About the Conference on Humanitarian Studies

4-6 November 2020, Beirut, Lebanon

IHSA Conference on Humanitarian Studies
Every other year, the International Humanitarian Studies Association organizes a conference on humanitarian studies. Our conferences take place in a different parts of the world each time. We started in 2009 in Groningen, the Netherlands, and after Boston, Addis Ababa, Istanbul and the Hague we will organize our 6th conference in Beirut, Lebanon. Our conferences bring together a wide range of academics and practitioners that exchange knowledge on different topics within humanitarian studies.

Global Health Forum
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).

The Global Health Forum aims to draw special attention to global health challenges in low and middle-income countries (LMIC) most of which are geographically located in the Global South. The forum intends to create an open platform for innovators among policy makers, global health professionals, academics and the private sector to evaluate and anticipate global health challenges pertaining to LMIC. The forum convenes stakeholders from various disciplines to showcase innovative ideas and practical cases of innovations in global health either originating in or applicable to the LMIC context. The overarching theme of the first biennial global health forum was “Innovative Approaches to Global Health Challenges in Low and Middle-Income Countries”. The forum was organized by the Global Health Institute in collaboration with the Consortium of Universities for Global Health.

New realities of politics and humanitarianism: between solidarity and abandonment
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.

Conference themes:

  1. Health, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction
  2. Decolonising Humanitarian Studies? Ethics, Knowledge Production and Application
  3. Political Economy and Politics of Humanitarianism
  4. Technology and Innovation
  5. Migration, Displacement and Refugees

Read full descriptions here.

Past Conferences:

  • 2009 – The first World Conference of Humanitarian Studies was held in February 2009 in Groningen, the Netherlands, and was organized by the universities of Wageningen, Groningen and Bochum (Germany). It was attended by 450 participants. During this conference the International Humanitarian Studies Association was launched.
  • 2011 – The second World Conference of Humanitarian Studies, organized by the International Humanitarian Studies Associational (IHSA) and hosted by Tufts University in Medford, USA, took place from June 2-5, 2011. The conference focused on ‘Changing Realities of Conflict and Crisis‘.
  • 2013 – The third IHSA conference took place in Istanbul, Turkey, from October 24 to 27, 2013. The conference was jointly organized by the Kadir Has University, the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation Studies at Coventry University, and the International Humanitarian Studies Association. The focus was on ‘Human Security: Humanitarian Perspectives and Responses.’
  • 2016 – The 4th IHSA conference was organized in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 5 to 8 March 2016. The main theme of the conference was ‘Changing Crises and the Quest for Adequate Solutions’.
  • 2018 – The 5th IHSA conference took place in The Hague, the Netherlands from 27-29 August 2018. The conference topic was on: (Re-)Shaping Boundaries in Crisis and Crisis Response.
  • 2020 – The 6th IHSA conference will take place in Beirut, Lebanon from 4 to 6 of November 2020.
  • Will you host our next conference? Send in a Proposal to host the next conference on Humanitarian Studies to info@ihsa.info