Whether caused by violent conflicts or natural disasters, humanitarian crises raise fundamental questions about ethics, law, sovereignty, and foreign policy. Norwegian governmental and non-governmental actors are important actors on the humanitarian stage, and humanitarian principles are central to overall Norwegian foreign policy. Yet there is little public knowledge of and debates about humanitarian issues in Norway, and Norwegian research on humanitarian issues remain fragmented. Against this backdrop CMI, NUPI and PRIO have decided to establish the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies.
The global humanitarian system has gone through significant changes over the last two decades: On the one hand, the international humanitarian regime has been enormously strengthened. Humanitarian work has expanded to cover more long-term development activities and moved into preventive work. On the other hand, humanitarian actors are increasingly targets of violence and humanitarian work has been complicated by new military strategies during the past decade, Non-western NGOs and states have moved into humanitarian relief in an unprecedented but poorly documented way. For all humanitarian actors, demands for accountability and efficiency have mounted and, in some, led to important organizational changes. The nature of these developments – and more generally, the sheer scale of humanitarian challenges and its wider ramifications for international peace and development in the present era – calls for a concerted research effort.
The Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS) aims to promote and facilitate critical and relevant research on key humanitarian issues such as those identified above. The Centre will serve as a hub for research and policy discussion, and will feature a national network of scholars working on humanitarian issues from outside the three core institutions. It will also feature an extensive network of international humanitarian scholars. The Centre has four overarching objectives:
- To produce high quality, policy relevant research on humanitarian issues
- To establish a critical mass of Norwegian scholars working on humanitarian issues, and linking these up with international networks
- To serve as a key partner for discussion and analysis for humanitarian actors
- To stimulate public debate on humanitarian issues
The Centre’s main activities will be:
- Research and project development
- Discussions of emerging humanitarian issues and events through regular seminars and an annual conference
- Expert advice to and analyses for humanitarian actors
- Public information on evolving humanitarian crises and events