Paper: Norms and ideas in the Rohingya Internally Displaced Persons Crisis

Paper details

Paper authors Jasmine Burnley
In panel on Depoliticizing humanitarian action: motives, practices, consequences
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


The humanitarian sector has evolved in ways that have changed its size, significance, agents and subjects: its deepening complexity and the emerging commitment to bridge the divide between humanitarianism and development have created a heavily populated ecosystem of diverse actors, and blurred the boundaries of who participates in a response. But despite these transformations, humanitarianism continues to be governed ostensibly by the humanitarian principles, which promise some form of insulation from politics. The residue of this discrepancy and depoliticization, is a disconnect between how humanitarian responses are expected to operate, and their day to day political realities, cut through with multiple assumptions around what works and distinct ideas about what a crisis is. This research examines the case of the Rohingya Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) crisis and finds that normative interpretations of the principles as well as powerful ideas around the construction of the crisis played a significant role in determining how the response was shaped, contributing to the depoliticization of human rights violations; and preventing the international community from recognising the overtly political project of discrimination orchestrated by authorities, with implications for its ability to strategically coordinate or advocate to Government. This case raises questions for how interpretations of the principles intersect with political realities on the ground, and of the power of ideas in formulating and typecasting crises in ways that depoliticise and crowd out non-conforming evidence for why an emergency has occurred and what may be sustaining it.



Jasmine Burnley