Bath Papers in International Development and Wellbeing 42
This paper explores the challenges facing humanitarian NGOs that work in authoritarian settings. Drawing on examples from North Korea, Myanmar, Darfur, and Sri Lanka, the paper examines some of the central dilemmas facing humanitarian actors in these contexts and the strategies they have deployed to address these. The paper then examines the oft-repeated recommendation that humanitarian agencies need to engage in more rigorous and more strategic analysis of their work in order to improve practice. I argue that there has been a failure to adequately assess the motivations of authoritarian regimes and the complex implications their interests and strategies may have for humanitarian engagement. This discussion also highlights the neglected role of local humanitarian actors and communities in maintaining humanitarian access and protection in authoritarian contexts.