Sri Lanka



This case explores organizational capacity and decision making through the lens of a humanitarian relief operation. On December 26, 2004, the Indian Ocean tsunami killed 230,000 people across 14 countries. The island nation of Sri Lanka was severely affected, losing 35,322 lives and suffering damage along its entire coastline. International support and personnel arrived quickly after the tsunami, adding to the local non-governmental development organizations already present in the country. As a young field coordinator for Aid International, a medium-sized international non-government organization, the student must decide how to best establish Aid International’s presence in the country. Students will need to think about the benefits and tradeoffs of partnering with different types of local organizations, the importance of organizational capacity-building, and the pressure on the international aid community to quickly distribute resources after a major disaster.

Planning Topics

disaster management, humanitarian assistance, organizational capacity, policy implementation, social justice

Learning Objectives

  1. Understand how the role of international NGOs can have a lasting impact on the capacity of local organizations and the sustainability of future North-South NGO collaborations.
  2. Learn how important results-based evaluation can be to sustaining funding from donors for post-disaster aid relief.
  3. Consider how results-based evaluation timelines can perversely reduce the likelihood of implementing community-based, context-sensitive interventions.

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Suggested Readings

  1. Katz, J. The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster. Especially pages 5-12 and 263-276. Preview the book.
  2. Mascarenhas, M. (2014). Sovereignty: Crisis, Humanitarianism, and the Condition of 21st Century Sovereignty. In: Miraftab, F. and N. Kudva (Eds.) Cities of the Global South Reader. Preview the book.
  3. Telford, J. and J. Cosgrave (2007). The International Humanitarian System and the 2004 Indian Ocean Earthquake and Tsunamis. Disasters 31(1): 1-28. Read the abstract.