Author Archives: Amanda Cellini

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:

Building a Sociology of Law for the Humanitarian Field

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Legal sociology has paid significant attention to human rights, but in contrast to legal anthropology, little focus has been given to humanitarianism. In this contribution, we ask, what does a legal sociological research agenda for the humanitarian field look like?

Humanitarianism is many things to many people. As described by Miriam Ticktin, humanitarianism is ‘an ethos, a cluster of sentiments, a set of laws, a moral imperative to intervene, and a form of government’; it is ‘one way to do good or to improve aspects of the human condition by focusing on suffering and saving lives in times of crisis or emergency; for instance, humanitarians provide temporary shelter, food, and medical care during wartime or immediately after disasters’. The actors involved include affected populations, civil society, host governments, the private sector, international organizations, humanitarian practitioners, the international humanitarian sector and donors.

As academics, it is our task to re-conceptualize this humanitarianism in terms of power, legitimacy and regimes of control and surveillance – both from an internal perspective concerned with humanitarian accountability in the global emergency zone, and from an external perspective that conceptualizes humanitarianism as a form of governance and social fact in global society.

An important aspect here is that as the humanitarian sector continues to expand, the field is legalizing. Beyond international humanitarian law, humanitarian action is increasingly compelled and constrained by a plethora of soft law and legal discourses, and what was once a largely unregulated field of practice is now emerging as a transnational humanitarian space where authority, governance, legitimacy and power is progressively invoked through law.

Historically, humanitarian action has been linked to the normative framework of international humanitarian law (IHL), while emerging as a largely unregulated field of practice. The study of IHL has overwhelmingly been the terrain of doctrinal legal scholars, while the apparent lack of other law has meant that, until recently, legal sociologists have paid little attention to the humanitarian sector. There has also been little sociological concern regarding the consequences of not asking questions about the role of law in the humanitarian project.

As scholars specifically focused on the legal aspects of humanitarian space and the evolving law of humanitarian action, we are interested in normative constructions and contestations regarding conceptualizations of aid, agency, crisis, responsibility and rights within and across different social fields of regulation and governance.  We argue that legal sociology is of central analytical value to this prism, as it focuses on the study of rules, standards, norms; the evolving role of the legal profession and the legalization of conflict resolution in humanitarian governance. Legal sociology can also offer important perspectives on the relative lack of regulation of the humanitarian space, and on the normative orderings that occupy this space in competition with, as a substitution for, or in parallel to legal norms.

In the following, we explore a set of key questions concerning the relationship between humanitarian governance and law:

  • What is the relationship between humanitarian norms and law, and the normative and legal hierarchy of competing humanitarian values?
  • What are the implications of enfranchising non-state actors to partially ‘see like a state’ in humanitarian contexts?
  • What type of authority – and legal authority – do humanitarians have, and how is this authority produced and constrained through rules, norms and standards; including soft regulation, contractual practices and financial policies?
  • What does this authority allow humanitarians to do, and to the extent that humanitarian actors are held accountable, how does this happen?

The relationship between norms and rules

We are interested in the frictions and blind spots that arise in the relationships between humanitarian imperatives (‘do no harm’, ‘aid according to need’), principles (neutrality, impartiality, universality, humanity), and legal frameworks aimed at regulating specific aspects of humanitarian logistics and protection activities. Examples of relationships that need critical unpacking include the relationship between needs-based and rights-based humanitarianism; and the relationship between humanitarian norms, soft law, and due process considerations in refugee resettlement.

There is a similar need for critical inquiry with respect to the relationship and legal hierarchy between humanitarian norms and rules, and neighboring human insecurity fields such as development, human rights, mass atrocity response and international criminal justice.  Specifically, more attention should be given to the substantive aspects of these relationships, and to the implications of mission creeps. For example, ICTs and data are useful prisms for exploring emergent splits between human rights and humanitarians as crisis responding communities. This includes how this split shapes and is shaped by each group’s use of data and the impact the use has on crisis affected individuals and communities. It also includes increasingly divergent perceptions of what responsible approaches to data collection, maintenance, storage and sharing of data look like.

Seeing like a state

Humanitarian organizations are not states. Yet, they are transnational, have thousands of staff, operate and litigate in multiple jurisdictions and are actively involved in sponsoring and pushing for soft law developments. How do we analyze the tensions between the construction of an emergency zone which enfranchises non-state actors to govern; and the structure of human rights law, which requires that individuals have access to accountability mechanisms, including the means for obtaining binding legal redress through state institutions?

