A public lecture by a leading Pakistani expert on humanitarian aid will take place in Cambridge on Monday. The talk will highlight the challenges faced by NGOs providing relief to victims of large scale emergencies, including the devastating floods which hit Pakistan six months ago, and the 2009 conflict between the Taliban and Pakistan's armed forces in the Swat Valley.

Masood ul-Mulk will deliver his lecture, titled ‘Humanitarian-Military interaction in complex emergencies: the experience of Pakistan’, at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, at 7pm on Monday. The talk is hosted by the Cambridge Humanitarian Centre as part of their Annual Lecture series, and is free of charge.

Masood ul-Mulk has over 20 years’ experience of development in Pakistan. Since 2001, he has been CEO of the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP), the largest NGO working to alleviate poverty in north-west Pakistan. He led SRSP’s relief and reconstruction work following the 2005 earthquake, 2009 Swat Valley conflict and 2010 floods, and worked closely with civil and military authorities. Masood ul-Mulk was also part of the five-member UN, government and humanitarian team that led the 2009 UN Humanitarian Appeal for Internally Displaced Persons.

Masood’s talk will focus on the challenges faced by NGOs when working with the military to provide emergency relief. Humanitarian organisations and the armed forces might seem unlikely bedfellows. But in times of emergency, such as the floods which hit Pakistan in July 2010, aid agencies, government and the military must work together. When thousands of lives are at stake – more than 1,750 people were killed by the flooding, and a staggering 18 million affected – effective co-ordination between these organisations is crucial.

Masood will stress that learning to work with the military is essential for aid agencies in Pakistan, where the armed forces hold considerable influence. This is especially true in the Swat Valley, in north-west Pakistan, which was a Taliban stronghold until the militants were forced out by the army in 2009-10. Three million people fled the conflict, and had only recently returned when the floods hit in July 2010. Humanitarian agencies are faced with the task of helping to rebuild homes, livelihoods and services alongside an ongoing military presence in the region.

The Humanitarian Centre Annual Lecture, ‘Humanitarian-Military interaction in complex emergencies: the experience of Pakistan’, will take place in the Queens Building at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, at 7pm on Monday 7th February. The lecture is free of charge and will be followed by a drinks reception. All are welcome.

Image credit: Sarhad Rural Support Programme

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