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A question of credibility

25 October 2005

I would like to take on board one of the key issues raised by Lina Abirafeh (in her blog of 21.10.05): the issue of credibility. For those of us who do work with and in communities, I think this is one of the most crucial ethical questions we have to address. As Lina points out - an ability to deliver effective programmes, to deliver on our word - goes some way to ensuring credibility. I think another important facet of the credibility criteria has to do with how grounded we are in the realities in which we work; for instance, how does a universal manifesto such as 1325 translate into our individual contexts? Are there times when it is, in its entirety, usable, or times when it is not, or times when it is usable only in parts? In a conflict situation, when is an appropriate time to speak of the requirements of a particular group of poeple (i.e. women)?

The first response in a post-conflict situation is necessarily one of humanitarian aid. By the time the issue of the protection of women has been raised, countless women and young girls will have been abducted, raped, or sold into prostitution. Do we require, then, from the start, a separate agency which goes beyond advocacy work, to safeguard the lives of women? And if, as in so many of our countries, the structures of our societies are patriarchal, governments are ineffective and NGOs may be viewed with some scepticism, from which platform will such an agency emerge?

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