Humanitarian Studies Conference


A message from the IHSA president on 02-04-2020

Dear members and friends of IHSA,

We hope you are doing well and are healthy, as our thoughts are with the vulnerable people who don’t find protection against the virus or its economic consequences.

We regret to tell you that the IHSA board has decided to postpone the November conference in Lebanon. We do not anticipate that we can resume the preparations any time soon, and we will take a month to rethink when and where we will hold our next conference. At the same time, we will make a plan on how we can nonetheless organize more web-based activities this year.

At the moment, IHSA is trialing a weekly collection of blog posts that relate to humanitarian crises, and the responses to crisis from people, communities, politicians, and humanitarians. In the first place, these will be posts on the impact of COVID19 on crisis-affected communities and response capacities. In the second place, we will include posts on crises that are now pushed away from the front-pages despite their importance. Visit our Blog Collection page here.

If you have ideas, please contact us via:

Stay safe and take care!

Kind regards,
Dorothea Hilhorst
President IHSA


The 6th bi-annual conference of the International Humanitarian Studies Association will be on: New realities of politics and humanitarianism: between solidarity and abandonment. 

Panel 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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