Paper: What humanitarian norms’ lives tell us about localisation and social dynamics between Global South organisations and the international aid system.

Paper details

Paper authors virginie troit - Associate researcher CERI (Sciences Po / CNRS)
In panel on South-South Cooperation as Enabler of Localisation?
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


The role of humanitarian NGOs in the South has never been more put in the spotlight than with the well-intended ‘localisation’ of humanitarian aid and the harsh realities of the Covid-19 pandemic. Caught between the growing demands for accountability that their self-regulation has imposed upon them and their desire to freely formulate their own responses to the needs of the people they serve, these NGOs now question the ambivalence of a universal and all-inclusive vision and of practices that divide and maintain their dependent status. After decades of international capacity-building programmes designed to increase cooperation between international and local actors and did not necessarily reach expected results, this communication explores the results of a doctoral empirical work that examines the mechanisms of development and inclusion of humanitarian organisations in Global South countries through the prism of international humanitarian norms. Based on the experience of an international assessment and certification standard, which has been widely used by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies for ten years (2009–2019), it stresses how such methodologies can help to trace social roles of global South actors as well as South-South cooperation dynamics and how they are intertwined with well-studied North-South relations and norm transfers. This research suggests that, beyond the technical process of standardisation, humanitarian norms have a capacity for ‘inter-understanding’, based on Jürgen Habermas theory of communicative action, that is essential for connecting local and international, singular and universal, interests and ethical aspirations.