2020 Humanitarian Studies Conference

New Realities of Politics and Humanitarianism: Between Solidarity and Abandonment

The 6th bi-annual conference of the International Humanitarian Studies Association will take place from the 4th to the 6th of November 2020 in Beirut, Lebanon. It is titled: New realities of politics and humanitarianism: between solidarity and abandonment. 

In 2020, the IHSA conference will be organized in collaboration with the Global Health Forum, by The Global Health Institute (GHI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB).

Important dates
– Call for Panels: 27 November 2019 to 30 April 2020
– Call for Papers: 5 May 2020 to 30 September 2020
– Conference Date: 4 to 6 November 2020

Panels can be uploaded under one of the 5 sub-themes
Stream 1 – Health, climate change and disaster risk reduction
Stream 2 – Decolonising Humanitarian studies? Ethics, knowledge production and application
Stream 3 – Political economy and politics of humanitarianism
Stream 4 – Technology and innovation track
Stream 5 – Migration, displacement and refugees

New realities of politics and humanitarianism: between solidarity and abandonment

As the International Humanitarian Studies Association is preparing for its  6th international conference, we are confronted with a rapidly changing political environment that has a strong impact on the policies and politics  of humanitarianism. What makes the theme of this edition of the conference more relevant and contextualized is holding it, in partnership with the Global Health Institute at the American University of Beirut, in a region considered by many as the epicentre of politics-humanitarianism in the world.

The drive for localisation, increasing use of cash transfers, rapid changes in the use of technologies, increasing attention for disaster risk reduction and changing approaches to accountability and participation all have major impacts on the way humanitarianism is organized, implemented and how it impacts crisis-affected people and communities. As humanitarianism increasingly seeks to build on local capacities and people’s resilience, questions can be raised as to what means for the protection of vulnerable people.

Yet, while the volume and range of humanitarian activities is higher than ever, the traditionally dominant actors in international aid, i.e. the US, and the EU,  are turning away from the notions of solidarity and respect for the rights of refugees or disaster-affected citizens enshrined in international law towards securitization and criminalization of migration.  Multiple people are on the move for different reasons – and this is likely to increase with a changing climate and an increase in disasters as well as protracted and violent conflict.  In today’s conflict crises, for example Yemen and Syria, the political and military objectives of the West and national and regional actors, now trump those of humanitarianism – and the resulting calamitous famines don’t receive the headlines concerns they used to trigger. Together with ever more complex political arrangements, often imbued with populist authoritarianism, whether in Venezuela, India or South Sudan, what humanitarians can do on the ground is being restricted. Are we witnessing the increasing abandonment of crisis-affected people and the humanitarian project? How can solidarity and principled approaches be brought back to the centre of the humanitarian endeavour?

The ambition of this edition of the conference is to provide a critical forum for discussing the changes within humanitarianism and what these changing political realities mean for the protection and assistance to crisis-affected populations.

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