Armed Violence in Urban Settings; New Challenges, New Humanitarianisms

The premise of this project is that while armed violence short of armed conflict is becoming increasingly important as a humanitarian challenge, it is far from clear how humanitarian organisations are actually responding to it. Even less clear is the extent to which they should be responding to it and what, at the end of the day, they are in a position to actually do about it, particularly in urban settings where armed violence is emerging as a major threat to peaceful development. The primary aim of this project therefore is to offer some much needed clarity as to how armed violence in urban settings is currently understood and acted upon by humanitarian organizations. We ask how humanitarian actors define and act on armed violence, whether these actions bring them into closer cooperation with non-humanitarian actors – such as security and development actors – and whether humanitarian actors’ efforts in this area represents challenges to established humanitarian ideals of neutrality and impartiality.

The project is divided into three distinct phases:

i) Mapping: Using innovative methods – network analysis and content analysis – we first map what humanitarian organizations policies and practices on armed violence is in urban settings;

ii) Field Work: We then analyze, through qualitative methods, three organizations with distinct values and identities (Red Cross, MSF, and World Vision) in different urban settings to understand what they do, why, and with whom they cooperate;

iii) Comparison and Lessons: Synthesizing insights from i and ii, the project will offer new knowledge on how humanitarian actors learn and adapt to address challenges outside its core mandate, thereby also offering new insights about the evolving nature of humanitarianism.

The project will produce a PhD, a total of four articles and several policy briefs.



Project leader: Ole Jacob Sending (NUPI)


Joakim Hertzberg Ulstein (NUPI)

Simon Reid-Henry (PRIO)