Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Distrust in emergency management: The impact of reduced information exchange

Bjørn Ivar Kruke, MSc, PhD


Coordination of humanitarian operations in complex emergencies require joint initiatives from mutually dependent actors, such as the host government, large UN agencies, international and national nongovernmental organizations, and the population. To master the challenges of coordination, building trust relations between these actors is essential, trust relations based on the willingness to communicate, to share information, and to cooperate. However, distrust between the displaced population and host government is often seen in complex emergencies and influences the agencies coming to the emergency area. This article concludes that distrust leads to reduced information exchange and thereby increased distrust. Although distrust in the authorities is well founded in Darfur, humanitarian operations without the authorities are not possible. The right personalities in key positions and smaller forums for information exchange increase the likelihood of trust-building between individual emergency managers from the various actors; trust-building is necessary for reliable emergency management.


complex emergency; trust and distrust; coordination; information exchange

Full Text:



Kruke BI, Olsen OE: Mindful operations in complex emergencies. In Aven T, Vinnem JE (eds.): Risk, Reliability and Societal Safety. London: Taylor & Francis, 2007: 961-968.

Kruke BI, Olsen OE: Reliability-seeking networks in complex emergencies. Int J Emerg Manag. 2005; 2(4): 275-291.

Stephenson M Jr: Making humanitarian relief networks more effective: operational coordination, trust and sense making. Disasters. 2005; 29(4): 337-350.

Reindorp N, Wiles P: Humanitarian Coordination: Lessons from Recent Field Experience. London, UK: Overseas Development Institute, 2001.

Minear L, Chelliah UBP, Crisp J, et al.: Unites Nations Coordination of the International Humanitarian Response to the Gulf Crisis, 1990-1992. The Thomas J. Watson Jr. Institute for International Studies 1992; Occupational paper #13.

Quarantelli EL:What is a Disaster? Perspectives on the Question. London: Routledge, 1998.

Duffield M: The Political economy of internal war. In Macrae J, Zwi AB, (eds.): War and Hunger: Rethinking International Responses to Complex Emergencies. London: Zed Books and Save the Children, UK, 1994.

Keen D: Complex Emergencies. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 2008.

Kruke BI, Olsen OE, Mathiesen ER, et al.: We Landed on Our Feet Again: NRC’s Reaction to the Tsunami of December 26th 2004. Oslo: The Norwegian Refugee Council, 2005.

IASC: IASC working paper on definition of complex emergencies. In Secretariat I-ASC, editor. New York: IASC, 1994.

Rosenthal U, Boin RA, Comfort LK: Managing Crises: Threats, Dilemmas, Opportunities. Springfield, Ill.: Charles C. Thomas, 2001.

Dynes RR: Expanding the horizons of disaster research. Nat Hazards Obs. 2004;XXVIII(4):1-2.

Weiss T: Military Civil Interactions: Intervening in Humanitarian Crises. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999.

Duffield M: Global Governance and the New Wars: The Merging of Development and Security. London: Zed Books, 2001.

Olsen OE, Kruke BI, Hovden J: Societal safety: Concept, borders and dilemmas. J Contingencies Crisis Manag. 2007; 15(2): 69-79.

Norwegian Parliamentary White Paper No. 17 (2001–2002). Societal Safety: The Road to a Less Vulnerable Society (own translation from Norwegian). Oslo, Norway, 2002.

IFRC: The Code of Conduct for International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and NGOs in Disaster Relief. In Response TSCfH, (ed.): IFRC, 1992.

The United Nations General Assembly: Strengthening of the coordination of humanitarian emergency assistance of the United Nations: Guiding Principles on Humanitarian Assistance. In Resolution GA, (ed.): The United Nations, 1991.

UNOCHA: Humanitarian Access: UNOCHA, 2008. Available at inArmedConflict/Whataretheissues/HumanitarianAccess/tabid/ 1124/Default.aspx.

Lautze S, Jones BD, Duffield M: Strategic Humanitarian Coordination in the Great Lakes, 1996-1997: An Independent Assessment. Geneva: Policy, Information and Advocacy Division. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations, 1998.

The United Nations. (2004). Highlights of the Spokesman’s of the Secretary-General of the United Nations Noon Briefing. Available at asp?HighID=178. Accessed December 3, 2004.

