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José Luís Fiori

This article explores the significance to the inter-state capitalist system of the new US national security strategy, as defined by the Donald Trump administration on 17 December 2017. By looking beyond the inconsistencies and idiosyncrasies of President Trump, we see that this strategy represents a break, not only with the strategies of recent US administrations but also with a longer tradition in US foreign policy. This article proposes that the supposed crisis of ‘liberal order’ is a direct and inevitable result of the expansion and success of the inter-state capitalist system. To explain the strategy of the US in this scenario, the article adopts an unorthodox approach, analysing the myth of the Tower of Babel.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
From the Global to the Local
Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh

This article explores the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees’ (UNRWA) responses to the US Government’s decision to dramatically cut its financial contributions to the Agency in 2018. Acknowledging the complexities of the fast-moving changes and dilemmas faced by UNRWA and Palestinian refugees, this article focuses specifically on the events that unfolded in the first six months of 2018. Through a multiscalar analysis, I start by situating UNRWA’s key responses as they have played out on the international stage through a high-profile fundraising campaign (#DignityIsPriceless). I then develop a close reading of three regional-level UNRWA circulars disseminated to UNRWA staff pertaining to the provision of maternal and neonatal health services, and to Palestinian UNRWA staff members’ employment and pension rights. Against the backdrop of the impact of UNRWA’s responses across the region, I subsequently examine how these operational changes have been experienced and conceptualised by Palestinians living in refugee camps in Lebanon, noting that those experiences must be analysed within the broader context of protracted displacement, enforced immobility and overlapping displacement.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Mel Bunce

When people look online for information about humanitarian crises, they increasingly encounter media content that blurs the line between reality and fiction. This includes everything from rumour and exaggeration to partisan journalism and completely invented stories designed to look like real news (so-called ‘fake news’). This article shows that disinformation is causing real and serious harm to those affected by humanitarian emergencies; it can undermine the ability of humanitarian workers to provide relief; and it has exacerbated conflict and violence. Disinformation is also making it harder for journalists to report on the humanitarian sector, and hold the powerful to account, because it undermines audience trust in information more generally. The article concludes by considering interventions that could address the challenges of disinformation. It argues for more support of quality journalism about humanitarian crises, as well as media literacy training. Finally, it is crucial that aid agencies and news outlets commit to accuracy and fact checking in their reporting and campaigning.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
David Rieff

The political landscape in which the humanitarian movement took current form has changed radically. If humanitarian certainties have been upended, it is not in Sri Lanka, or even Syria or Afghanistan, but in the NGO response to the migration crisis in Greece and in the Mediterranean. However overstated, the claim of neutrality has always played an important role in establishing the legitimacy humanitarian action has enjoyed in Europe. But it is no longer possible, if it ever was, for relief workers to separate their ethical commitment to helping people in need from their political convictions, including about what the EU should stand for.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Editor’s Introduction
Juliano Fiori
Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Governing Precarity through Adaptive Design
Mark Duffield

This paper provides a critical analysis of post-humanitarianism with reference to adaptive design. At a time when precarity has become a global phenomenon, the design principle has sidelined the need for, or even the possibility of, political change. Rather than working to eliminate precarity, post-humanitarianism is implicated in its reproduction and governance. Central here is a historic change in how the human condition is understood. The rational Homo economicus of modernism has been replaced by progressive neoliberalism’s cognitively challenged and necessarily ignorant Homo inscius. Solidarity with the vulnerable has given way to conditional empathy. Rather than structural outcomes to be protected against, not only are humanitarian crises now seen as unavoidable, they have become positively developmental. Post-humanitarianism no longer provides material assistance – its aim is to change the behaviour of the precariat in order to optimise its social reproduction. Together with the construction of logistical mega-corridors, this process is part of late-capitalism’s incorporation of the vast informal economies of the global South. Building on progressive neoliberalism’s antipathy towards formal structures and professional standards, through a combination of behavioural economics, cognitive manipulation and smart technology, post-humanitarianism is actively involved in the elimination of the very power to resist.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
An Interview with Caroline Abu Sa’Da, General Director of SOS MEDITERRANEE Suisse
Juliano Fiori

In this interview, Caroline Abu Sa’Da, General Director of SOS MEDITERRANEE Suisse, discusses search-and-rescue operations in the Mediterranean Sea, in particular those conducted by her organisation. She explains that as a European citizen movement, SOS MEDITERRANEE has adopted a hybrid and politicised approach, which represents a new kind of humanitarian engagement. And she reflects on the challenges of protecting and supporting those crossing the Mediterranean.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Olivia Umurerwa Rutazibwa

This paper questions the extent to which the (arguable) end of the liberal humanitarian order is something to be mourned. Suggesting that current laments for the decline of humanitarianism reflect a Eurocentric worldview, it calls for a fundamental revision of the assumptions informing humanitarian scholarship. Decoloniality and anti-colonialism should be taken seriously so as to not reproduce the same by a different name after the end of the liberal order.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Humanitarianism in a Post-Liberal World Order
Stephen Hopgood

The modern global humanitarian system takes the form it does because it is underpinned by liberal world order. Now the viability of global liberal institutions is increasingly in doubt, a backlash against humanitarianism (and human rights) has gained momentum. I will argue that without liberal world order, global humanitarianism as we currently understand it is impossible, confronting humanitarians with an existential choice: how might they function in a world which doesn’t have liberal institutions at its core? The version of global humanitarianism with which we are familiar might not survive this transition, but maybe other forms of humanitarian action will emerge. What comes next might not meet the hopes of today’s humanitarians, however. The humanitarian alliance with liberalism is no accident, and if the world is less liberal, its version of humanitarian action is likely to be less liberal too. Nevertheless, humanitarianism will fare better than its humanist twin, human rights, in this new world.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
An Interview with Celso Amorim, Former Brazilian Foreign Minister
Juliano Fiori

In this interview, Celso Amorim, former Brazilian foreign minister, discusses changes in global governance and their likely impact on international cooperation. He critically reflects on his experiences in positioning Brazil on the world stage and democratising human rights. And he considers whether the influence of Brazil and other Southern states is likely to continue expanding.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs