A history of the humanitarian system – Western origins and foundations

Eleanor Davey, with John Borton and Matthew Foley
Humanitarian Policy Group – Overseas Development Institute ODI – London, United Kingdom
Published online: June 2013

Abstract / Resumen:

“…..The idea of using history to shed light on the present has significant and growing support within the humanitarian community, but remains the exception rather than the rule. This HPG Working Paper provides an introduction to the emergence of the international humanitarian system and the factors that have shaped its evolution. It argues that greater knowledge of the system’s past will help practitioners and policy-makers think through today’s challenges and will contribute to a more effective platform for future reforms. For those working in the humanitarian sector, this Working Paper offers an overview of major developments in the history of the humanitarian system from its origins in the mid-nineteenth-century until the close of the twentieth century. It draws attention to key moments of relevance to current reflection about the system and the issues that have been the subject of critical reflection. For students and historians of humanitarianism, it provides a review of current scholarship and makes an appeal for greater engagement with the concerns that shape humanitarian practice today……” ODI
Chapter 1 An Introduction to humanitarian history

1.1 History and humanitarian action
1.2 Working Paper methodology and outline
Chapter 2 Humanitarian history: an overview
2.1 From the beginnings of the system until the First World War
2.2 The Wilsonian period and Second World War reforms
2.3 Engagement in the global South during the Cold War
2.4 From the fall of the Iron Curtain to the close of the century.
Chapter 3 Early Institutions for emergency food aid
3.1 The CRB and ARA during and after the First World War
3.2 Colonial famine relief in Bengal and Indochina
3.3 UNRRA and NGOs during the Second World War
Chapter 4 Evolving norms during decolonisation
4.1 Wars of liberation and international humanitarian law
4.2 UNHCR, global emergency and refugee frameworks
4.3 Decolonisation, development and human rights
Chapter 5 The emergence of a humanitarian knowledge community
5.1 Knowledge and information sharing following the world wars
5.2 Institutional innovation in operations, research and funding
5.3 Knowledge formation: the example of the post-disaster shelter and housing sector
Chapter 6 Conclusion

Keywords / Palabras clave: Emergence; International Humanitarian System; Knowledge; Humanitarian Sector

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