Keynote Speakers

Hugo Slim on 'The Expansion of Humanitarian Ethics and the Quest for Solutions to Everything.'

Dr Hugo Slim is Head of Policy at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Geneva. Before joining ICRC in 2015, he was Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Ethics, Law and Armed Conflict (ELAC) at the University of Oxford where he led research on humanitarian ethics and the protection of civilians. Hugo has combined a career between academia and practice. He was Chief Scholar at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue from 2003-2007 and Reader in International Humanitarianism at Oxford Brookes University from 1994-2003. Between 1983 and 1994, Hugo worked for Save the Children and the United Nations in Morocco, Sudan, Ethiopia, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Bangladesh. His most recent books are Humanitarian Ethics: A Guide to the Morality of Aid in War and Disaster (2015 Hurst/OUP) and Killing Civilians: Method, Madness and Morality in War (2007 Hurst/OUP).

Tadesse Bekele on 'Institutional Setup and Policy framework for managing climate change induced disaster occurrences and humanitarian crises: The experience of Ethiopia.'

Taddesse Bekele Fanta works for the Disaster Risk Management Commission as Senior DRM Advisor having a total of 38 years of experience in different departments of the previous Relief and Rehabilitation Commission, Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Agency, Disaster Risk Management and Food Security Sector of the Ministry of Agriculture and now Disaster Risk Management Commission under the Prime Minister’s Office in Ethiopia.

He is currently involved in the National platform on the disaster risk management technical working group which reflects the multi-sect oral, multi-hazard approach of the DRM and other related task forces. On the steering Committee of the DRM Strategic Program and Investment Framework (DRMSPIF), closely work with Development Partners on policy implementation modalities. His major duties and responsibilities focus on DRM policy implementation, monitor, forecast, and warn against disasters. Follow assessments both for slow and fast on-set disasters and its timely responses to integrate with the DRM approaches of risk assessment and preparation of profiles, mitigation, adaptation and contingency plans which promote DRR activities.

Round table sessions:

1)  The Role of Academia in the Humanitarian Sector - A contribution to the World Humanitarian Summit by Prof Doris Schopper 

Objective: discuss how academia can support and strengthen the humanitarian sector post-WHS

Academia has five roles to play in the domain of humanitarian action:

•        Theorising on aid – analysing and developing concepts
•        Independent and critical research to inform debate on crisis and crisis interventions
•        Engaging in evidence-based research, clarifying the concept of evidence and what this implies in terms of data collection
•        Reflexive analysis on best practices to compare lessons learned and develop new models
•        Educating new generations of humanitarians and experts in humanitarian crises

With these different roles in mind, the roundtable will discuss the following questions:

1.    What are the linkages between academic research and applied research by humanitarian organisations and think-tanks and how can these be strengthened?

As most research on humanitarian crises is applied (i.e. directed to and financed for policy and practice), the roundtable will ask the question of the specific added value of academic institutions. Should and could applied research draw more on academic endeavour? And if so, what are current barriers and how can they be overcome? What are synergies and challenges of (long-term) partnerships between applied researchers in aid organisations or think-tanks and academic institutions? How can the interaction between these "reflective practitioners" and academics be harnessed to improve the quality of field research and at the same time enhance the relevance of academic work, given the fact that in many crises humanitarian practitioners are ahead of scholars in understanding context and (innovative) responses?

2.    What does critical research mean in the context of humanitarian crises? 

There is quite a tradition of critical academic research that has unravelled power relationships, hidden assumptions, and the positive or negative impact of humanitarian action, as well as of the actions of other actors involved in crises. The question is if and how this research has impact for practice. Where does academic research fall short, and how can the communication about academic research become more effective towards changing practice?

3.    How can the power imbalance between Northern and Southern academics be resolved?

Much of the academic work still stems from institutions of the ‘North’. The question is how research capacity in crisis-affected regions can be strengthened. This goes beyond a capacity building agenda. It could be stated that African scholarship on Africa, and scholarship from areas affected by crises more generally, operates at only a fraction of its true potential. In addition, the research agenda is defined by the preferences, policies and politics of the western academy. What are specific factors that need to be addressed to empower academia in the South and how can this be done?

2) Humanitarian Cash Transfers by Paul Harvey

The recently published high level panel report on humanitarian cash transfers, the high level panel report on humanitarian financing and the Secretary General's report for the WHS have all called for a significant scale-up in the use of cash in humanitarian action. An IASC study on how cash should be coordinated is ongoing and the cash panel secretariat are doing follow-up work. So the place of cash in humanitarian action, whether or not it should disrupt the existing aid architecture and how it can be done better is a highly topical issue. In this session, Paul Harvey would present the findings of the high level cash panel and the state of play within current debates on the transformative potential of cash. He'd then moderate a discussion on how cash might change humanitarian action.

