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Public communication strategies of international humanitarian organizations

31-12-2005 Article, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 860, by Dennis Dijkzeul, Markus Moke

This article outlines and compares the public communication policies and strategies of the main international and non-governmental humanitarian organizations within the context of their guiding principles. It develops a classification of various humanitarian organizations so as to better explain their differences and enhance understanding of their communication strategies.


Dennis Dijkzeul is Junior-Professor at the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict at Ruhr-University Bochum (Germany) and Adjunct Professor at the School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University, New York, US. Markus Moke is Researcher at the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict at Ruhr-University Bochum and Coordinator of the European Master Programme in Humanitarian Assistance. 

The article studies the public communication strategies of large humanitarian NGOs as well as UN organizations with regard to the humanitarian principles. It shows that different strategies concerning impartiality vs. solidarity and independence vs. subcontracting cause a wide diversity of humanitarian positions, which lead to different types of public communication strategies. It also discusses several recent trends and three scenarios concerning humanitarian public communication, focusing on interaction with donors and the military, as well as the security situation on the ground. The article concludes that it is essential for humanitarian organizations to understand the different interpretations of the humanitarian principles and that this will help in establishing a strategic approach toward public com munication at headquarters, as well as in the field.  

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