For example, legalistic versions of rights-based approaches (RBA) to humanitarian action are premised on the notion that rights holders are entitled to hold the duty bearer accountable. Yet, according to international law and the view of international humanitarian organizations, this right is directed principally at the state and its agents. Humanitarian organizations suggest that they must consider ‘rights-holders with legal entitlements’ but do not see themselves as accountable for the fulfillment of those rights. Organizations sometimes operate with competing definitions of RBA, where humanitarian organizations seek to strengthen the capacities of the rights holders to make claims and of duty bearers to satisfy those claims, but are not themselves directly accountable to persons of concern. What are the implications of enfranchising non-state actors to partially behave and ‘see like a state’?

Questions of authority

Next, we are interested in what type of authority – and legal authority – humanitarians have, and how this authority is produced and constrained through rules, norms and standards; including soft regulation, contractual practices and financial policies.

The broader context for the regularization of humanitarian governance is the accelerating reach of international law into the realm of international administrative governance. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the lack of accountability and transparency raised serious questions about the procedural legitimacy of international organizations. Serious concerns were raised about the emergence of undemocratic liberalism as a consequence of global bureaucratization. The answer to this anxiety about bureaucracy was to bring in more of it: It was thought that rationalization and the emphasis of proper and correct procedures would ensure procedural legitimacy. Hence, the bureaucratization and regularization of humanitarian action takes place mostly through the proliferation of soft norms resulting from multilateral legal agreements, international adjudication, and the increased law-making capacity of international organizations. Legal sociology may here contribute to develop a critical perspective on this aspect of humanitarian governance, for instance by mapping out the role of legal actors and legal authority in humanitarian organizations and transnational coalition networks in humanitarian governance.

To exemplify, socio-legal and anthropological interest in soft law have mostly focused on international instruments for human rights protection, which has resulted in an unfortunate scholarly tendency to reify soft law as inherently progressive. Yet the power operating in the crafting of soft law and the logic of softness may create inequality between groups or result in oppression. Constituted on ideas of emergency and urgency, humanitarian space is a site with extreme power differences between actors, to the extent that aid affected communities are rarely represented around the table when new soft law instruments are drafted.

We should bear this in mind as we engage critically with the emergent law of humanitarian action. The informality of soft law may jeopardize formalized accountability mechanisms, or weaken the obligations of organizations, humanitarians, private sector actors or states in the humanitarian field. Even when crisis-affected communities participate, the notion of pluralistic participation may conceal that soft law production is actually limited to powerful actors; and contribute to misrepresent how the humanitarian sector is structured both on and according to principles of systemic inequality. Legal sociology could here provide a close study on how best practices and community norms are articulated and codified as soft law.


Finally, we ask what this authority allows humanitarians to do, and to the extent that humanitarian actors are held accountable, how this happens. Here we want to briefly outline two emergent developments.

While scholars have often approached this topic by examining the role and responsibilities of international organizations, the 2015 Steve Dennis versus the Norwegian Refugee Council case from the Oslo District court, and its aftermath provides an interesting case study for gauging the evolving juridification of humanitarian organizations’ duty of care for their staff, and the broader implications of a shift towards court-ordered humanitarian practice. Activities and processes that were before considered ‘good practice’ within a human resources frame are increasingly juridified. This shift also reshapes modes of organizing work and workers. In the aftermath of the Steve Dennis case, organizations have struggled to define what constitutes acceptable levels of insurance for a multinational staff. The distributive effects on peoples everyday professional lives, including how such effects may vary according to nationality, race or religion, merit specific attention.

Finally, questions must be asked about the role of global and national publics in holding states and humanitarian actors accountable for how they contribute to end/engender human suffering. In the human rights field, social movements and legal mobilization are central for holding states accountable. However, while contemporary humanitarianism began as a series of social movements – including the anti-slavery movements, missionary engagements and the internationalization of Red Cross societies – present-day humanitarians appear to have a deeply ambivalent attitude to enlist bystanders, i.e the general public, beyond fundraising and social media support. On the other hand, with the present difficulties facing humanitarians with respect to access to humanitarian space and the declining respect for international humanitarian law, ideas about public engagement may be shifting.