If you are interested in being a discussant on this round table; please send an email to

3) Towards professionalisation of humanitarian action: bridging the gap between academia and practitioners by Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA)

Rapid growth of the humanitarian sector has brought increasing complexity and variability in the quality of humanitarian response. With this shift has come global recognition of the need to professionalise the humanitarian workforce. Overall, major gaps remain in standardised, accredited, performance-measured, globally accessible training to meet the demands of a professional humanitarian cohort.

One of the key objectives of the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA) is to enhance professionalism of the humanitarian sector. Most recently, NOHA has been involved in several initiatives that aimed to promote the competences-based framework for the education of humanitarian professionals in order to improve its quality and efficiency, to stimulate the exchange of best and innovative practices, to increase employability and to enhance professionalisation of the sector. NOHA, however, is not left alone in dealing with this issue: similar initiatives are being advanced world-wide, e.g. by CERAH (Geneva Center for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action) and HumanitarianU.

Chair: Artur Malantowicz -  Network on Humanitarian Action & University of Warsaw


Sophie Borel -  Network on Humanitarian Action
Partnerships for research amongst humanitarian stakeholders and with disaster-affected people

Edith Favoreu - The Geneva Center for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action
Complementarity between HA Qualifications Framework and Common Humanitarian Standards, and their added value for quality process

Sulagna Maitra - University College Dublin

Artur Malantowicz - Network on Humanitarian Action & University of Warsaw
European HA Map: Linking education with labour market

Melanie Coutu - McGill University, HumanitarianU
Evaluation of humanitarian competencies in simulation-based training

Bastiaan Aardema - University of Groningen
Linking humanitarian professions, skill sets and qualifications

4) Humanitarian Cyber(in)security: mapping, understanding and mitigating threats by Kristin Bergtora Sandvik and Kristoffer Lidén 

This roundtable seeks to take stock of emerging cybersecurity threats in the humanitarian space. The focus is on cyberspace

·         As an threat to the security of humanitarian workers
·         As a threat to humanitarian work
·         As a space where humanitarian workers can become threats to the safety and well-being of crisis affected individuals or communities

The use of social media by fieldworkers may undermine principles of neutrality and impartiality and endanger or disrespect users of humanitarian aid. In the humanitarian field, the free speech of aid workers must be balanced against the vulnerability of aid recipients and the particular dynamics of the emergency context. While the medical and social work professions (among other) are developing more robust, binding and enforceable industry standards, the humanitarian sector is lagging behind. Facebook, twitter and Instagram are largely perceived as “private” platforms, even when used actively during and for work. Additionally, the tension between security concerns and fundraising priorities seems to exacerbate the difficulty of developing strong policies on social media use.

There appears to be a critical lack of responsible data use with respect to information sharing protocols across the sector. For example, in the context of the European refugee crisis there has been widespread “ad hoc” registration and sharing of sensitive health data despite the existence of a thick legal framework.

With the eventual integration of the Internet of things (IoT) in humanitarian action, domiotics (“home automation”) will raise particular challenges. In non-emergency settings, the difficulty of equipping domiotics with adequate and updated security software is a significant concern with implications for the privacy of users and the safety of users and property.  What are the risks of technologically “smart” humanitarian service provision, for example through health clinics or in remote camp settings?

In February a Los Angeles hospital paid a nearly $17,000  (40 bitcoins) ransom to hackers who breached and disabled its computer network. The hackers used a malware that locks systems by encrypting files and demanding ransom to obtain the decryption key. What are the potential consequences of ransomware for humanitarian health data in a field setting?

·         What is the source and nature of the security threat?
·         What are the potential practical, legal and ethical consequences and implications?
·         How can we build a critical and ethically committed research agenda in this field?

Book Launch

Famine Somalia: Competing Priorities, Collective Failures, 2011-2012.
By Daniel Maxwell and Nisar Majid. (London and New York: Hurst and Oxford University Press, New York. 2016)

Some 250,000 people were killed by the Somalia famine of 2011-12, which also displaced and destroyed the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands more. Yet this crisis had been predicted nearly a year earlier. The harshest drought in Somalia’s recent history coincided with a global spike in food prices, hitting this arid, import-dependent country hard. The policies of Al-Shabaab, a militant Islamist group that controlled southern Somalia, exacerbated an already difficult situation, barring most humanitarian assistance, while the donor’s counter-terrorism policies criminalized any aid falling into their hands. A major disaster resulted from the production and market failures precipitated by the drought and food price crisis, while the famine itself was the result of the failure to quickly respond to these events — and was thus largely human-made. This book analyses the famine: the trade-offs between competing policy priorities that led to it, the collective failure in response, and how those affected by it attempted to protect themselves and their livelihoods. It also examines the humanitarian response, including actors that had not previously been particularly visible in Somalia — from Turkey, the Middle East, and Islamic charities worldwide.   

This book is the result of three years of engagement with the response to the famine itself, the evaluation of the response, and independent research in Somalia, the refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia, and with foreign policy officials of donor countries, UN and agency staff, and other key observers of Somalia.

Last update:  03:25 27/02 2016