The humanitarian-development nexus

Humanitarian principles, practice and pragmatics

The humanitarian-development nexus: Humanitarian principles, practice, and pragmatics” by Jon Harald Sande Lie (Research Professor, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, NUPI) published in the Journal of Humanitarian Action (2020).

“The humanitarian–development nexus is increasingly being cast as the solution to humanitarian concerns, new and protracted crises, and to manage complex war-to-peace transitions. Despite widely endorsed amongst policymakers, this nexus presents some challenges to those implementing it. Humanitarian action and development assistance represent two distinct discursive and institutional segments of the international system that are hard to juxtapose. Humanitarianism’s apolitical and imminent needs-based approaches building on established humanitarian principles are fundamentally different from the more long-term, political, rights-based approaches of development. As they rub shoulders, as intentionally instigated by the nexus, they affect and challenge each other. These challenges are more acute to the humanitarian domain given the constitutive status of the humanitarian principles, which, when challenged, may cause changes to the humanitarian space and a mission-cum-ethics creep. This article explores the formation and effects of the humanitarian–development nexus as rendered both at the top, amongst policymakers, and from the bottom. The latter explores the discursive transition from conflict to reconstruction in Northern Uganda. Humanitarian organisations’ different response to the transition demonstrate more pragmatic approaches to the humanitarian principles and thus how the nexus itself is also formed bottom up and further exacerbates the mission creep.”

Jon Harald Sande Lie is Senior Researcher NUPI. He holds a PhD in social anthropology from the University of Bergen (2011). Focusing on governance, power and resistance, his research interests include development aid, humanitarianism and postcolonial state formation in Eastern Africa.