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Understanding Emergency Relief Operations: Operation Lifeline Sudan and Beyond

By Salma D. El Hag Yousif


This dissertation examines the problems of coordination and adaptation in integrated relief operations responding to complex humanitarian emergencies (CHE). It is an exploratory case study of the relief operation in Southern Sudan where a CHE has been ongoing since the mid-1980s. The study spans the 20 year-period from 1989 to 2009 with a focus on three points in time - 1989, 1998 and 2009 - when violence and acute food shortage threatened the lives of thousands of people. The study draws on the literature on CHE and coordination during relief operations while its theoretical framework is based on the literature on Organization Theory, Interorganizational Coordination Theory, Complex Adaptive Systems Theory, the Institutional Analysis and Development Framework, Lewin’s Force Field Theory and the Science of Networks. The study applies the theoretical framework and uses both descriptive analysis and social network analysis to study the relief operation within its dynamic environment. The descriptive analysis explains the background to the relief operation and enables me to account for the constellation of especial circumstances that led to the emergence of the operation at that specific time. The network analysis enables me to map the structure of the operation and the relationships among the actors and to understand how coordination takes place. Studying the relief operation at three points in time allows me to understand how the process of adaptation took place and how the operation evolved in response to the changes in its environment. \ud \ud The findings of the study reveal that the structure of the operation is a horizontal hierarchy characterized by interdependency and strong local connections between the actors which enable them to join their efforts when needed but also to have the ability to act independently. They also reveal that the environment in which a relief operation takes place have a strong impact on the operation while the operation itself impacts that environment. Over the period of 20 years, the structure of the relief operation changed little but its members changed and its scope and focus has also changed in response to changes in its environment. \u

Year: 2011
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Provided by: D-Scholarship@Pitt

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