‘Humanitarian Futures: NCHS Humanitarian studies conference’
7 and 8 June | Oslo, Norway

Conference overview
According to the Global Humanitarian Overview, one in every 23 people now needs humanitarian assistance – a record 339 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection in 2023.

Global great power struggles, new and ongoing violent conflicts, disasters, extreme weather events, climate change, and growing inequality are all having an impact on humanitarian need. Forced displacement shows no sign of easing, with 103 million people – or one per cent of the world’s population – now displaced.

The environment in which humanitarian organisations operate is also changing. Growing social vulnerabilities and protracted crises, coupled with increasingly dangerous operating environments, rising operational costs and high inflation are impacting how humanitarian assistance is thought of and delivered.

The war in Ukraine, and its regional and global ramifications, already affects funding streams for humanitarian assistance and may have broader implications as well. The 6 February 2023 earthquake in Turkey and Syria are also likely to have long term impacts on the region, already made fragile by years of conflict and international sanctions and interventions. It also shows both the international willingness to help, beyond political fault lines, when the tragedy hits, as well as how the crucial first and immediate response is organised by local communities. The Taliban take-over in Afghanistan has brought back key dilemmas for the humanitarian community, between engagement, negotiations and humanitarian delivery. Meanwhile, countries like Yemen still suffer from devastating conflict and humanitarian suffering, often in the shadow of other major events.

These challenges run in parallel with grand ambitions like the World Humanitarian Summit Agenda for Humanity, as well as innovative solutions for delivering humanitarian assistance. The essence of humanitarian aid is constantly put into question in discussions around increasing levels of local leadership and participation, and greater accountability to the people affected by crises. What humanitarian futures can we see from here?

This conference, hosted by the Norwegian Centre for Humanitarian Studies, will explore what developments, risks, ideals and policies are characterising the ongoing transformations of the idea and practice of humanitarian aid. We will consider models of humanitarian governance, including the future of the UN and multilateral systems, the impact of sanctions, and what implications great power struggles may have for humanitarian action. We will examine the future delivery of humanitarian assistance, including who will deliver aid and how will they collaborate (from established organisations to grassroots, and questions about who are the “humanitarians”)? How can technology and innovation help deliver aid more efficiently (and ethically)? How can the international community ensure access to aid (through humanitarian negotiations and diplomacy)? And how people directly affected by crisis and emergency cope with existing structures and help contributing different configurations of assistance.

On a broader level, we want the conference also to meaningfully show how humanitarian studies can constructively think around key challenges in the humanitarian arena, and create a space for productive exchanges between students, researchers, humanitarian practitioners, policy makers and journalists.

The conference will be organised around the central themes of: (1) the future of humanitarian governance, (3) the future of the delivery of humanitarian assistance and (3) the future for displaced people

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