Sandvik, Jacobsen and McDonald publish new article in International Review of the Red Cross

In their newly published article Do no harm: A taxonomy of the challenges of humanitarian experimentation in the International Review of the Red Cross, Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (PRIO/UiO), Katja Lindskov Jacobsen (University of Copenhagen) and Sean Martin McDonald (FrontlineSMS) explore the notion of ‘humanitarian experimentation’. Whether through innovation or uncertain contexts, managing risk is a core component of the humanitarian initiative – but, as they note, not all risk is created equal. There is a stark ethical and practical difference between managing risk and introducing it, which is mitigated in other fields through experimentation and regulation. This article identifies and historically contextualizes the concept of humanitarian experimentation, which is increasingly prescient, as a range of humanitarian sub-fields embark on projects of digitization and privatization. This trend is illustrated in their article through three contemporary examples of humanitarian innovation (biometrics, data modeling, cargo drones), with reference to critical questions about adherence to the humanitarian ‘do no harm’ imperative. This article outlines a broad taxonomy of harms, intended to serve as the starting point for a more comprehensive conversation about humanitarian action and the ethics of experimentation.
You can access the article here.

Sandvik moderates ‘Aleppo: The Fall’ panel

On 14 October, Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (PRIO/UiO) moderated the panel ‘Aleppo: The Fall‘  hosted by SPACE: Syrian Peace Action Centre at Litteraturhuset in Oslo.

In 2016, one of the worst human tragedies took place in Aleppo. After a few months of siege and indiscriminate shelling, tens of thousands of people were evicted from the city. Beyond the horrific scenes of bombardment and forced mass eviction, little reflection has followed on how and why these violations happened and what the implications are for the present and future Syria.

Why did Aleppo fall? Who is responsible and how to be held accountable? What was the role of the local armed factions in Aleppo? Who was negotiating on behalf of the civilians? Who was forced to leave eastern Aleppo and who was allowed to return after the fall? What is happening in Aleppo today? What are the protection needs of civilians living in Aleppo under Assad?

In answering these questions, Lina Shamy gave personal testimony of living under Aleppo’s siege before she was forced to leave with the last busses in 2016; Dr. Mohamad Katoub addressed the inhumane situation under the siege and put it into context with the use of siege as a war tactic against civilians in many other locations around Syria; finally, Karam Nachar reflected on the meaning and implications of Aleppo’s catastrophe, ending with an outlook on the future of an increasingly fragmented country.

Lemaitre publishes new article in Third World Quarterly

In her newly published article Humanitarian aid and host state capacity: the challenges of the Norwegian Refugee Council in Colombia in Third World Quarterly, Julieta Lemaitre (Universidad de Los Andes) investigates how humanitarian actors can operate within a host state with significant subnational variations in willingness and capacity to meet obligations. This is an issue of pressing importance, given the expansion of humanitarian aid to middle-income countries with growing state capacity, but with persistent infrastructural weakness in their periphery. Lemaitre’s article illustrates the challenges and potentialities of engaging these states through the case study of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Colombia. It describes the way the NRC has located its offices in peripheral areas, and how its activities have fostered the rule of law, successfully using rights-based approaches to strengthen subnational state institutions, activate and mobilize citizen demands and bridge national and subnational administrations. She concludes that these activities, operated by officers with extensive practical knowledge and local trust networks, can open the way for durable solutions for humanitarian crisis, but can also provoke backlash from subnational actors.

You can access the article here.

Jumbert discussed the situation in Libya on Ekko radio program

In light of new reports from MSF on the dire situation in migration detention centres in Libya, Karine Nordstrand (president, MSF Norway) and Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (PRIO) were interviewed about the situation in Libya, the EU’s policies to fund and train Libyan coast guards, and the general trends in the number of migrants and refugees seeking to cross the Mediterranean to reach Europe.

Listen to their interview from 14 September on NRK Radio’s program Ekko here (in Norwegian).

Sandvik publishes new article in Journal of International Humanitarian Action

In her newly published article Now is the time to deliver: looking for humanitarian innovation’s theory of change in the Journal of International Humanitarian Action, Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (PRIO/UiO) offers a critical analysis of the making of the humanitarian innovation agenda, the rapid institutionalization of the field, and the everyday practices of humanitarian innovation.  Since the publication of the ALNAP study on innovation in international humanitarian action in 2009, innovation has emerged as a central vehicle for change in the humanitarian sector. As the field of humanitarian innovation expands and matures, there is an increasingly vocal expectation that ‘now is the time to deliver.’ Navigating optimistic claims about the role and relevance of humanitarian innovation as a vehicle of change — and the reverse inclination to dismiss humanitarian innovation as a neoliberal hype — Sandvik’s review article sets out to get a better sense of the expectations concerning humanitarian innovation as a theory of change: exactly what do actors in the humanitarian sector expect innovation to deliver, how, and why does it matter?

You can access the article here.


