A Question of Values: Neal Keny-Guyer ’82 on Serving Humanitarian Needs in Conflict Zones

Getting help to those in need—whether those reeling from a natural disaster or crushed in the grip of extreme poverty—is always hard. It’s further complicated when relief organizations have to work inside an active conflict zone, or in territory controlled by warlords, repressive governments, or other bad actors. 

How do humanitarian groups navigate that ethical thicket? Are the lines different in a sudden crisis than in a seemingly endless conflict? 

We spoke with Neal Keny-Guyer ’82, the CEO of the global humanitarian organization Mercy Corps, about the ideas and values that have guided him in dealing with ISIS, the Taliban, North Korea, and other extreme groups and regimes. “Often, in situations of conflict around the world, there are no clean hands,” he said. “But if you’re going to address root causes, you’ve got to get those people at the table. You’ve got to build relationships.“