After the 'revolution' - where next for participation and accountability in humanitarian action?


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In 2016, the Grand Bargain between humanitarian actors and major donors declared a ‘participation revolution’ with the aim of putting more power in the hands of crisis-affected people to influence the decisions affecting their lives. Five years on, there is broad consensus that this ‘revolution’ has failed to bring about substantive change. Multiple studies in widely differing contexts have shown that humanitarian action remains firmly supply-driven, with affected communities fulfilling—at best—a subordinate, consultative role in key decisions. The recent proposal for a new, ombuds-like Independent Commission for Voices in Crisis by the outgoing UN Humanitarian Coordinator is a tacit admission that current approaches to reform aren’t working, and that something profound needs to change. This panel will invite papers exploring new angles to address the ongoing accountability gap in humanitarian action. We encourage approaches that situate the ‘formal’ humanitarian system within wider fields of power, and bring ‘the political’ back into what has become a largely technocratic discussion. What types of contestation and negotiation can meaningly force the humanitarian system to cede power? Potential areas of focus could include: exploring the increasingly intertwined discourses on accountability and locally-led humanitarian action; understanding the roles wider civil society and political mobilisation can play in affecting the course of assistance; and unpacking the interface between humanitarian action and the role of the state in the context of wider political participation and the formation of social contracts.

Date(s) & Time(s)

November 5th, 2021
15:30 (GMT +1)
Room 15
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Oliver Lough