The future of humanitarian action
IRRC No. 884
Since the end of the Cold War, humanitarian activity has grown exponentially. Several factors today seem to demonstrate profound changes in this polymorphic sector. These are factors related first to the development of crises and vulnerabilities and the risks that are emerging, second to the environment around humanitarian action and the contemporary challenges to compliance with humanitarian principles, law, and access to victims, and third to new methods and changes in the composition of the sector itself. In this edition, the Review gives the floor to representatives of a number of humanitarian operational organizations and research centres to discuss each of these three aspects of change that we think are critical to the future of humanitarian action.
Table of contents
Editorial: the future of humanitarian action
What are the future challenges for humanitarian action? Kristalina Georgieva EU Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response and Jakob Kellenberger, President of the ICRC
Two of the leading humanitarian action policy makers give their respective positions on several questions of current importance, such as that of the continuum between crisis and development or the problem of coordination among humanitarian actors.
Megatrends and the future of humanitarian action
This article assesses the implications of six megatrends for humanitarian action in the future, including changes in demography, technology and science, economics, political power, climate, and patterns of conflict.
Planning from the future: an emerging agenda
This article suggests that it is time for humanitarian organizations to look far more systematically at the transformational factors that will increase disaster vulnerabilities around the world and also the opportunities that exist to mitigate them.
The future of humanitarian action: an ICRC perspective
This article gives one perspective of what the ICRC considers to be some of the key challenges facing humanitarian action now and in the coming years, and how the institution aims to address these challenges while remaining faithful to its fundamental principles of impartiality, neutrality, and independence.
The legal framework of humanitarian access in armed conflict
Obtaining and maintaining humanitarian access to populations in need by humanitarian actors is a challenge. The main purpose of this article is to lay out the existing international legal framework regulating humanitarian access in situations of armed conflict.
What Americans think of international humanitarian law
The United States' foreign policy in the first decade of the twenty-first century has given rise to a reinvigorated interest in IHL. This article examines Americans' views on IHL and highlights the impact that battlefield activities can have on domestic debates over policy choices and national conscience.
Using humanitarian aid to ‘win hearts and minds’: a costly failure?
This article contends that the integration of humanitarian assistance in efforts to ‘win hearts and minds’ in counter-insurgencies has not been successful, and that the costs, both operational and legal, clearly outweigh any benefits.
The use of force to protect civilians and humanitarian action: the case of Libya and beyond
The article focuses on the crucial problem of the choice of means in protecting civilians and on the possible impact on humanitarian action of the concept of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), which was at the basis of the intervention in Libya.
Civil–military relations in natural disasters: a case study of the 2010 Pakistan floods
This article looks at the interaction between the humanitarian community and the Pakistan military in responding to the 2010 floods in order to identify key successes and challenges.
In folio: ‘Yo lo vi’. Goya witnessing the disasters of war: an appeal to the sentiment of humanity
Walking us through a selection of Francisco de Goya’s sketches, Paul Bouvier looks at victims, perpetrators, and eye-witnesses, and discusses how these images relate to the contemporary experience of humanitarian workers faced with the extreme violence of war.
Opportunity knocks: why non-Western donors enter humanitarianism and how to make the best of it
This article finds that non-Western humanitarian engagement has become too substantial to ignore and that opportunities can only be seized and risks mitigated if traditional actors actively engage with non-Western donors on a level playing field.
What future role for local organizations? A reflection on the need for humanitarian capacity-building
This article re-examines the current structure of Western humanitarian organizations and proposes scenarios to identify the best methods for the future regarding the relational framework with their local partners.
Humanitarian organizations involved in protection activities: a story of soul-searching and professionalization
The ICRC, like many humanitarian and human rights actors, has undergone drastic changes over the last two decades. The article emphasizes that the professionalization of the field of protection is in the best interests of both the communities affected by violence and disasters, and the humanitarian field workers confronted by complex challenges.
Fit for purpose: the role of modern professionalism in evolving the humanitarian endeavor
According to the authors, modern systems of scrutiny and accountability put pressure on the humanitarian system to become more professional and on aid workers to consider the establishment of a formal profession of humanitarian aid.
The emerging concept of humanitarian diplomacy: identification of a community of practice and perspective s toward international recognition
The present article proposes to explore the definitions and scope of action of ‘humanitarian diplomacy’, as well as some of the challenges it faces, with a view to preparing the way for its eventual recognition by the international community.
New information technologies and their impact on the humanitarian sector
This article introduces the field of crisis mapping and provides key examples from Haiti, Russia, Libya, and Somalia to demonstrate how digitally empowered affected communities and volunteer networks are reshaping humanitarian response in the twenty-first century.
In Memoriam: Antonio Cassese (1937–2011)
It is with deep sadness that the International Review of the Red Cross notes the passing of the great jurist Antonio Cassese on 22 October 2011. A man of great intellect, vision, and determination, he made a considerable contribution to the development of international humanitarian law and international criminal law – as a scholar, as a jurist, and as an institutional architect.
Books and articles (Winter 2011)
Recent acquisitions of the Library and Public Archives, ICRC