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Since 2008, the UN has tried to bring together its various functions in single ‘integrated missions’ in conflict situations. Its aim has been to maximize impact through greater coherence. But Oxfam and other humanitarian agencies have always been concerned that such integration can challenge the independence and impartiality of humanitarian action – particularly when the UN adopts so-called ‘structural integration’, where UN humanitarian, peacekeeping and political functions are under a single management line. In 2013, the UN recognised the risks inherent in these approaches, including to the security of aid workers and the people they seek to assist, if humanitarian actors are no longer seen to be impartial. A new UN policy set out safeguards to mitigate such risks. Since 2013, however, these safeguards have not been consistently applied in, for example, Mali or South Sudan. Better compliance with the UN’s own safeguards is vital. Oxfam, meanwhile, will continue to distinguish itself from structurally integrated UN missions.

Oxfam Humanitarian Policy Note updated August 2014.


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