Under threat, managing the tension between transparency and safety

By Michael Igoe 15 September 2015

Robert Jenkins of USAID’s Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance.

In post-conflict environments, development organizations often face a difficult paradox: their goal is to help build a more open, transparent government, but in the face of threatening violence information that in the wrong hands can become a liability.

How do donors like the U.S. Agency for International Development manage that tension, between transparency and openness on one side and the need to protect their staff and partners on the other? We spoke with Rob Jenkins, deputy assistant administrator for USAID’s Bureau of Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, to find out.

Jenkin’s branch of USAID oversees programs in some of the most troubled, tumultuous places on earth, from Syria to South Sudan. The bureau’s long term goal is to facilitate transitions towards peaceful and legitimate institutions. Its more immediate goal is keeping people alive to do their work.

“You have to be very open-eyed, very diligent and constantly looking at the context, evaluating, re-evaluating, and deciding what is the right thing to do for our partners,” Jenkins told Devex in this Conflict in Context exclusive interview.

Has your organization struggled to manage the tension between transparency and safety? What strategies proved effective? Share your thoughts in the comments below and click on the video to hear more of Jenkins’ insights.

Conflict in Context is a monthlong global conversation on conflict, transition and recovery hosted by Devex in partnership with Chemonics, Cordaid, Mercy Corps, OSCE and USAID. We’ll decode the challenges and highlight the opportunities countries face while in crisis and what the development community is doing to respond. Visit the campaign site and join the conversation using #ConflictinContext.

About the author

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Michael Igoe@AlterIgoe

Michael Igoe is a senior correspondent for Devex. Based in Washington, D.C., he covers U.S. foreign aid and emerging trends in international development and humanitarian policy. Michael draws on his experience as both a journalist and international development practitioner in Central Asia to develop stories from an insider's perspective.

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