now actively engaging Libya’s National Transitional Council through its diplomatic mission, the External European Action Service.

“This raises a key issue about the neutrality of aid. It is well established in the aid community that organisations administering aid in conflict zones must maintain neutrality,” Dowdall says. “In the Libya case, there is little risk of the generally grateful population attacking aid donors for ties to the EU. But as the EU continues to broaden the role of the EEAS, it will increasingly find itself ‘flying the EU flag’ whilst simultaneously providing humanitarian aid funds via DG ECHO.”

Dowdall argues that given this setup, aid organizations may find themselves “faced with a conflict of interests.”

He explains: “On the one hand, there will be an EU diplomatic mission designed to further the interests of the CFSP, and on the other, an EU department will be providing the lions share of humanitarian aid for the charities and NGO’s operating in that conflict. The risks of bias are glaring and dangerous.”

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About the author

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.