Classical humanitarianism and resilience humanitarianism
Making sense of two brands of humanitarian action
Journal of International Humanitarian Action , Volume 3 - Issue 15 p. 1- 12
Humanitarian aid has long been dominated by a classical, Dunantist paradigm that was based on the ethics of the humanitarian principles and centred on international humanitarian United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations. While in previous decades alternative paradigms and humanitarianisms evolved, this classical paradigm remained the central narrative of humanitarianism.
In recent years, however, this paradigm has been paralleled by a resilience paradigm that is focused on local people and institutions as the first responders to crises. Whereas classical humanitarianism is rooted in the notion of exceptionalism, resilience humanitarianism starts from the idea of crisis as the new normality. This paper discusses the two paradigms and the incongruent images they evoke about crises, local institutions and the recipients of aid. The article puts forward the case for studying the ways in which these contrasting aid paradigms shape practices, dealing with the importance of discourse, the social life of policy, the multiplicity of interests, the power relations and the crucial importance of understanding the lifeworld and agency of aid workers and crisis-affected communities. The article demonstrates how the stories that humanitarians tell about themselves are based on highly selective views of reality and do not include the role they themselves play in the reordering and representation of realities in humanitarian crises.