Paper: Negotiating Cultures: Local Humanitarian Actors in the Rohingya Response

Paper details

Paper authors Kristina Roepstorff, Sulagna Maitra
In panel on Cultural and gendered contexts of the ethics of humanitarian negotiations
Paper presenter(s) will be presenting In-Person / Online


When local humanitarian actors negotiate for access, programming or protection, they are caught between the expectations of their donors and international partners and the requests from local and national authorities. Informed by findings from explorative qualitative research on humanitarian negotiations in the context of the Rohingya Response, this paper argues that dilemmas for local humanitarian actors often stem from this specific role as in-betweens of different (political) cultures - the culture of the humanitarian sector with its shared principles and practices (Autesserre 2014, Hilhorst and Schiemann 2002, Mosse 2022, Gupta et al. 2023) and the political culture of Bangladesh, namely “the set of attitudes, beliefs, and sentiments, which give order and meaning to political processes and which provide the underlying assumptions and rules that govern behavior in the political system” (Pye and Verba 1965) and that manifests itself in bureaucratic structures, social and professional hierarchies and dominant practices in public administration (Riggs 1960, Irfan and Lamichane 2019, Basu 2021). While recognising the dangers of cultural essentialism, this paper argues that only by identifying the structural and cultural incongruities between the international humanitarian principles and standards and the political-bureaucratic state of Bangladesh, we can understand the nature and types of ethical dilemmas local humanitarian actors face in their negotiations. As such, the paper not only contributes to the contemporary humanitarian localisation discourse but also to the growing scholarship on humanitarian negotiations.



Sulagna Maitra