Themes

We have divided our main theme ‘New Realities of Politics and Humanitarianism: Between Solidarity and Abandonment’  into 5 streams for panel submissions:

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 track
5) Migration, Displacement and Refugees

Read the full descriptions below:

1) Health, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction

The stream welcomes panels that address health issues arising from climate induced disasters, epidemics, access to healthcare, and new health contexts. The response of the global health community to many of these health challenges has not been commensurate with its scope in terms of consolidated intellectual and technical expertise. This stream aims to present evidence and recommendations for strengthening the global health architecture to better address the threat of these challenges.

Health and climate induced disasters
According to the World Disasters Report 2018, published by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, 3751 disasters related to natural hazards have been recorded worldwide over the past ten years, 84% of which were linked to hazardous meteorological conditions. Over this period, an estimated two billion people were affected by disasters, 95% of whom were affected by disasters linked to meteorological conditions, namely floods (36.7%) and storms (17%).

Among several consequences, climate induced disasters are a direct threat to health in that they cause death and serious injuries to people. The impact is increased by any destruction or damage to the health infrastructure, transportation, etc. It is therefore reinforced by the vulnerability of the affected areas and people. This all leads to humanitarian and sanitary crises with specific causes and management methods, the proliferation of which will, according to forecasts, require NGOs, states, businesses, and international institutions to manage increasing volumes of operations in the future and to opt for innovative methods of disaster risk management and energy transition. It is therefore important to ask what these environmental upheavals entail, both in terms of their consequences for populations, and in terms of the development and practice of humanitarian aid. How can we advance efforts for Disaster Risk Reduction and reinforce populations’ resilience and preparation and response capacities in the event of disasters? Which actions contribute to reducing vulnerability and improving adaptation to extreme hazards, with a view to lasting resilience and sustainability?

Health and conflict
In many countries, conflicts have resulted in massive internal population movements that often migrate to neighbouring countries and subsequently to other parts of the world. These conflicts, in addition to physical injuries, affect the mental health and the overall well-being of affected individuals and communities. Additionally, climate change affects the social and environmental determinants of health and it is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050.

A special concern in conflict-affected situations is formed by chronic diseases, such as diabetes, and how to maintain the care and required medication. In addition, epidemic risks still represent a significant sector for humanitarian intervention. In the absence of vaccinations, determining the factors that influence epidemics in order to better anticipate them is a real public health issue. Some NGOs were able to develop real response capacities following the appearance of new pandemics in recent years (cholera in Haiti, meningitis and measles in Niger, Kala-azar in Sudan, etc.). However, with regards the Ebola virus, the Marburg virus disease, or new rapid transmission pandemics accelerated by changes in modes of production (H5N1 avian influenza) or the intensification of population movement enabled by public and air transport systems (H1N1), most medical NGOs are out of the game. Problems become amplified when these happen in conditions of conflict. Moreover, different research show that the distribution of a number of infectious diseases is going to change, especially with regard to those requiring the presence of vectors for transmission, such as dengue fever or chikungunya.

How can we anticipate pandemic risk and prepare for it in countries where the health systems are fragile? How can we help communities to prepare themselves and respond to health emergencies? How can the efficiency of different NGO actions and innovations in terms of epidemic risk anticipation and the treatment of sanitary crises be put to use by different public actors and by civil society, thereby contributing to the reinforcement of local health systems? How can we contribute to the containment of epidemics in accordance with the cultural specificities of local populations? How are awareness campaigns and/or intervention programmes in times of crisis perceived, and what are the main obstacles to their success.

