Humanitarian Studies Colloquium: The Ethics of Humanitarianism – rationale and critique of a do-gooder regime

Date/Time: 01/11/2017  13:00 - 15:00

Location: PRIO

In November, the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies and PRIO  will host the fourth Humanitarian Studies Colloquium focusing on ethics.

The Humanitarian Studies Colloquium is a quarterly forum for scholarly discussion of methodological and thematic issues in the emergent field of humanitarian studies, taking place at PRIO. The Colloquium is organized in collaboration with the Humanitarianism Research Group at PRIO, and is open to invited participants.  The disciplinary focuses of past colloquiums included history, the sociology of law, and anthropology.


The disciplinary focus of this fourth colloquium will be ethics.

The morality of humanitarianism is hard to reject, yet humanitarian practice is subject to substantive controversy. On the one hand, humanitarian law and relief are criticized for not being sufficiently efficient, comprehensive, and ambitious. On the other, it is criticized for being overly intrusive, culturally insensitive and wedded to power. Humanitarianism itself is torn between duty based and consequentialist ethics, and general theories of global justice leave little hope for humanitarianism to resolve the problem of human suffering. In Norway, these tensions have surfaced in debates on “the do-gooder regime” (godhetsregimet), where development aid, refugee policies and military interventions with a humanitarian justification have been characterized as naïve, incoherent, or counterproductive, blinded by a missionary urge to save strangers. The repercussions of this debate for humanitarian law and relief nonetheless remain to be systematically discussed.

In this fourth colloquium, the ethical premises of scholarly debate on humanitarianism will be considered with the objective of clarifying the potential contribution of ethics to humanitarian studies.


The specific date in November and full program will be announced shortly. Please contact with any questions.

Loading Map....