The military dictatorship’s blocking of foreign aid to Burma/Myanmar has drawn worldwide condemnation. For me, however, the crux of the problem is twofold: first, the tradition of external response, and second, the nature consensual intervention. It is high time we shift to people-centered disaster/conflict early warning & response.
The UN’s Global Survey of Early Warning Systems for natural disasters defines the purpose of people-centered early warning systems as follows:
To empower individuals and communities threatened by hazards to act in sufficient time and in an appropriate manner so as to reduce the possibility of personal injury, loss of life, damage to property and the environment, and loss of livelihoods.
Precisely because of cases like that of Burma, the international humanitarian community should focus more seriously on “the capacity of disaster-affected communities to ‘bounce back’ or to recover with little or no external assistance following a disaster” (Manyena 2006). The question that most interests me is how information communication technology can increase community resilience to disasters and conflict.
Humanitarian aid and disaster response is still subject to the principle of state sovereignty. This in part continues to plague international responses to violent conflict such as the genocide in the Sudan. State-based intervention is anything but timely and efficient. This is why the humanitarian community should consider more decentralized and tactical approaches to rapid response. The field of strategic nonviolent action is specifically focused on these types of responses. The humanitarian community should take heed.
We need a far more cross-disciplinary approach to humanitarian response; one that does not divide disaster response from conflict prevention. And one that does not shy away from a more tactical and proactive approach to saving lives.