Ross Mountain: Libyan Aid must not be Politicized

A transit camp for Libyan refugees near the Tunisian border. Donors should go "back to basics" and provide "independent and impartial" humanitarian aid, according to Ross Mountain, director general of DARA. Photo by: Department for International Development / Kate Joseph / CC BY

Amid the ongoing military intervention by coalition forces in crisis-hit Libya, an expert urges donors to go “back to basics” and provide “independent and impartial” humanitarian aid.

The Libyan refugee crisis calls for a clear separation between the political interests of governments, which have gone from allies to enemies of the Libyan government almost overnight, and the humanitarian imperative to prevent and alleviate suffering of the people caught in the crisis,” according to Ross Mountain, director general of DARA, an international humanitarian aid group.

Donors to Libya, Mountain says, should adhere to the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship, an agreement signed by 23 leading donor governments in 2003, which says that their humanitarian responses would be based on the needs of those affected.

“The blurring boundaries between humanitarian assistance and the support of economic and strategic interests are a direct threat to providing an adequate humanitarian response. Being aware of this is perhaps the most important step to avoid humanitarian failure,” Mountain writes in the blog “Poverty Matters” published in the Guardian. 

The politicization of humanitarian aid is a common dilemma in emergency response, says Conor Foley, a humanitarian aid worker who has worked for a variety of human rights and humanitarian aid organizations.

“[M]any humanitarian crises are the results of conflict, rather than natural disasters, and it is often difficult to separate the politics of the situation from the human tragedy of large numbers of people dying. Current events in Libya provide a very stark illustration of this. In this situation, western governments need to ensure that their various departments get an awful lot better at ‘joined-up thinking’,” Foley writes in a commentary published in the Guardian.

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About the author

  • Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.