2) Decolonising Humanitarian Studies? Ethics, Knowledge Production and Application

This stream will host panels, roundtables and other activities at the conference that deal with four interrelated dimensions of ethics, knowledge production and transfer in humanitarian action and humanitarian studies. These are:

Ethics of humanitarian action
Humanitarian action has longtime been reigned by an ethics derived from the humanitarian principles. Increasingly, we see challenges to these ethics. Even the very core of the principle of humanity (the desire  to relieve suffering wherever it may be found) is being questioned: are lives indeed being treated as equal within humanitarian practice? We also see alternative ethics, for example based on justice, solidarity or feminism, being proposed and the question is how these relate to the classical ethics of humanitarianism. How do new knowledge or prominent debates (e.g. concerning climate change) and subsequent insights influence debates on humanitarian ethics. The question is also how humanitarians operate in the moral minefield of humanitarian action and uphold a culture of ethics. What are the various formal and informal processes mechanisms, structures etc within agencies that foster or hamper ethical practice?

 Ethics in research
Research encounters in humanitarian studies are subject to ethical reviews and have to abide by ethical standards. Are the standard ethical practises applicable in conflict-affected areas, and how do we deal with dilemmas that may arise? How about the ethics implied in fieldwork and research methodologies, especially in participatory methods and other techniques to bring views from actors in crisis-affected countries to the fore?

Teaching and humanitarian learning
Teaching on humanitarianism and humanitarian learning has been rapidly growing. The IHSA website provides a directory of more than 200 programmes.  How do teaching programs deal with the ethics of humanitarianism and humanitarian studies? Which ethics related pedagogical models do academic institutions concerned with humanitarian studies apply and to what affect? How do humanitarian actors and systems learn and change (or not)? How are new forms of education, including e-learning and MOOCs changing the educational landscape, and are new collaborations evolving to use education to strengthen humanitarian capacity in crisis-affected areas? How can humanitarian learning best be facilitated?

Ethics in humanitarian studies
Humanitarian studies – and adjacent fields of disaster studies and refugee studies – are increasingly criticized for being centred on the global North. Scholars at the world humanitarian Summit formulated commitments to break through the hierarchies and inequalities within humanitarian studies, and this stream aims to follow-on to these commitments. In this, in addition to conceptual and analytical contributions, we are especially interested in empirical findings from the Global South, and how these shape (or fail to shape) global humanitarian discourse and practice. Panels are encouraged that deepens our understanding of the political economy of academia including financial flows, publication cultures, access to resources and how this impacts the position of researchers from crisis-affected countries in the Global South in knowledge production processes and the perceived ‘quality’ of knowledge products, as well as the ethical implications of these dynamics.

3) Political Economy and Politics of Humanitarianism

This stream welcomes panels centred around a political economy approach which addresses head- on not only the political nature of humanitarian crises, but equally the politics of provision of aid or its withdrawal, as well as the politics of humanitarian governance.

Ultimately the stream asks: What are the political issues at the heart of humanitarian crises? What, indeed, constitutes ‘political’ in the humanitarian context? And how do aid actors engage with and within this political environment?

Key questions include (but are not confined to): How has the politics of humanitarian governance changed over time? How important and relevant is the practice on témoignage – when and how should humanitarian actors speak out? How important is the concept of securitisation when studying humanitarian crises and aid actors? Are we in fact in an era of humanitarian abandonment? Where is accountability located in any humanitarian intervention remains an open question. And how has the legal context within which humanitarian actors work has changed?

Issues which may be explored based on the above questions in this stream may include political negotiations and the state – aid – society relationships. The political economy of state ‘interference’ in aid, the securitisation of aid, and anti-aid narratives. The politics of accountability to affected populations and how  accountability links to developing aid narratives? How the political involvement of national, regional and international governments impacts the legal environment of humanitarian space. Issues around the theme of criminalisation of aid may be explored, as well as the human rights agenda and its interlinkages with humanitarian action. Additional legal issues may include legal jurisdiction; the ‘lawyering’ of humanitarian action; legal barriers to aid provision; and counter-terrorism laws.

All these themes are bound to affect the governance of humanitarian action, but in what ways? That is what the stream ultimately hopes to explore in all its multiple facets.

