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Humanitarian Alert: NGO Information and its Impact on US Foreign Policy

Abby Stoddard
Humanitarian Alert: NGO Information and its Impact on US Foreign Policy
ISBN: 978-1-56549-228-8
ISBN: 978-1-56549-227-1
2006/245 pages/LC: 2006019522
A Kumarian Press Book

"A well-researched and well-argued book that deserves a wide readership."—Voluntas

"The title of this book doesn't do justice to the range and overall value of the content. In addition to the impact of information, the analysis presents invaluable insights on the views and motivations of NGO staff and organizations."—H. Roy Williams, Center for Humanitarian Cooperation


Do humanitarian NGOs function as autonomous—and even influential—nonstate actors with their own value-driven agendas? Or do they serve merely as the paid agents of national governments, providing a service-delivery function in line with those nations' foreign policy goals? Shedding light on this often-contentious issue, Abby Stoddard uses examples of US policy in the conflicts in Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, and elsewhere to chart the flow and impact of NGO information from its experience-based formation on the ground to its use by officials at all levels of government.

Stoddard draws on an array of sources, from embassy telegrams to interviews with state and nonstate actors, to create a compelling picture of how narratives and numbers in humanitarian crises variously help or hinder responses.


Abby Stoddard is senior program adviser at NYU's Center on International Cooperation.


  • Introduction.
  • Agents, Advisors, Antagonists.
  • Ants in the Ground, Gnats in the Ear.
  • Somalia.
  • Bosnia.
  • Kosovo.
  • Some Conclusions from the Three Cases.
  • The Humanitarian Alert in "Forgotten Emergencies."
  • Conclusion.