The evolution of the humanitarian enterprise, the power relationships that it entails, and the perceptions of communities affected by crisis and conflict are priority concerns of the Feinstein International Center. Through this project we aim to improve the effectiveness of assistance and protection activities for the most vulnerable.

This project focuses on challenges and compromises that are likely to affect humanitarian action in the next decade, using four interrelated “petals:”

  • the universality of humanitarianism
  • the implications of terrorism and counter-terrorism for humanitarian action
  • the search for coherence between humanitarian and political agendas
  • the security of humanitarian personnel and the beneficiaries of humanitarian action

The analysis, conclusions, and recommendations from this project are based on 12 case studies conducted between 2006 and 2007. These case studies focused on local perceptions in Afghanistan, Burundi, Colombia, Liberia, northern Uganda, Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The findings highlight the crisis of humanitarianism in the post-9/11 world: they show that action aimed at alleviating the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable has been, for the most part, incorporated into a northern political and security agenda and not focused on local needs.

We distilled the generic and country-specific findings through an inductive process involving interviews and focus group meetings at the community level aimed at eliciting perceptions of local people on the functioning of the humanitarian enterprise. We gathered additional information through interviews with aid community staff and an electronic survey of headquarters personnel.

Humanitarianism in Sri Lanka: Lessons Learned?
By Simon Harris | June 2010

Researchers at the Feinstein International Center (FIC) at Tufts University have embarked on a major two-year research project on Humanitarian Action and Politics. This project builds upon and expands on...

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Afghanistan: Humanitarianism Unraveled?
By Antonio Donini | May 2010

Researchers at the Feinstein International Center (FIC) at Tufts University have embarked on a major two-year research project on Humanitarian Action and Politics. This project builds upon and expands on...

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Sudan Country Study
By Tasneem Mowjee | July 2006

Sudan has been torn by conflict and political strife throughout its history. As a result of the various conflicts, the political and economic situation in different parts of Sudan is...

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Sri Lanka Country Study
By Simon Harris | October 2007

This study contributes to the Humanitarian Agenda 2015 (HA2015) country paper series by examining the issues of universality, terrorism, coherence and security in relation to the humanitarian enterprise in Sri...

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Principles, Power, and Perceptions Preliminary Report

This report summarizes the findings of the first phase of a major research project on the challenges and compromises that are likely to affect humanitarian action in the next decade....

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Perceptions of the Pakistan Earthquake Response
By Andrew Wilder | February 2008

The devastating earthquake that struck northern Pakistan and the disputed territory of Kashmir in October 2005 killed approximately 75,000 people, injured 70,000 more, and left an estimated 3.5 million people...

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Occupied Palestinian Territory case study
By Larissa Fast | November 2006

This study of the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt) is part of Phase II of HA2015 which includes a larger set of case studies. As with the other case studies, the...

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Northern Uganda Country Study
By Elizabeth Stites | June 2006

The HA2015 study examines the effects of four broad challenges on the humanitarian enterprise: universality, terrorism, coherence and security. Each of these has resonance in the context of northern Uganda....

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Nepal Country Study
By Antonio Donini, Jeevan Raj Sharma | August 2008

This study is the twelfth and final country case study of the “Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Principles, Power and perceptions” (HA2015) research project. As with the other case studies it attempts...

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Democratic Republic of Congo Case Study
By Tasneem Mowjee | October 2007

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), formerly Zaire, is the second largest country in Africa and rich in gold, diamonds and minerals in the East of the country. It...

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Colombia Country Study
By Larry Minear | July 2006

The experience of Colombia sheds light on all four themes of the HA 2015 research. First, with respect to universality, Colombia sees itself as part and parcel of the western...

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Burundi and Liberia Country Studies
By Xavier Zeebroek | July 2006

Three of the four topics addressed by the Humanitarian Agenda 2015 research seem pertinent in the case of Burundi – coherence, security and, to a lesser extent, terrorism. Many comparisons...

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Final Report The State of the Humanitarian Enterprise

This report summarizes the findings of a major research project on the constraints, challenges, and compromises affecting humanitarian action in conflict and crisis settings. The building blocks are 12 case...

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Humanitarian Agenda 2015 : Afghanistan Country Study
By Antonio Donini | June 2006

The four themes of the HA 2015 research come together in Afghanistan with clear-cut relevance. The externality of the aid enterprise and the baggage that comes with it—values, lifestyle, attitude,...

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Coming to Terms with the Humanitarian Imperative in Iraq
By Greg Hansen | January 2007

Highlighting major changes in the context in Iraq and rapid deterioration of the humanitarian situation, this brief report summarizes an Iraq country study to be issued in final form as...

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Afghanistan: Humanitarianism under Threat
By Antonio Donini | March 2009

Based on extensive field interviews in Afghanistan, this briefing paper is an update of a 2006 study on perceptions of humanitarian action in Afghanistan, which was part of the Humanitarian...

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Taking Sides or Saving Lives: Existential Choices for the Humanitarian Enterprise in Iraq Humanitarian Agenda 2015: Iraq Country Study
By Greg Hansen | June 2007

Iraq places the frailties and fault-lines of the humanitarian enterprise in stark relief. Perhaps more than any other highly politicized context, Iraq has fueled a defensiveness and sense of existential...

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Iraq — more challenges ahead for a fractured humanitarian enterprise
By Greg Hansen | January 2008

Based on extensive field interviews in Iraq and neighboring Jordan, this briefing paper is an update of an earlier study on perceptions of humanitarian action in Iraq, which was part...

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Politics and Humanitarian Action in the Georgia Conflicts Humanitarian Agenda 2015
By Greg Hansen | November 2009

Drawing upon extensive field research in the region and informed by additional field study dating back to the mid-1990s, the study calls renewed attention to the politicization and instrumentalization of...

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