While humanitarianism has global and avowedly benevolent ambitions for ordering and eradicating crisis, manifested through a global system of organizations operating within, in parallel with, above and across the domestic state system, and legitimated by moral universals (neutrality, humanity etc.), it is also a field epitomizing global divisions and inequalities. At the same time, humanitarianism – as a transnational practice field and a cluster of cosmopolitan sentiments – is expanding. As part of this, the field is legalizing. Having outlined a few established practices and emergent developments of the mutually constitutive relationship between law and humanitarianism, we argue that legal sociology is well situated to track this development.

This blogpost builds on research output from the PRIO-project ‘Aid in Crisis? Rights-Based Approaches and Humanitarian Outcomes’, funded by the Research Council of Norway under the AIDEFFECT program. It also appears on the blog of The Sociological Review.

Nordic welfare humanitarianism at Nordic Branding Kick-Off Conference (June 12-13 2017)

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As part of the kick-off event for the Nordic Branding research project hosted by the University of Oslo on 12-13 June, Nordic researchers gathered for a round-table to explore how we, as a critical scholarly community, can make sense of the rise of Nordic welfare humanitarianism as a branding exercise, as a politics of status-seeking, and as norm entrepreneurship. Presentations aimed to unpack the attributes of humanitarianism in the Nordic political context and to trace how the ‘dark sides’ of Nordic welfare ideology have been an integral element in development.

This round-table built on the Nordic Model of welfare humanitarianism cluster at the Global Challenges – Nordic Experiences conference (UiO Nordic 2017). This cluster focused on the multiple ways in which the humanitarian frame shaped the politics of citizenship, with respect to inclusion/selection, exclusion, and ‘normalcy’, how ideas about cost and benefit equations have shifted over time, and how principles of cost-effectiveness and efficiency have been incorporated into notions of the Nordic ‘humanitarian good’, a sensibility both above and steeped in national politics.

In her keynote ‘Branding Nordic Development Cooperation’, Sunniva Engh (Associate Professor, IAKH, University of Oslo) focused on the state of historical research on the aid sector, identifying four distinct periods: 1950s, first projects; 1960s, institutionalization; 1970s, professionalization; and the 1990s, securitization. She noted several common trends and features of Nordic aid models including the increase in aid volume, the common prioritization of issues, and similarities in motivations when aid is interwoven with foreign policy initiatives. Engh identified that substantial historical research already exists in Norway as compared to Sweden and Denmark, observing that existing work was often funded by aid practitioners. Engh observed that academic work on Norway’s history coincided with political and popular ideas of the country as a ‘peace nation’ or ‘humanitarian superpower’, but pointed out that going forward there will be challenges to new research on development, as a vast amount of archival material is still classified. The actors to be studied have a self-interest in sustaining their preferred visions of the past: their willingness to place materials in national, public archives and to give interviews is often limited. Additionally, she noted, research on a broader Nordic level is challenged by the desire of each Nordic country to be construed as an individual and unique harbinger of the Nordic brand. She concluded by noting that, with development aid having a multitude of audiences, it is hard to pin down what branding’s role in aid is – and aid’s role in branding.

In his presentation ‘The Nordics and Empire’, Kristian Bjørkdahl (Post Doc Researcher, SUM, University of Oslo) considered how, even after colonialism, remnants of the relationship between the governed and the empirical power persist. Bjørkdahl’s project is to make sense of the role and relevance of the ‘colonial gaze’ in the Nordic branding of ‘peaceful nations’ and ‘peacemaker’: his point of departure is the need for interrogating the postcolonial ‘situation’ for countries who self-identify as never being colonial powers, actively branding themselves as ‘non’-colonial. Bjørkdahl’s presentation complicated their use of colonial innocence as a tool (‘exceptionalism’) in development and humanitarian aid, reflecting on what the idea of non-complicity does for identity.

Next, in her presentation ‘Nordicity and Peace’, Cecilia Bailliet (Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo) took Johan Galtung’s concept of ‘positive peace’ as the starting point for reflecting on how Nordic states excelled as purveyors of peace, while in reality could be facing crisis in rule of law and basic human rights guarantees. While the locus of this concept is the enjoyment of social justice, non-discrimination and equality, Bailliet noted that much of academic attention has focused on efforts to produce negative peace, ceasefire and mediations. This has led to a lack of attention to the ‘dilemmas of positive peace’. Further, she argued that in the protection of the global human good we should not expect the poorest to shoulder the burden, and criticized the Norwegian government for amending laws in order to deny protection, for the containment of asylum seekers at detention centers, and for the bureaucratic investment in speedy deportations which is subsequently mirrored by a decrease in appeals.

