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Managing the humanitarian micro-space: the practices of relief access in Syria

April 6th 2021 - 08:51
relief access in Syria

The delivery of humanitarian aid remains one of the main challenges in contemporary armed conflict. The legal, political and physical construction of a sustained and respected humanitarian space, in which such aid delivery can occur, is a fragile operation. Humanitarian spaces increasingly appear fragmented and localised. They are re-negotiated continuously, either as part of subnational and local truces and peace or cooperation agreements or through ad hoc bargaining between humanitarians and armed actors.

Based on a comparison of how relief efforts are negotiated in Syria, this article argues that humanitarian space is not shrinking, as is commonly assumed, but rather is being reconfigured into humanitarian micro-spaces. Such micro-spaces are fluid, dynamic and overlapping arenas of relief, constantly challenged, and morphed by different actors. Working in humanitarian micro-spaces requires continuous political involvement and decision-making, which presents a substantial challenge for humanitarian organisations.

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Authors: Dorith Kool, Jan Pospisil and Roanne van Voorst

Dorith Kool is a Strategic Analyst at HCSS, where she contributes to projects commissioned by the Dutch ministries. Her primary interest and expertise lie in fragile states, contemporary conflict dynamics and the role of the armed forces, with a special interest in the security implications of climate change. Among other topics, she has conducted research on geopolitics, geoeconomics and the nexus between water and conflict, the security sector in fragile states, civil-military relations, and migration. She also has experience working as an Arabic translator.