Successful final workshop and conference of the BraGS project

On 28 – 29 August, researchers of the Brazil’s Rise to the Global Stage (BraGS) project gathered at PRIO to disseminate research findings from the project. The project sought to understand the drivers behind Brazilian humanitarian action and participation in peacekeeping and peacebuilding activities. As a new player in the field of humanitarian assistance, Brazil has brought a new form of moral and strategic motivations to the table. However, humanitarian action has also served Brazil’s regional and international ambitions as a rising power. Through its engagement, Brazil has sought to reconceptualize both humanitarianism and peacekeeping, in line with its more principled stance on sovereignty, non-intervention and less conditionality. The aim of the project was to shed light on the current situation in Brazil, while also taking a broader scope on Brazil’s international ambitions and engagements in the last decade.

The project’s final conference, held on 29 August, took a closer look at the drivers behind these international engagements, how they have materialized in practice, and what have been the impacts, before concluding with reflections on what to expect ahead. Participants in the final conference included:

  • Remarks by Ambassador George Monteiro Prata, Brazilian Ambassador to Norway
  • Keynote speech, ‘Brazil: Current political situation and what to expect ahead’, by Paulo Esteves, (PUC-RIO, BRICS Policy Centre)
  • A roundtable discussion with Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (PRIO), Paulo Esteves (PUC-RIO, BRICS Policy Centre), Monica Herz (PUC-RIO and BRICS Policy Centre), and Kjersti Rødsmoen (Director, Latin America section, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs)

In addition, the following papers were presented:

  • Benjamin de Carvalho (NUPI), Status Frustrations of a Southern Rising Power: Brazil’s Long Quest for Higher Standing
  • Torkjell Leira (Independent Researcher) and Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (PRIO), Understanding Brazilian Aid: A brief moment in history or the beginning of a new trend?
  • Liliana Jubilut (Universidade Católica de Santos), Brazil’s humanitarianism in refugee protection
  • Pål Røren (Syddansk Universitet) and Paul Beaumont (NMBU), Grading greatness: Evaluating the status performance of the BRICS
  • Eric Cezne (University of Gröningen), Caught between solidarity and business as usual: the ambivalent role of Brazilian cooperation in Africa

The Research Council of Norway’s Latin America Programme  funded the 3-year project on Brazil. The project, which began in August 2014, was placed under the umbrella of the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS).

NCHS represented at the 2017 Bergen Exchanges on Law & Social Transformation

The 2017 Bergen Exchanges on Law & Social Transformation, organized by the Centre on Law & Social Transformation, was held 21-25 August at the Bergen Resource Centre for International Development. The event endeavors to be a meeting place for scholars and practitioners who seek to understand how law serves as an instrument of change and how it shapes, and is shaped by power relations.

Many NCHS-affiliated researchers participated in roundtables and sessions during the week-long event, including:

Jumbert comments on humanitarian rescues in the Mediterranean in Aftenposten

On 13 July, Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (PRIO) was quoted in the Norwegian Aftenposten in an article discussing a group who monitors and disrupts humanitarian organizations carrying out rescue work in the Mediterranean. Jumbert noted that rescue work does not necessarily make more people travel across the Mediterranean to seek asylum in Europe, and highlighted the illegal nature of action designed to prevent rescues at sea.

The article, Dette skipet reiser til Libya-kysten med ungdom som skal stoppe migranter på vei til Europa, can be found here in Norwegian on the Aftenposten site.

Knudsen and Høigilt write about Norwegian foreign aid to Palestine in VG

On 7 July, Are Knudsen (CMI) and Jacob Høigilt (PRIO) published a piece in the Norwegian VG, discussing some of their research from the Aid in Crisis? project. In evaluating Norwegian foreign aid to Palestine, Knudsen and Høigilt outline the explicit political goals: supporting the peace process, building a Palestinian state, and contributing to a two-state solution. They also see a paradox, noting that Norwegian assistance to Palestine contributes to the stagnation of the political process and a gradual worsening of the human rights situation, running contrary to the goals of the aid.

The article, Norsk bistand til Palestina er et stort og dyrt paradoks, can be found here in Norwegian on the VG site.

NCHS represented at the Law and Society 2017 International Meeting in Mexico City

The Law and Society Association held their annual international meeting in Mexico City on 20-23 June. The theme of the 2017 conference was ‘Walls, Borders, and Bridges: Law and Society in an Inter-Connected World‘.

Three NCHS researchers presented their work:

  • Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (PRIO/UiO): ‘Humanitarianism as Sociology of Law: An Inventory’, during the ‘Peace, Conflict, and Humanitarian Law’ Session on Wednesday 21 June, drawing upon research from the Aid in Crisis project.
  •  Liv Tønnessen (CMI): ‘Abortion after rape in Sudan’, during the ‘Abortion Rights Lawfare in Latin America and Beyond: I’ Session on Wednesday 21 June, drawing upon research from the Protection of Civilians project.
  • Julieta Lemaitre (Universidad de los Andes): ‘False positives, innocent victims and the normalization of violent death in Mexico and Latin America’, during the Legality and Illegality in Latin America’ Session on Thursday 22 June, drawing up research from the Liga De Mujeres project.