By Akanimo Sampson
While armed conflicts and crises around the world have left millions of civilians unable to access critical aid, an alarming trend of attacks on aid workers and other non-lethal obstacles to sustained humanitarian access has led to one development: humanitarian access gaps and challenges to principled engagement.
The role of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has become increasingly recognised in responding to mounting need while delivering effective humanitarian assistance and protection in access-constrained environments.
Last week in Istanbul, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) together with the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA) addressed these issues convening its first Regional IOM-NGO Humanitarian Consultation for the Middle East and North Africa Region.
Consultation participants discussed good practices and complementarities for partnering in access constrained contexts such as tools for mitigating risk, strengthening local capacity to safely access the most vulnerable, and sustaining access to migrants held in detention in times of crisis.
With over 65 representatives, the Consultations presented an opportunity for participants to share best practices with peers in their fields. Those exchanges help inform future IOM policy, programming and humanitarian advocacy.
“Gaining and maintaining safe access to populations always involves complex decisions and hard choices in volatile and insecure environments,” said Jeff Labovitz, IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies, in his opening remarks. “We need to invest in skills and capacities that enable us to operate in high-risk and access constraint environments.”
It is against this background that IOM’s collaboration with NGOs is key to ensuring adequate humanitarian preparedness and response. IOM’s humanitarian partnerships with NGOs in the Middle East and North Africa have expanded as the Organisation’s crisis response in the region grows, both in the scope of services provided and in the breadth of geographical coverage.
Since 2015, IOM has organised annual consultations with NGOs that let humanitarians engage in dialogue, explore ways of working together and address current challenges.
Among this week’s foci were accountability, transparency, Duty of Care, institutional capacity building and issues of conflict sensitive programming and aid diversion.
IOM’s Labovitz further affirmed IOM’s commitment to working closely with NGOs at all levels, international, regional, national and local, and to “undertake dedicated action to strengthen our partnerships.”