NGOs & Risk: Managing Uncertainty in Local-International Partnerships is a massive and unprecedented forward step in quantifying and strengthening partnerships between International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs) and Local/National Non-Governmental Organizations (L/NNGOs) at a time when regulations and security concerns are making humanitarian work increasingly more difficult. Co-authors InterAction and Humanitarian Outcomes, with the support of USAID, explore partnership types, risk ownership and allocation in partnerships, and risk management, and conclude with recommendations for all parties involved with humanitarian work.
Within “Managing the Risks in Partnerships: Policies and Practices Observed,” the authors detail a significant and frequent concern of humanitarian organizations and their donors: the burdens placed by counterterror regulations and the consequences of attempting to adhere to them. “While such restrictions and certifications on working with sanctioned groups have been in place since the early 2000s, the compliance requirements around them have been repeatedly ratcheted up, broadened, and extended to the sub-grant level . . . Uncertainty about the scope of the regulations, how to comply with them, and how they will be enforced persist among INGOs, which creates unavoidable disincentives to operating in certain places, thereby compromising impartiality of humanitarian action.”
These laws and regulations, although written with the intention of preventing terrorism and violence, inadvertently do the opposite because they stymie the work of organizations that ease the conditions that often lead to terrorism and violence. For example, the Lake Chad Basin clause, which makes USAID funding contingent upon not giving aid to “individuals who the Recipient knows to have been formerly affiliated with Boko Haram or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) – West Africa, as follows: fighters, non-fighting members, individuals who may have been kidnapped by Boko Haram or Isis-West Africa but held for periods longer than 6 months, and those under the control or acting on behalf of the same” (USAID, taken from InterAction case study; emphasis added). Regulations such as the Lake Chad Basin clause make doing aid work nearly impossible in the places where it is most needed. In addition, bank derisking, in which banks refuse to process transactions or delay them for weeks at a time, is a particular threat to operational capacity and can have tremendous consequences for humanitarians and those they serve alike.