Aid Agencies Can’t Police Themselves. It’s Time for a Change

The spreading “Oxfam scandal” will affect the entire humanitarian sector painfully. It brings into plain sight what observers of the internal workings of NGOs have known for a long time: NGOs have an organisational reflex of banning outsiders from their kitchen, and keeping their potentially dangerous secrets hidden. Abuses of power are common in any… Read more »

From Principle to Practice: Humanitarian Innovation and Experimentation

Without methods to gauge success and failure, and without appropriate ethical frameworks, humanitarian tech may do more harm than good. Humanitarian organizations have an almost impossible task: They must balance the imperative to save lives with the commitment to do no harm. They perform this balancing act amidst chaos, with incredibly high stakes and far… Read more »

Humanitarian Experimentation

Humanitarian actors, faced with ongoing conflict, epidemics, famine and a range of natural disasters, are increasingly being asked to do more with less. The international community’s commitment of resources has not kept pace with their expectations or the growing crises around the world. Some humanitarian organizations are trying to bridge this disparity by adopting new… Read more »

Why Isn’t Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Treated the Same as Gender-Based Violence in Humanitarian Contexts?

The recent #MeToo hashtag and associated social media storm highlighted the extensiveness of sexual abuse and harassment and the exploitation of women and girls (and in some cases men and boys) by those in positions of power. It showed that the problem does not come down to a few “bad apples”, but is systemic, impacting… Read more »

Europe’s Quiet Offensive Against People Helping Refugees

A look back on three years since the end of Operation Mare Nostrum. Three years ago today, pressure by the European Union on Italy forced the end of one of the EU’s most successful humanitarian missions, Mare Nostrum, a search-and-rescue operation that in just one year brought 130,000 refugees safely to Europe’s shores. As the… Read more »

Building a Sociology of Law for the Humanitarian Field

  Legal sociology has paid significant attention to human rights, but in contrast to legal anthropology, little focus has been given to humanitarianism. In this contribution, we ask, what does a legal sociological research agenda for the humanitarian field look like? Humanitarianism is many things to many people. As described by Miriam Ticktin, humanitarianism is… Read more »

The Myth of ICT’s Protective Effect in Mass Atrocity Response

Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) are now being employed as a standard part of mass atrocity response, evidence collection, and research by non-governmental organizations, governments, and the private sector. Deployment of these tools and techniques occur for a variety of stated reasons, most notably the ostensible goal of “protecting” vulnerable populations. In a new article published… Read more »

A Double Message about Safety and Security for Field Research: “Protection Is Crucial” and “Don’t Overdo It”

In January 2016, Giulio Regeni, PhD candidate of Cambridge University studying labour movement in Egypt went missing in Cairo where he did his fieldwork. His body was found a week later in a ditch near the city showing signs of torture and a slow death. His killers have not been found. His death has sent… Read more »

An Incomplete Picture of the Humanitarian Crisis in the Lake Chad Region

The broader context of the humanitarian crisis in the Lake Chad region, particularly in Borno State in the northeast of Nigeria, remains largely unknown to a Western audience, and in the media coverage it is mostly the stories about Boko Haram’s atrocities that are being told. Everybody condemned the jihadist group Boko Haram This was… Read more »

No-Man’s Land

In the north-eastern corner of Jordan, thousands of Syrians are left stranded. In the north-eastern corner of Jordan, where the country borders both Iraq and Syria, a barrier resembling a mound of earth extends across the desert. Running parallel to this barrier is a second mound of earth, this time within Syrian territory. The area… Read more »