Following Bailliet’s intervention and focusing on ‘Development and Gender’, Anne Hellum (Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Oslo) explored whether branding theory can help us understand any of cases where, analytically, Nordic countries have been seen in a more critical light with regards to global morals. Hellum reflected on how Nordic countries see themselves as contributors to equality and how that can be studied through multi-sited fieldwork. Thematically, Hellum’s presentation focused specifically on the political and social processes leading to the nomination of male candidates to the CEDAW committee as a coordinated effort. Based on this empirical starting point, Hellum posed a set of broader methodological questions: if there is a brand, how do we pin it down empirically? Do we see the rise of a new equality branding paradigm focusing on masculinities? What kind of exceptionalism is at play here?

Moving from gender to global health, in his presentation ‘The Ebola Crisis and Norwegian branding’, Antoine de Bengy Puyvallée (Research Assistant, SUM, University of Oslo) explored the framing of the Norwegian Ebola response, focusing on the repatriation of a Norwegian nurse working for MSF infected with Ebola as an event with a key symbolic importance. Exploring the framing of altruism and securitization, Puyvallée suggested that this event was also illustrative of linkages between the Norwegian self-image as a small, secure state and its humanitarian projects, as illustrated by the Norwegian role and visibility in field hospitals and the vaccine project. Puyvallée noted the strategic prominence of ‘branding smallness’ through the idea that Norway is ‘harmless’ and has ‘little self-interest’.

Finally, in her presentation ‘Branding Nordic Humanitarianism’,  Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (Research Professor in Humanitarian Studies, PRIO and Professor Sociology of Law, University of Oslo) focused on the dearth of critical attention given to the role and relevance of Nordic players in the global emergency sphere, in particular with respect to the rise of Nordic ‘mega’ humanitarian NGOs, such as the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Danish Refugee Council.   Sandvik focused specifically on the slippage between critical concepts and how to gauge their appropriate meaning in the Nordic context. Looking at shifting aid fads, and more specifically the turn from rights-based approaches to humanitarian innovation, ‘trade not aid’ and financialization language, Sandvik reflected on what the labels ‘neoliberal’ and ‘empire’ do in humanitarian studies of the Nordics.  Discussing the significance of the shift from paternalist talk about ‘victims’ to a focus on the need to ‘empower the customer’ (illustrated by the turn to cash), she questioned how the literature on buzzwords might be linked to branding theories in a more productive way. Drawing on Cornwall and Brock (2005), Sandvik noted that buzzwords offer the legitimacy development actors need to justify their interventions, and are used to create problem statements that inherently call for certain kinds of solutions (Cornwall and Brock 2005).

The presentations, when taken together, appear to set the stage for future methodological debates on how critique of humanitarianism is performed in the Nordic context and offer concrete examples of where the use of national and regional branding as an analytic tool can be utilized.

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.


The myth of ICT’s protective effect in mass atrocity response

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Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) are now being employed as a standard part of mass atrocity response, evidence collection, and research by non-governmental organizations, governments, and the private sector. Deployment of these tools and techniques occur for a variety of stated reasons, most notably the ostensible goal of “protecting” vulnerable populations. In a new article published with Genocide Studies and Prevention: An International Journal , we  argue that there is little evidence of the existence of what can be referred to as a causal “Protective or Preventative Effect” (PPE) from the use of ICTs in mass atrocity producing environments.

Historically, the international community’s response, or lack thereof, to mass atrocities, has been shaped by the absence of timely and accurate information. Over the past two decades, the use of ICTs has metamorphosed from a series of prototype use cases of these tools and techniques to a now commonplace component of the human rights and humanitarian sector’s response to mass atrocity and human security crisis scenarios. Accompanying this mainstreaming is a set of generalized and, to date, largely unvalidated claims that ICT changes the nature and effectiveness of mass atrocity response.

The specific applications of new technologies and platforms are diverse and constantly evolving, but can be generally divided into two broad categories of prevention/response and justice/accountability: 1) Uses that seek to create unique situational awareness for population protective purposes and informing response activities, and 2) use cases aimed at detecting and/or documenting evidence of alleged crimes for judicial and/or advocacy purposes.  Additionally, the adoption of these technologies appears to be spurred, in large part, by two major factors: 1) Their comparatively low cost in comparison to other, analog interventions and 2) their ability to be remotely deployed in highly lethal, non-permissive environments that preclude traditional, ground-based approaches.

