Changing practices of humanitarian advocacy


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In the humanitarian domain, advocacy has mainly been associated with humanitarian diplomacy, associated with ‘maximising support for operations and programs, and building the partnerships necessary if humanitarian objectives are to be achieved’ (Régnier, 2011). A secondary meaning of humanitarian diplomacy concerns how international humanitarian law, disasters, or humanitarian needs are used in the negotiation of states’ international relations (Kelman, 2011). Attention to advocacy has been directed towards transnational activism on behalf of affected communities, such as the campaign to recognize genocide in Darfur (Mamdani, 2009), and advocacy work by agencies to convince donors of the importance of their concerns. Typically, agencies hire advocacy officers that is developing as a professional specialization.

Humanitarian diplomacy and advocacy thus mainly concerns actions by humanitarians or political actors, rather than by crisis-affected communities themselves. The adage ‘not about us without us’, which has gained momentum in the disability movement, for example, is clearly not central in the humanitarian domain. Advocacy in local settings, has hardly been explored, and the boundaries of advocacy, accountability and activism – if and where these are pertinent -are not clearly defined.

This panel will seek to explore more inclusive and comprehensive bodies of practice around humanitarian advocacy, with the ultimate goal to revisit the concept of humanitarian advocacy, in line with notions of advocacy for development, as a ‘wide range of activities conducted to influence decision makers at different levels with the overall aim of combatting the structural causes of poverty and injustice’ (Van Wessel, 2018: 401). Translated to the field of humanitarian studies, the panel will use a working definition of humanitarian advocacy as the activities of affected communities and their advocates to articulate, advance, and protect their rights (i.e. entitlements to assistance and citizenship rights more broadly), needs, views, and interests.

The panel welcomes conceptual and empirical contributions, including case studies of advocacy campaigns.

Kelman, I. (2011). Disaster diplomacy: how disasters affect peace and conflict. London; Routledge. ISBN:9780203806210
Mamdani, M. (2009). Saviors and Survivors: Darfur, Politics and the War on Terror. New York: Pantheon. ISBN-10: 0385525966
Régnier, P. (2011). The emerging concept of humanitarian diplomacy: identification of a community of practice and prospects for international recognition. International Review of the Red Cross, 93(884), 1211-1237.
Van Wessel, M. (2018). Narrative Assessment: A new approach to evaluation of advocacy for development. Evaluation, 24(4), 400-418.

Date(s) & Time(s)

November 3rd, 2021
18:00 (GMT +1)
Room 26
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Dorothea Hilhorst, Margit van Wessel