Assessing Assumptions, Efficacy, Ethics, and Accountability of Humanitarian Organizations

This effectively presents as two papers in one: the second begins on page 7.

Classic/emergency humanitarianism and resilience/alchemical humanitarianism—which constitute the two broad categories of humanitarian practice—maintain different assumptions and principles that affect their efficacy in implementing their respective goals. Classic/emergency humanitarianism rests on assumptions of humanitarian action being solely needs-driven and crisis-based, and employs Dunantist principles, such as impartiality and neutrality. Such assumptions and principles allow effective responses with respect to the stated goals of such organizations, though such responses are perhaps problematic when viewing humanitarianism through other lenses. Resilience/alchemical humanitarianism assumes that humanitarianism ought to remove the root causes of suffering and extend beyond immediate needs, thus requiring intrusions into politics and support for local capacity and response. While taking political stances may allow for solutions to more long-term problems, the overemphasis on local capabilities and ‘crises as normality’ can reduce the effectiveness of intervention and abandon vulnerable populations. Though the two forms of humanitarianism differ significantly, both would benefit from certain ethics—which would improve efficacy and humanity—when intervening in African societies, including: avoiding dehumanizing depictions of aid recipients and extreme relational dynamics, and consulting with local actors and recipients of aid. 

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