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Strengthening women’s security in crisis? The virtual implementation of strategies and guidelines

Kristin S. Scharffscher, PhD, Odd Einar Olsen, PhD

Abstract


Humanitarian agencies consist of several organizational levels, of which some find themselves far from each other in terms of culture and context. In their efforts to ensure a common direction in activities, humanitarian managers therefore rely on an array of guiding documents such as strategies, policies, and guidelines. Such guiding documents, however, are reported to have a marginal effect on humanitarian practice at field level. In this article, the authors take a closer look at the interlevel dynamics of humanitarian agencies and ask why their guiding documents are prone to flawed implementation. This study is centered on the United Nations Development Programme’s Gender Equality Strategy 2008-2011, and in particular its Eight Point Agenda for women’s empowerment and gender equality in crisis prevention and recovery. Theories concerning safety management and organizational accidents in commercial companies are used to analyze the implementation process. The findings revealed job perception gaps and diverging “realities” between the different organizational levels, combined with implementation indicators that are perceived as “irrelevant” at the country office and field office levels. Indicators tend to measure the output of administrative efforts within the organization rather than the outcome for the crisis-affected communities the guiding document was intended to protect. This phenomenon can be described as virtual implementation, as managers at the headquarters level are left with a mistaken belief that their guiding documents have made a humanitarian impact. As a consequence, virtual implementation can exacerbate the job perception gaps within the organization and develop latent conditions for future failures.

Keywords


humanitarian agencies, security, strategy, implementation, gender, Sri Lanka

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/jem.2011.0060

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