Schulze KE: Between Conflict and Peace: Tsunami Aid and Reconstruction in Aceh. London: London School of Economics, 2005.

Skinner J. The people in-between IDPs, Space and (Dis)placement in Sri Lanka. Sussex Migration Working Paper. Sussex: University of Sussex: Sussex Centre for Migration Research, 2005.

Bérubé M: Colombia: In the Crossfire; Migration Information Source, 2005.

OECD DAC: Guidance for Evaluating Humanitarian Assistance in Complex Emergencies. Paris: OECD, 1999.

Campbell K: Negotiating Peace in Darfur. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, Center for Conflict Analysis and Prevention, 2008.

Flint J, de Waal A: Darfur: A Short History of a Long War. London: Zed Books, 2005.

Suleiman MA: JEM’s vision on Darfur peace process (Dr. Suleiman, Mahmoud A. is the Deputy Chairman of the General Congress for Justice and Equality Movement (JEM)). Sudan Tribune 2007, Sunday, 20 May 2007.

Doyle M: Sudan’s Interlocking Wars. BBC News 2006, May 10, 2006.

Murphey DD: “Do something about Darfur”: A review of the complexities. J Soc Polit Econ Stud. 2008; 33(2): 229-264.

Maynard KA: Healing Communities in Conflict: International Assistance in Complex Emergencies. New York: Colombia University Press, 1999.

Minear L, Guillot P: Soldiers to the Rescue: Humanitarian Lessons from Rwanda. Paris: OECD, 1996.

Schneider SK: Flirting with Disaster: Public Management in Crisis Situations. New York, London: M. E. Sharpe, 1995.

Thirion X, Debensason D, Delarozière JC, et al.: August 2003: Reflections on a French Summer Disaster. Why were its medical consequences so serious? Are we sure to do better next time? J Contingencies Crisis Manag. 2005; 13(4):153-158.

Walker DM: Hurricane Katrina: GAO’s preliminary observations regarding preparedness, response, and recovery. In Office USGA (ed): Testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. United States Government Accountability Office, 2006.

Minear L: Learning to Learn (A discussion paper). Seminar on Lessons Learned in Humanitarian Coordination, Stockholm: 1998.

Scott-Flynn N: Coordination in Kosovo: The challenge for the NGO sector. Relief and Rehabilitation Network Newsletter. 1999; 15: 7-9.

Quarantelli EL: Ten criteria for evaluating the management of community disasters. Disasters. 1997; 21(1): 39-56.

de Waal A: Famine Crimes: Politics & the Disaster Relief Industry in Africa. Oxford and Bloomington, Indiana: James Currey and Indiana University Press, 1997.

Hanlon J: Peace without Profit: How the IMF Blocks Rebuilding in Mozambique. Oxford: James Currey, 1996.

The United Nations: Peacebuilding Commission: Country Specific Meeting: SIERRA LEONE, Relevant Highlights Recorded by R2PCS. In: Chamber EaSC, (ed.) New York: The United Nations, 2006.

Uvin P: The Influence of Aid in Situations of Violent Conflict. In: Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Journal O, editor. Conflict Prevention and Development Co-operation Papers. Paris: OECD, 2001.

Boersma MF, Buckley PJ, Ghauri PN: Trust in international joint venture relationships. J Business Res. 2003; 56: 1031-1042.

Mayer RC, Davis JH, Schoorman FD: An integrative model of organizational trust. Acad Manage Rev. 1995; 20: 709-734.

Cook J,Wall T: New work attitude measures of trust, organizational commitment and personal need non-fulfilment. J Occup Psychol. 1980; 53: 39-52.

Rousseau DM, Tijoriwala SA: What’s a good reason to change? Motivated reasoning and social accounts in promoting organizational change. J Appl Psychol 1999; 84: 514-528.

Hardin R: Trust. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006.

Blau PM: Structural Contexts of Opportunities. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994.

Hardin R: Trust and Trustworthiness. New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 2002.

Newell S, Swan J: Trust and inter-organizational networking. Human Relations. 2000; (53): 1287-1328.

Rousseau DM, Sitkin SB, Burt RS, et al.: Not so different after all: A cross-discipline view of trust. Acad Manage Rev. 1998; 23: 393-404.

Sako M: Prices, Quality and Trust: Inter-Firm Relations in Britain and Japan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992.

