The intervention strategies of humanitarian agencies in a complex political emergency : the case of Sri Lanka
This research attempts to answer the question of how humanitarian agencies engage with the combatants in a complex political emergency. The thesis has been designed as a case study of four non-governmental organisations, two Norwegian and two British, which have been working in Sri Lanka in the ongoing war. I focus on the period from 1995-1998 and build mainly of interview data with agency staff. Drawing on research literature on non-governmental organisations, I identify three roles which agencies can play in a complex political emergency: service delivery, advocacy and institution building. Ways in which agencies combine these roles are analysed, both in terms of their strategies in relation to actors in their environments, particularly the government and the LTTE, and in terms of the organisational challenges involved. When agencies move beyond a service delivery role issues relating to neutrality and impartiality often arise. Research literature on humanitarian assistance is applied to analyse how humanitarian agencies operationalise neutrality and impartiality and ways in which the agencies may be drawn into the conflict dynamic. My theoretical framework is organisational theory and, more specifically, research literature on organisations and their environments, and organisational strategy. In particular, I explore aspects of this literature which deal with situations in which organisations are subjected to pressure from their environments. This framework is then applied to identify the sources and types of constraints which agencies operate under and agency responses to these constraints, as well as the ways in which organisations develop strategies for managing their environments. I conclude that it is possible for agencies to combine different roles, but that in doing so, foreign humanitarian agencies have to actively manage their environments in order to ensure that their actions are perceived as legitimate by actors in the country in which they work.