4) Technology and Innovation 

The digital landscape is rapidly evolving, from the use and normalization of Big data analytics to understand voting patterns and disease transmission, biometrics to register refugees and recipients of assistance, blockchain technologies to advance financial inclusion, and the internet of things to monitor smart homes and smart cities. Digital processes and gadgets likewise shape and reshape the ways that humanitarians respond to and interact with those affected by crisis and conflict. These include the use of mobile assessments, health applications, cash transfers, educational technologies targeting children and youth, and interactive voice response (IVR) as well as remote mapping, drones, wearables, and artificial intelligence. Their increasing use have raised questions related to privacy, data responsibility, digital dignity, and how humanitarians should prepare for cyber attacks.

We welcome panels from academics, practitioners and innovators focused on the ways that digital technologies, data, and the innovation agenda are changing the relationships between key stakeholders in humanitarian response, and enlarging our understanding of who counts as a humanitarian and what counts as humanitarian aid. They also change the political economy of aid. We invite panels and papers about the processes of data, datafication, the digitization of responses, and the rise of a humanitarian data economy. We particularly solicit contributions on logistics and supply chain management. We also welcome contributions on normative frameworks used to govern new technologies; the relationship between technology and governance; and new methodologies to understand the impact of the digital landscape on humanitarian response. Finally, with respect to crosscutting perspectives, we welcome panels on humanitarian ethics, gender-based approaches to technology, evolving rights-based approaches to humanitarian technology, how digital inclusion can or should be included in the localization and SDG agendas, the rising prominence of ‘effectiveness’ as a key principle of humanitarian action and initiatives around accountability and transparency.

5) Migration, Displacement and Refugees

This theme focuses on emerging global topics including global refugee policy, refugee rights and protection, the politics of forced migration and displacement, refugee settlements and camps, alternative mechanisms of dealing with refugees’ basic needs, access to health education and livelihoods, as well as migration and mobility and how this is helped or hindered by prescriptions in the new Global Compacts on migration and refugees.

Conflict, disasters, and famine are among key causes leading to large numbers of people to migrate in order to find safety and (economic) security.  In addition, organisations like UNHCR and IOM expect additional numbers of displaced persons in the near future, partly triggered by climate-related destruction of ecosystems. Many displaced people are from low and middle income countries and also reside in those countries. These dynamics pose great challenges for families and communities. Complex migratory movements in fragile and unstable situations often involve exploitation and abuse of refugees and asylum seekers along their journeys.  This is in addition to the social, economic and political impact of large scale displacement on host communities.

International (humanitarian) policies are changing, in particular through the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) of 2016, and the migration and refugee compacts that were signed in Marakesh in 2018. The policies aim to  create opportunities for more effective responsibility sharing, more comprehensive responses, and more entitlements for displaced persons to enable their self-reliance. But they also may impose limitations on the way people on the move have in the past managed their plight, a dynamic about we  know very little apart from anecdotal evidence.

This comes at a time that refugees in many parts of the world reside out of camps, a situation that offers opportunities and new challenges Displacement to urban areas is accelerating in many African and Asian contexts, requiring new approaches and alliances with for example the business community. New forms of assistance to scattered populations may be enabled by new technologies, for example cash relief provided through bank-accounts or mobile phones. The question is if these provide enough protection to displaced people – by conflict, drought, riverbed erosion or other (often compounded) reasons – who settle in urban areas?

This stream invites panels that examine the challenges that refugees, migrants and host communities face in places of origin, along the journey and in areas of destination, as well as panels that present findings on the actual practices and impacts of policies designed to manage migration and refugee flows, and the provision of protection and assistance. We encourage panels that focus on regional realities, including refugee and migration policies in host-countries in the Global South. We also invite panels that focus on the humanitarian consequences of strengthened border control mechanisms, and detention or returns policies. Finally, this steam invites panels on the challenges to humanitarianism that migration and refugee management poses: what are the implications of ‘crimes of solidarity’ and what hope does humanitarian activism offer.