Humanitarianism is in crisis. The end of the Cold War brought about drastic changes for those working in disaster relief, development aid, and peacebuilding/post-conflict reconstruction worldwide, as prolonged periods of instability and conflict became part and parcel of humanitarian engagement. The moral dilemmas faced by international organizations have rendered their work ineffective in many areas of conflict. Out of the myriad critiques of international assistance came the work of Mary Anderson and her organization, The Collaborative for Development Action (CDA), which collaborated with a number of international humanitarian organizations in the creation of the Do No Harm (DNH) Framework for providing aid in the midst of conflict. There is an urgency to do better, and humanitarian actors must be aware of what real solutions exist. DNH represents a crucial paradigm shift in the way relief, development, and peacebuilding work is done in the field, but whether or not “do no harm” is merely a global NGO buzz phrase, or if it represents a realistic solution to some of the moral dilemmas of humanitarian action, is still to be determined. My paper and qualitative research attempts to ascertain this crucial dimension by asking: How do the concepts of Do No Harm contribute to the success of humanitarian efforts to reduce conflict and move toward sustainable development? By traveling to Kenya and interviewing individuals involved in implementing DNH, I was able to write a case study which can provide insight and guidance for those planning to provide assistance in areas of conflict. My hope is that this research can in some way contribute to making international humanitarian efforts more meaningful for practitioners and more effective for the people and communities they serve.


Peace and Conflict Studies