Paper: Navigating the Humanitarian Grey Area: Regulating Informal Humanitarian Responses in Tanzania.

Paper details

Paper authors Esther Mlingwa
In panel on Everyday humanitarianism
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person & Online


Informal humanitarian responses frequently emerge in disaster situations to support general relief efforts or as a result of the failures of formal aid systems to meet the needs of affected communities. These interventions are frequently carried out by actors operating outside of traditional humanitarian organizational structures in what is referred to as ‘everyday humanitarianism.’ Sally Moore's concept of semi-autonomous social fields provides a framework for understanding informal humanitarian responses and their interactions with the formal legal system. This paper uses this framework to explore the challenges of regulating informal humanitarian responses, taking into account the tension between the government's need for accountability and the autonomy of informal humanitarian actors. Using the 2016 Kagera earthquake as a case study, the paper demonstrates that informal humanitarian responders have their own set of rules that may not necessarily conform to formal rules. Similarly, imposing formal rules on informal responses may have negative effects on disaster response. The paper identifies strategies for effective regulation that can foster collaboration among formal and informal actors. The paper further emphasizes the importance of regulatory frameworks that recognize the distinct characteristics of semi-autonomous social fields and prioritize the rights and needs of disaster-affected communities.