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8 - Humanitarian Aid as a Shared and Contested Common Resource

from Part III - New Forms of Contested Commons

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  29 October 2021

Sheila R. Foster
Affiliation:
Georgetown University School of Law
Chrystie F. Swiney
Affiliation:
Georgetown University School of Law
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Summary

Intuitively, much research in commons research focuses on collaborative governance of environmental resources. At the same time, due to the pressures of climate change, the number of natural disasters will only increase, and humanitarian crises are already on an uptake. As a result, I aim to extend this line of inquiry in my discussion of humanitarian aid as a shared and contested common resource. I take the example of the 2013–2016 West Africa Ebola Epidemic, which occurred along the border of three countries with different institutional histories. Drawing on interviews with 100 civil society organizations and domestic NGOs, I illustrate how top-down management of the 2013–2016 Ebola Response by governmental and international organizations led to policy failure, only until local organizations were involved. Ebola unveils the inefficiency of neglecting local actors, typical in international humanitarian response. In addition, contestation of humanitarian aid resources viewed as “commons” by recipients and “private” by international aid organizations fuels tensions in the aid relationship, and particularly during a crisis where local buy-in is essential.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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