Conference Themes

Stream 1 - Humanitarian crises and development

Humanitarian crises, triggered by conflict or natural hazards, are often seen as causing disruptions to development. However, the relation between crises and development may be more complex. Uneven or stagnating development can be one of the triggers of conflict and create increasing vulnerabilities to hazards. The neglect of certain development issues can also be a contributing factor to crisis. The Ebola crisis may be a case in point, where the state of the health system in Eastern Africa is recognised as a factor in the slow response to the outbreaks of 2014.

In the responses to crises, the linkages with development have received great international attention over the last two decades. When development is seen as a solution to crises, this raises fundamental questions about the nature of development. What development models can works to prevent future crises, and how can this be realised? It also raises questions of how crises response can better tune with development. Numerous initiatives have been taken to better link relief to development, using new cash-based and other approaches, localising aid by building on existing markets and institutions and recognising the key roles of governments and communities. Increasingly, structural solutions are sought to merge crisis response with systems of social protection, as is happening for example in the Productive Safety Net Programme in Ethiopia.

This stream invites panels discussing fundamental, policy-oriented or practical questions regarding the relation between crisis, crisis response and development.

Stream 2 - Conflict and humanitarianism

Many humanitarian crises continue to be caused and prolonged by armed conflict. This stream invites panels on the associations between armed conflict, humanitarian crises and complex humanitarian responses. A number of topics stand out.

One such topic concerns the challenges of humanitarian action in the shadow of terrorism and counter-terrorism. In several current emergencies, including Iraq/Syria, Somalia and Afghanistan, humanitarian actors are obliged to engage with extremist insurgent groups that are categorized as terrorist organizations. These organizations are repressive, exploitative, violent and paranoid. Counter-terror legislation makes it difficult if not impossible for humanitarian agencies to engage with them. Nonetheless humanitarians have gained experience of seeking the protection of civilians and operating under these constraints.

Humanitarian action and international peace support operations is another topic of interest. A substantial number of humanitarian operations are conducted in the context of international peace support operations, especially in Africa. In all cases, there are complex political, ethical and operational issues associated with the parallel and inter-twined international peacekeeping/peace enforcement and humanitarian operations. Finally, the new humanitarian actors and their political agendas. The emergence of new humanitarian donors and agencies, many of them with political agendas, challenges established precepts of neutrality and impartiality. To which extent do they resolve or cause conflict, and what is their impact on local and international responses?

Stream 3 - The implications of climate change for humanitarian studies

Accepting the inevitability of climate change and its pervasive implications offers the possibility of reframing research into humanitarian crises, their evolution and response to them. Climate change is not a change from one state to a second. Rather, and particularly for Africa and other tropical areas, it implies a continuous sense of change, with much of that change being rapid and unpredictable as climate changes ripple out to trigger economic, demographic, sociological, political and epidemiological changes. Many of these changes affect men and women differently.

Coping with or adapting to continuous crisis may become the norm. Assumptions about the omnipotence of free market economics, the 20th century welfare model of nation states and the humanitarian response systems these have spawned, can be challenged and shown wanting, raising many questions about alternative ways to understand and response to climate-related crises. The application of psychological and ecological resilience models may shed some light on these new realities, although these may also be criticised as diverting from the political and economic core issues underlying the problems.

This stream invites panels that address theoretical and practical issues regarding the effects of climate change on weather-related disaster, local ecologies and economies, and the ways this changes our response systems.

Stream 4 - New partnerships; new technologies; professionalism in crisis response

There is a growing call for a paradigm shift in the way humanitarian crises and disasters are understood and managed.  Central to this is a strong focus on partnerships between humanitarians and the private sector; comprehensive efforts to further humanitarian innovation; and a sector wide attempt to reap the benefits of increased information flows, better and more affordable ICT technology, new media, big data, biometrics and drones, among other.

So far, focus has been on partnerships, innovations and technology-developments aiming to enhance humanitarian and disaster risk management practices (DRM), including logistics and supply chain management. However, increasing attention is being given to partnerships between the aid sector, local communities and local businesses, and to how bottom-up innovation and technology-use shape humanitarian action and DRM. While the use of technology enhances possibilities for improved disaster preparedness, participation, empowerment and resilience, critical attention must be given to the consequences for the nature of principled humanitarian assistance and the future of DRM. There is also a need for a better understanding of the dynamics of the growing humanitarian market, including humanitarian procurement.

This stream invites panels dealing with policies and practices of new partnerships, innovations and new technologies in humanitarian crises, including the increasing instances of urban crises.

Last update:  22:01 31/03 2015