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Gaza convoy has arrived

by Michael Keizer on March 10, 2009

A short update on my previous posting: the Viva Gaza convoy apparently arrived yesterday (or today, depending in which time zone you are) in Gaza — which makes it the first succesful privately organised aid convoy of this size.

Although… my friend and fellow humanitarian Paras Valeh points out that, back in 1995, a privately organised aid convoy negotiated its way from London to Bosnia. Apparently the convoy was organised by UCL Medical School students. I have tried to find some further information on this convoy, but so far without luck. Anybody who would be able to shed some light?


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Private aid logistics – a new era?

by Michael Keizer on February 16, 2009

An aid convoy set off yesterday from London to Gaza, organised by a number of private donors and organisers. By itself this is nothing new: trucks and small convoys with private aid have been going on for quite some time already, mainly to Eastern Europe. However, there is one difference here: the Viva Gaza convoy comprised about 100 vehicles, amongst which a number of ambulances loaded with medical supplies.

This is more than a quantitative difference: with this convoy, privately organised aid suddenly has reached a scale that puts it in the same league as many established international aid organisations. Up to now, private aid was always limited by the lack of logistics capacity: a more or less hard limit of about ten vehicles, about fifty staff, and about 10 metric tonnes of goods seemed to prevent private aid from ever achieving the scale of professionally organised aid. This convoy smashes that limit with panache.

Not so long ago, ‘citizen journalism’ was seen as a fringe activity that could never threaten the position of the printed press. Just a couple of years later, is was suddenly perceived as the biggest danger to the newspaper industry in decades. These days, most of us would see it as an interesting and useful complement to newspapers and magazines, with both comparative strengths and weaknesses. Could we now see the start of a similar ‘citizen aid’ movement?

Of course the organisers are running into a number of logistical issues; e.g. having a number of participants arrested within a day on suspicion of terrorist activities is not auspicious. However, I still think this convoy might some day be seen as the start of a new era for the aid industry, in which big international and national aid organisations work side by side with citizen aid — and will be more stringently be held to new standards that will develop from successes in private aid activities. The only restraint for that to happen, large-scale logistics, seems to have been overcome.

Update (10 March 2009): the convoy has arrived in Gaza. Click here for an update.


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