Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies Annual Conference

The ‘Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies (NCHS) Research Network Annual Conference’ was held on Friday 4 November 2022 from 09:30 in the Olav H. Hauge room at the House of Literature (Litteraturhuset) Østre Skostredet 5, Bergen, Norway.

The NCHS Annual Conference brings together humanitarian practitioners, researchers, policy makers, students and the interested public to exchange research, experiences and knowledge on key issues and challenges in the humanitarian sector.

This year we were delighted to have Michael Barnett, University Professor of International Affairs and Political Science at the George Washington University, join us to deliver the keynote address to open the conference and Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh, Professor in Migration and Refugee Studies at the University College London deliver the NCHS Annual Lecture. You can now listen to an audio recording of both the keynote address and NCHS Annual Lecture below.

The conference also featured two panel discussions, the first on Islamic Actors in Humanitarian Negotiations and the second on Humanitarian Work in War.

Download the conference program here.

09:30 – Opening: Antonio De Lauri (NCHS Director and Research Professor, Chr. Michelsen Institute)

09:45 – Keynote: Michael Barnett (University Professor, International Affairs and Political Science, George Washington University) – ‘Humanitarianism in a Post-Liberal Age’

Audience Q&A

10:35 – 10:45 – Tea and coffee break

10:45 – Panel: Islamic Actors in Humanitarian Negotiations

Khaled Almezaini (Associate Professor, Politics and International Relations, Zayed University) – ‘Qatar and UAE humanitarian aid: Competing interests, ideas and diplomacy’

Ghassan ElKahlout (Director, Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies and Associate Professor, Doha Institute) – ‘Islamic NGOs in humanitarian diplomacy: A focus on Islamic Relief, Qatar Charity and the Qatar Red Crescent Society’

Altea Pericoli (PhD Candidate, Catholic University of Milan) – ‘The regional dimension of humanitarian diplomacy: Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) in the Muslim World’

Moderator: John Karlsrud (Research Professor, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, NUPI)

Audience Q&A

11:45 – 12:45 – Lunch break (light lunch served)

12:45 – Panel: Humanitarian Work in War

Nell Gabiam (Associate Professor of Anthropology and Political Science, Department of World Languages and Cultures and Department of Political Science, Iowa State University) – ‘Care and survival during the war in Syria: The limits of Institutionalised humanitarianism’

Kholoud Mansour (Consultant and researcher) – ‘Reflections on a decade of humanitarian aid in Syria’

Arne Strand (Senior Researcher, CMI)

Moderator: Cindy Horst (Research Professor, Peace Research Institute Oslo, PRIO)

Audience Q&A

14:15 – NCHS Annual Lecture: Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (Professor, Migration and Refugee Studies, University College London) –  ‘Against the Humanitarian Grain’

Introduction: Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (NCHS Co-Director and Research Director, PRIO)

Audience Q&A

15:20 Closing: Stein Sundstøl Eriksen (NCHS Co-Director and Research Professor, NUPI)

15:25 – 16:00 – Refreshments and finger food served



Michael Barnett

Michael Barnett is a University Professor of International Affairs and Political Science at the George Washington University. His research interests span the Middle East, humanitarianism, global governance, global ethics and the United Nations. Professor Barnett’s published books include ‘Empire of Humanity: A History of Humanitarianism’ and ‘Power and Global Governance’ (co-edited with Raymond Duvall). More recently he also edited the collection ‘Humanitarianism and Human Rights: Worlds of Differences?’

Keynote: Humanitarianism in a Post-Liberal Age

Now that the world has moved out of a liberal international order, where does that leave humanitarianism? In fact, humanitarianism was already exiting the liberal international order starting at the turn of this century, as the forces of destruction shifted from a liberal peace to securitisation; the forces of production from development to marketisation; and the forces of compassion from human rights to bounded cosmopolitanism. Where does humanitarianism go from here?

Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh

Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh is a Professor in Migration and Refugee Studies at the University College London (UCL). She is also the Co-Director of UCL’s Migration Research Unit, and is the Founder and Director of the Institute of Advanced Studies Refuge in a Moving World research network across UCL. Professor Fiddian-Qasmiyeh’s research focuses on the intersections between gender, generation and religion in experiences of and responses to conflict-induced displacement, with a particular regional focus on the Middle East.

