Themes

(Re-) shaping boundaries in crisis and crisis response

  1. The changing realities of crisis and responses to crises, including humanitarianism

This stream welcomes panels that address the evolving nature of crises. What lessons are emerging from the much more urban and middle income humanitarian crises in the Middle East? How do social actors respond to crises resulting from the closure of borders?  How can  services be maintained in places where the parties to conflict disregard international humanitarian law? Given the increased likelihood of climate change related natural hazards what can be learnt from recent responses to hurricanes in the US and Latin America, flooding in South Asia and typhoons in the Pacific? Panels can incorporate issues like refugee care, socio-natural disasters, high-intensity conflict and the protection of national minorities.

This stream will cover the question of what  changes in the type of pattern of conflicts, migration and refugee flows and in socio-natural disasters, mean for crisis response? The humanitarian toolbox used to be pretty narrow and clearly defined with in-kind and technical assistance organized around a clear set of sectors and clusters. What fits within sectors and the boundaries between them are increasingly being challenged. The growing use of cash and the potential of cash grants to meet basic needs cuts across sectors presents challenges for how assistance is organized, coordinated and delivered. But there are also changes within sectors. In shelter, agencies are working less in camps and in rebuilding houses and needing to do more in understanding rental markets and urban planning. WASH responses are becoming more market-based and the need to address issues of mental as well as physical health is increasingly recognized. In Europe, the response by voluntary groups has been one of solidarity and activism rather than technical and sectoral. This response has included legal assistance and challenges to states concerned.  This stream welcomes panels that examine how the nature of crisis response is changing. This can include – but is not limited to – questions about how people themselves respond to crises and ways in which external actors can support those efforts and on how humanitarian response is changing or should change in light of the recent refugee crises, protracted crises and large-scale natural disasters.

  1. Changing Actors, views and challenges from below

We recently see an upsurge of understanding crisis and crisis response as it is being seen from below.  Affected communities are the first responders to crisis, and are increasingly vocal about the terms and conditions of outside assistance. Commitments for humanitarian aid to be delivered as directly as possible by national and local actors mean there is an increasing focus on role of disaster affected states and national civil societies.  In Europe, much of the response to refugees has been by volunteer groups or individuals organized through social media. In the global South, and the MENA region, the role of private sector actors is evolving with actors from foundations, to large multi-nationals and financial service providers involved in the delivery of cash, the development of new technologies and of new specialized humanitarian products.  Following the World Humanitarian Summit, actors who have had more of a development focus are becoming more involved – for instance the World Bank funding ICRC in Somalia. And the monopoly of OECD donors on funding humanitarian action is (slowly) starting to erode.  This stream will welcome panels that address the shifting roles of new and changing humanitarian actors. The stream especially encourages panels that step away from treating the international community as the norm that opens up to crisis-affected communities. It welcomes panels focusing on challenges from below: the rewriting of histories, the opening up of response ethics, and activist approaches seeking to address structural causes of crises and renewing the terms of engagement of humanitarians and other responders. 

  1. The impact of technology and innovation in coping with, responding to and transforming crisis

Changes in the realities of crisis and crisis response and in how humanitarian problems and solutions are constructed, are intimately related to technological change and contemporary innovation agendas.  The use and normalization of Big data analytics, smart phones, social media, biometrics, blockchain technology, wearables, the internet of things and drones is transforming how citizens, aid workers, donors, the private sector and the public understand and respond to emergencies. Technology and innovation agendas are changing the relationships between key stakeholders in the field–and impacts who is counted as a stakeholder. This stream invites panels that examine the impact of technological change on dealing with crises. This includes panels discussing how technology reshapes aid; including communication with and within disaster-affected populations and the nature of assistance provided, including the turn to cash-based interventions and ‘humanitarian data’ as well as the role and relevance of new specialized food and medical products. We  welcome panels appraising emergent cyber and information security issues. We also invite panels discussing the ‘social life’ of these technologies in the humanitarian arena. We particularly welcome panels focusing on how crisis-affected communities use technology in their own responses to crises, as well as panels that focus on use of technology in resolving and transforming crisis towards peaceful and inclusive societies. Finally, we welcome panels on humanitarian ethics, evolving rights-based approaches to humanitarian technology, the rising prominence of ‘effectiveness’ as a key principle of humanitarian action and initiatives around accountability and transparency.

  1. Humanitarian studies and the WHS humanitarian scholar commitments

This stream will address the state of humanitarian studies. Panels in this stream may deal with questions about humanitarian studies as a discipline and its methodologies. This stream is also concerned with the state of humanitarian education and issues of accreditation. It welcomes panels that think outside and beyond the current system and imagine new paradigms and futures for the discipline. Importantly, this stream is open for panels about the commitments of humanitarian scholars during the World Humanitarian Summit. These commitments concern collaboration and inclusion in humanitarian research; the study of the impact of the WHS; the further development of evidence-based approaches; the localization of humanitarian research and education; the impact and increase of the use of humanitarian research; the protection of academic freedom and scientific ethics. The stream also welcomes panels about methodological innovations in gathering evidence in and on humanitarian crisis. It also welcomes panels that take a broader perspective on aid-society relations, including panels focusing on aidnography.