Thus, ICTs are now effectively treated as indispensable “force multipliers” that may either supplement or, in some cases, supplant mass atrocity responses that rely on humans physically making contact with other humans in the places where mass atrocity events are occurring.

We argue that the adoption of an ever more technology-reliant and increasingly “remote” posture has encoded within it an implicit aspiration to literally predict, prevent and deter these crimes as a direct causal result of deploying these modalities. We propose that this increasingly publicly expressed vision that technology itself can fundamentally alter the calculus of whether and how mass atrocities occur demonstrates that civil society actors have done more than simply adopt tools and techniques: They have adopted a theory of change –which we here label PPE—based on technological utopianism as well, a theory that posits technological change is inevitable, problem-free and progressive.

The core of this theory consist in the encoding of assumptions and aspirations into ICTs having an inherently “ambient protective effect” (APE) – i.e. casually transforming the threat matrix of a particular atrocity producing environment in a way that improves the human security status of targeted populations. The APE is based on the assumption that increased volumes of unique otherwise unobtainable data over large scale geographic areas and/or non-permissive environments may cause one, some, or all of the following four outcomes to occur:

  1. Deterrent APE: Perpetrators are less likely to act because of threat of have action documented.
  2. Public Outcry APE: Citizens in nations that have capability to interdict become more activated to push for interventions / protective actions because of immediacy / undeniability / uniqueness of ICT derived / transmitted evidence.
  3. Actionable Intelligence APE: Governments are given new intelligence that they otherwise do not have due to focus of NGOs on poorly monitored / lower politically valued locations that cause them to act.
  4. Early Warning APE: Targeted communities have early warning that enables them to make better, quicker, more informed decisions that are potentially lifesaving.

More research is needed into each of these four points and how they relate to the more general problem with the PPE, which is that it impacts the awareness and acknowledgement of the possible direct and indirect negative effects of ICT. A growing body of scholarship indicates that the attempt to project a PPE through technology may be, in some cases, both exposing affected civilian populations to new, rapidly evolving risks to their human security and negatively mutating the behavior of alleged mass atrocity perpetrators. Technology can have unpredictable or unpredicted knock-on effects: For example, crowd-sourced data is neutral in the sense that it can also be used to forment violence, for example by creating a riot, instead of preventing it.

The human security community broadly speaking–particularly mass atrocity responders, such as humanitarians, human rights advocates and peace builders–must come to terms with the fact that there is a difference between knowing about alleged atrocities and doing something about them; monitoring a mass atrocity crime is different and distinct from preventing it or protecting against its effects. There is a need for members of this broad and diverse community to begin to take seriously the fact that ICT use can cause real harm to civilians.

Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (S.J.D Harvard Law School 2008) is a Research Professor in Humanitarian Studies, PRIO and a Professor of Sociology of Law, Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, University of Oslo.

Nathaniel A. Raymond is director of the Signal Program on human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI).

Note: this post was also published on the INTLAWGRRLS blog.

Cellini presents at the Refugee Law Initiative Annual Conference

The Second Annual Conference of the Refugee Law Initiative was held 5-7 June at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. The overall theme was ‘Mass Influx? Law, Policy and Large-Scale Movements of Refugees and Migrants‘.

With the current political focus on large-scale movements, there is renewed interest in better understanding and developing humanitarian responses. Even if key normative and legal protection gaps in this area have been evident for some time, little has changed on the ground for refugees, migrants and IDPs. The September 2016 adoption of the UN New York Declaration provides a timely opportunity to reflect on the ideas and proposals expressed therein and to feed into the development of Global Compacts in 2018. The conference special theme reflects a need to re-examine complex issues surrounding large-scale sudden movements of persons across borders, as momentum builds towards the Global Compacts in 2018.

Amanda Cellini (PRIO) presented a paper on the panel ‘Burden-sharing in the context of large-scale refugee movements’ that was chaired by Hélène Lambert (Westminster University) and also included presentations by Laura Robbins-Wright (LSE) and Ingrid Boccardi (UCL). Cellini’s paper was titled ‘The Search for Creativity in Response to Crisis: Moving Beyond Durable Solutions?’