Policy Papers - November 16, 2012
Rethinking Humanitarianism: Adapting to 21st Century Challenges
The modern international humanitarian system is being tested like never before. Built on a philosophy that espouses universality and integrity of humanitarian principles, the system now faces crises and conflicts that are changing in nature, an increased humanitarian caseload, and a renewed assertiveness on the part of host states.
Humanitarian actors have proposed an ambitious agenda for adapting to this changing landscape—from anticipating future risks to strengthening local resilience and increasing coherence and coordination. But this conventional narrative of reform and adaptation fails to address significant underlying tensions, in particular the growing disconnect between the system’s expanding ambitions and its foundational principles.
This policy paper examines the boundaries of the humanitarian enterprise, investigates today’s challenges and their implications, and addresses the tensions inherent in the mainstream agenda for adaptation. It then explores key questions for the future of humanitarianism:
- Can the modern humanitarian system become truly universal by adapting to a changing international context and opening up to actors who have different values and practices?
- Could a sparser but more faithful use of humanitarian principles, adapted to the context, support rather than undermine these principles?
- Despite the quest for ever-greater coherence and coordination of the humanitarian system, could the fragmentation of the system be valued as a strength given the comparative advantages of its various components?
To deal with twenty-first century challenges and meet its broader objectives, the humanitarian system may now need to redefine the rules and theoretical foundations on which it was built.
The Global Observatory
Does Xi Jinping's Visit to India Signal a Shift in Sino-Indian Relations? Q&A with Hardeep Singh Puri
With Chinese President Jinping's first visit to India underway, the former Indian Permanent Representative to the UN discusses the future of Sino-Indian relations.
Key Global Events to Watch in September
A list of key upcoming meetings and events with implications for global affairs.
2014 Top 10 Issues to Watch in Peace & Security: The Global Arena
A list of ten key issues to watch that are likely to impact international peace and security in 2014, compiled by IPI's Francesco Mancini.
The Global Observatory, produced by IPI, provides timely analysis on peace and security issues, interviews with leading policymakers, interactive maps, and more.
IPI produces a variety of publications as an integral part of its mission to inform international policymaking with cutting-edge research and analysis. These range from major, multi-author studies to monographs, policy papers, and meeting notes. Since 1998, IPI has extended its reach with the publication of over 200 books, meeting notes, and policy papers that are widely cited by government and international officials, scholars and the media.