Annual Lecture: Against the Humanitarian Grain

In this lecture I propose moving beyond, or even against, what I conceptualise as “the humanitarian grain”, including by exploring what can be gained both analytically and in practical terms by setting aside the ‘humanitarian frame’, and instead focusing on multi-scalar responses to displacement. Going beyond my earlier project to ‘write the Other into humanitarianism’ (Fiddian-Qasmiyeh and Pacitto, 2015, emphasis added), I propose that displacing the humanitarian (thereby setting aside questions of labelling, geopolitical hegemony and even the quest for a genealogical recognition of the plurality of humanitarianisms) provides a critical opportunity to critically ‘rethink refugee response’. To do so I draw on insights from in-depth research conducted with refugee and non-refugee residents of local communities responding to displacement in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey (through the Refugee Hosts project) and with regards to ‘Southern-led Responses to Displacement’ (the title of a second research project also revolving around displacement from Syria).

Khaled Almezaini

Khaled Almezaini is an Associate Professor of Politics and International Relations at Zayed University. He completed his PhD at the University of Exeter. Prior to joining Zayed University, he taught at many different universities, including the University of Cambridge, University of Exeter and the University of Edinburgh. His teaching and research interests include politics and international relations, with a focus on the Middle East in general and the Gulf in particular. He is interested in the politics of the Gulf, foreign policy, foreign aid and development in the Middle East.

Ghassan ElKahlout

Ghassan ElKahlout is the Director of the Center for Conflict and Humanitarian Studies and Associate Professor at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies where he currently serves as Head of the MA Program in Conflict Management and Humanitarian Action. Dr. Elkahlout received his PhD in post-war reconstruction and development studies from the University of York. Prior to joining the Doha Institute, Dr. Elkahlout worked for various international organisations, including the United Nations, the International Federation of Red Crescent Societies and Islamic Relief Worldwide. He has also served in a wide range of emergency humanitarian response teams and has extensive field experience in conflict- and disaster-affected contexts.

Altea Pericoli

Altea Pericoli is a PhD candidate in Institutions and Policies and Teaching Assistant in History and Institutions of the Muslim World at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart (UCSC) in Milan (Italy). She conducted visiting periods at Vienna University, Department of Near Eastern studies and Durham Centre for Islamic Economics and Finance (Durham University Business School). She took part in the project “Humanitarian Diplomacy” at the Chr. Michelsen Institute and she carried out field research at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, regarding the role of Qatar in financing humanitarian and development aid. Her research interest concerns the humanitarian and development aid implemented by Islamic actors and the Gulf States in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, especially in the Syrian reconstruction.

Nell Gabiam

Nell Gabiam is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Political Science at Iowa State University. She received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley in 2008. She is the author of The Politics of Suffering: Syria’s Palestinian Refugee Camps, published in 2016 by Indiana University Press. While her earlier research focused on the politics of humanitarianism and development in Palestinian refugee camps, her more recent research focuses on Palestinians displaced by the ongoing Syrian war. Her work has taken her to Jordan, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, France, Sweden, and Germany.

Kholoud Mansour 

Kholoud Mansour is a researcher and consultant. Her research focuses on humanitarian and development response, refugees and migration, civil society, peacebuilding, gender, and women’s political participation. She has published and worked for leading think tanks, UN agencies, and international organisations.

Arne Strand

Arne Strand is a Senior Researcher and the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI). Strand has a PhD in Post-war Recovery Studies where he studied coordination of humanitarian assistance in complex emergencies. His research focuses on aid coordination, forced migration and reintegration, peace-building and security sector reform and humanitarian and development assistance. Strand has been team leader of several evaluations and research programmes in and on Afghanistan. He has extensive management experience from NGOs and research institutes, and has also been involved in developing management and professional capacities of Afghan NGOs and peacebuilding organisations. Strand was also the Director of the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre from 2016 to 2021.