Humanitarian Aid on the Move No.23 - December 2021

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From the ruins of Beirut to the flooded regions of la Roya and Germany, from the villages under attack in the Central African Republic to the at-risk zones of the Sahel, from the outskirts of Mocoa in Colombia, devasted by a mudslide, to the villages in the regions where megafires have blazed, in all these places, citizens, elected representatives, and loosely formed groups of individuals have taken action to help their neighbours, their territory, or those who have come looking for refuge. In 2021, as was the case the year before, there have been as many crises as there have been examples of this local solidarity. Numerous reports have underlined how decisive local action has been in the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, how primo responders and locally-led responses are often more effective in times of crisis, and yet…

And yet, traditional humanitarian actors have a great deal of difficulty dealing with this local solidarity, which goes by many different names and includes many different types of organisation: informal mutual aid networks, organisations that are used to humanitarian standards, activist citizen-based initiatives, apolitical neighbourhood committees, Red Cross volunteers, and local private sector bodies who also want to contribute to the response. The contours of this type of solidarity are unclear, and are very different from one context to another, and from one stage of a crisis to another. What is also unclear is the humanitarian sector’s capacity to understand and support it (or its interest in doing so).

New operational methods therefore need to be invented to support – without undermining - this extraordinary local solidarity, these citizen-based initiatives and these local forms of mutual aid that are often on the margins of the classic humanitarian ‘system’. This was the territory that we began to explore during the 2021 edition of the Autumn School on Humanitarian Aid. We continue along this inspiring yet tortuous path, full of enriching encounters, in this new edition of Humanitarian Aid on the Move.