Yukl GA: Leadership in Organizations, 4th ed. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1998.

Smith JB, Barclay DW: The effects of organizational differences and trust on the effectiveness of selling partner relationships. J Marketing. 1997; 61: 3-21.

Zaheer A, McEvily B, Perrone V: Does trust matter? Exploring the effects of interorganizational and interpersonal trust on performance. Organization Sci. 1998; 9(2): 141-159.

Cook KS, Hardin R, Levi M: Cooperation Without Trust? New York: Russel Sage Foundation, 2005.

Pouligny B: UN peace operations, INGOs, NGOs, and promoting the rule of law: Exploring the intersection of international and local norms in different postwar contexts. J Hum Rights. 2003; 2(3): 359-377.

Rothstein B: Social Traps and the Problem of Trust: Theories of Institutional Design. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

Fox A: Beyond Contract: Work, Power and Trust Relations. London: Faber and Faber, 1974.

Turner B: Man-Made Disaster. London:Wykeham Publications, 1978.

Gold RL. Roles in sociological field observations. Social Forces. 1958; 36(3): 217-223.

Reliefweb: A much used publication channel for agencies working in Darfur. Available at doc100?OpenForm.

Neuman WL: Social Research Methods; Qualitative and Quantitative Approaches, 4th ed. Boston, London, Toronto, Sydney, Tokyo, Singapore: Allyn and Bacon, 2000.

Sudman S: Applied Sampling. New York, San Francisco, London: Academic Press, 1976.

Babbie E: The Practice of Social Research, 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1998.

The United Nations: The UN Security Council Resolution 1590 (2005). In: Council TUS, (ed.): The United Nations, 2005.

UNOCHA: Glossary of Humanitarian Terms. New York: UNOCHA, 2003.

Van Brabant K: Security and Humanitarian Space – Perspective of an Aid Agency. Humanitäres Völkerrecht – Informationsschriften. 1998; 11: 14-24.

Nordland B: Darfur: Aid workers are the new target. Newsweek 2007 January 29, 2007.

Egeland J: A Billion Lives: An Eyewitness Report from the Frontlines of Humanity. London: Simon & Schuster, 2008.

Comfort LK, Sungu Y, Johnson D, et al.: Complex systems in crisis: anticipation and resilience in dynamic environments. J Contingencies Crisis Manag. 2001; 9(3): 144-158.

Comfort LK: Share risk: A dynamic model of inter-organizational learning and change. In Garnett JL, Kouzmin A (eds.): Handbook of Administrative Communication. New York: Marcel Dekker, 1997: 395-411.

Comfort LK: Shared Risk: Complex Systems in Seismic Response. Oxford: Elsevier Science Ltd., 1999.

Sphere: Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Disaster Response. Geneva: The Sphere Project, 2004.

von Pilar U: Humanitarian Space Under Siege: Some Remarks from an Aid Agency’s Perspective. Europe and Humanitarian Aid— What Future? Learning from Crisis. Bad Neuenahr, 1999.

Fukuyama F: Trust: The Social Virtues and the Creation of Prosperity. New York: Free Press, 1995.

Putnam RD, Leonardi R, Nenetti R: Making Democracy Work, Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1993.

Mahoney L: Proactive Presence: Field Strategies for Civilian Protection. Geneva: Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, 2006.

Hardin R: Conceptions and explanations of trust. In Cook KS (ed.): Trust in Society. New York: Russel Sage Foundation, 2001.

Rosenthal U, Charles MT, ‘t Hart P, et al.: From case studies to theory and recommendations: A concluding analysis. In Rosenthal U, Charles MT, ‘t Hart P (eds.): Coping With Crises: The Management of Disasters, Riots and Terrorism. Springfield, Illinois: Charles C. Thomas, 1989: 439-472.

Kruke BI, Olsen OE: Knowledge creation and reliable decisionmaking in a complex emergency. Forthcoming.

Loquercio D, Hammersley M, Emmens B: Understanding and addressing staff turnover in humanitarian agencies. London: Humanitarian Practice Network, 2006: 55.

Dae-Jung K: Power of dialogue: Dialogue for reciprocal benefit and a win-win outcome. Point of Peace Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates and Informed Experts. Stavanger, Norway, 2008.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2018 Journal of Emergency Management