Humanitarian aid workers have a proud record of bringing assistance to the world’s disaster zones. But how difficult is it for western NGOs to work in the Islamic world? The difficulties that western NGOs face when operating in an Islamic context are largely due to a combination of misperceptions, mistrust and suspicion. Are we culturally too insensitive? Respect for the local culture and adherence to its traditions increase acceptance by the local population, and thus enhance the NGOs work environment. In the aid world as elsewhere, transparency and openness always pay off. Raising local awareness of an NGO’s mandate, aims and core values holds the key to better understanding and acceptance. It has been increasingly complicated for Western NGOs to gain access and work securely in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia. Has it become too diffcult for Western humanitarian agencies and NGOs to work in the Islamic world? If so, why is that, and what is the way forward?
Andreas Wigger, International Committee of the Red Cross
Jonathan Benthall, University College London
Caroline Abu-Sada, Médecins Sans Frontières
Khalid Roy, Islamic Relief Worldwide
Samuel Schubert, Webster University