Role of Third Parties in Humanitarian Logistics

Humanitarian relief-operation management engages very different players, who may have a high degree of heterogeneity in terms of culture, purposes, interests, mandates, capacity, and logistics expertise. Key players can be categorized as follow: governments, the military, aid agencies, donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and private sector companies—among which logistics service providers are preeminent.

Host governments, neighboring country governments, and other country governments within the international community—are the activators of humanitarian logistics stream after a disaster strikes since they have the power to authorize operations and mobilize resources. In fact, without the host government authorization, no other player—with the exception of national aid agencies and the military—can operate in the disaster theater. Host government authorization is fundamental for the involvement of other countries (neighbors or not). The engagement of other countries is a delicate matter since it can be facilitated or blocked as a consequence of the
relationship quality between the host government and the international community (in many cases host countries do not enjoy good relations with their neighbors). Another important role in the aid process can be played by international agreements to which the host government subscribes with other countries (e.g., the European Union, North American Free Trade Agreement, Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation, Arab League, African Union). Moreover, host governments have the responsibility to put into place protocols and take action to reduce the probability of disasters (mitigation).

The military
It has been a very important actor since soldiers are called upon to provide primary assistance (i.e., hospital and camp installation, telecommunications, and route repair) thanks to their high planning and logistic capabilities.

Aid agencies
They are actors through which governments are able to alleviate the suffering caused by disasters. The largest agencies are global actors, but there are also many small regional and country-specific aid agencies. One of the most important for its logistic role and contribution is the WFP.

They provide the bulk of funding for major relief activities. Generally, donations consist of giving financial means (in-cash donations) to support humanitarian operations or providing goods and/or services for free (in-kind donations) while performing logistics operations. Since each player within its own specific role can provide in-kind donations, in the humanitarian relationship model the term ‗‗donor‘‘ refers to those who exclusively give financial means to fund aid operations. Thus, in addition to country-specific funding provided by governments in recent years, foundations, individual donors, and companies have become important sources of
funds for aid agencies.

They include several and disparate actors, ranging from influential and international players, such as CARE (a leading humanitarian organization fighting global poverty), to small and micro organizations that develop within local communities but are also able to operate at the international level. Some of these players are temporary, being created just to address one particular crisis. The presence of private-sector companies (logistics and others companies) is increasingly growing in the humanitarian relief environment. In the humanitarian logistics, companies can play one or more of the following roles:
• Donors;
• Collectors;
• Providers.

As a donor, a company can support humanitarian logistics by giving financial contributions (in cash) to fund aid operations. As a collector, a company can gather financial means from its customers, its employees, and its suppliers in order to fund aid operations. As a provider, a company can offer its goods and services for free (in-kind donation) or as a consequence of a selling action. In the humanitarian relationship model, when a company exclusively plays the role of donor and/or collector, it simply belongs to the donors category. The model refers to the company category only when the organization in question acts only or also as a provider.

They are capable of providing technological support and logistics staff and managers. They also provide specific services that may no longer be available on the ground immediately after a disaster has occurred, such as electricity supply, engineering solutions, banking support, and postal services. Initially, companies are moved to participate in humanitarian efforts because they have observed that enormous losses are inflicted when disasters interrupt the flow of their business; so they invest in re-establishing their business continuity. Working to alleviate the economic impact of such disruptions ‗‗makes good business sense‘‘ Within the company category, logistics service providers are excellent contributors at each stage of a disaster-relief operation through their logistics and supply chain management core capabilities. Leading international logistics service providers, such as Agility, DHL, FedEx, Maersk and UPS, have raised their importance in terms of the resources, assets, and knowledge shared with their humanitarian counterparts. Thanks to their capabilities in enhancing the speed and efficiency of relief efforts, logistics companies are assuming a more prominent role as the partners of humanitarian organizations.

In the next chapter, the inter-organizational interactions among actors in the humanitarian relationship model are described, with particular attention being paid to partnerships between profit and non-profit organizations.

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