The role of the affected state in humanitarian action: A case study on Pakistan
HPG Working Paper
Pakistan is a particularly relevant case study for the research into the role of the affected state in humanitarian action. It has suffered from two major natural disasters within the last two years. The Government of Pakistan has played a very active role in the response to both disasters, as has the international humanitarian community. What is interesting is how the approach taken by both sets of actors has differed considerably between the two disasters, which has had a significant impact on the subsequent outcomes.
The role of international humanitarian actors in Pakistan has not been straightforward. The presence of a strong, functioning, albeit military, state is not the usual context for humanitarian actors, and it has taken some time for a productive relationship to be formed between international NGOs and UN agencies with the Government of Pakistan and the relevant authorities. One of the key issues, explored in section 4.2, is the dominant role of the military. Different agencies have taken different stances on whether or how they can work alongside the military, and a coherent voice is lacking in particular regarding this relationship in the longer-term reconstruction phase.
A further interesting factor within this research has been the recent establishment of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) by the Government of Pakistan in 2007. This is evidence, in theory at least, that the state is developing its capacity for disaster management, from preparedness through to response and reconstruction. The NDMA's first real test was during the 2007 floods in western Pakistan. The humanitarian response has exposed both the limited capacity of the NDMA, as well as the reluctance of the international humanitarian community to support the primary responsibility of the state in responding to disasters within its own borders. This paper will focus on the humanitarian response to natural disasters rather than manmade disasters in Pakistan. This is largely because humanitarian actors are unable to provide a response to victims of conflict in Pakistan. It remains very difficult for international humanitarian actors to access areas which are deemed politically sensitive, despite reports in parts of FATA and Balochistan of unmet needs. The NDMA has so far focussed solely on natural disasters, although its mandate does cover 'a catastrophe or calamity arising from natural or man-made causes'1. Due to lack of sufficient data, this paper therefore focuses on the role of the state in responding to natural disasters within Pakistan.
This paper is divided into 9 chapters. Chapters 2 and 3 discuss the way disaster management institutions are structured, and give a brief overview of the history of disaster relief in Pakistan since its formation in 1947. Chapter 4 looks at the capacity of state institutions, in particular at the interesting balance of power between national and local state capacity on the one hand, and military and civilian authority on the other. Chapter 5 provides an outline of disaster management capacity, broadening the research limits from disaster response to look at both disaster preparedness in Pakistan, as well as the postrelief transition to reconstruction. Chapter 6 discusses the two recent natural disasters in Pakistan in greater depth, comparing and contrasting the responses provided by the state and international actors, including donors, the UN and INGOs. Chapter 7 looks at some of the lessons which could be learned from these humanitarian responses, and chapter 8 concludes with some ideas on the way forward for Pakistan in disaster management.(1)