International Relations

Matthew Hunt
,
Isabel Muñoz Beaulieu
, and
Handreen Mohammed Saeed

Humanitarian health projects generate extensive amounts of data as part of their activities. In many situations, this data will endure long after the projects have ended. Careful attention is needed within project closure planning and implementation to decisions of when and how to share, store, return to the individuals from whom it was collected, or destroy data. Drawing on a review of the literature and guidelines related to data responsibility and project closure, we propose seven questions that can help orient reflection and deliberation around data management from the perspective of an ethics of project closure. The questions foreground considerations related to purpose limitation and data minimisation, respect for data rights, upholding duties of care, clarifying expectations, commitments and agreements, minimisation and mitigation of risk, and alignment of policy and regulatory frameworks for data responsibility. We illustrate the application of the questions to a case study of the handover of a healthcare project in a refugee camp where project activities were transferred from an international humanitarian organisation to local authorities. This analysis reinforces the importance of understanding data responsibility as an essential component of ‘closing well’.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Louise Beaumais

Do humanitarian workers really trust numbers? In the realm of the DATAWAR research project, this article aims to investigate the interest that humanitarian workers have developed towards quantitative data in the last two decades. The ‘needology’ approach (Glasman, 2020), growing expectations of donors since the 2000s, and the professionalisation and rationalisation of the humanitarian field are all factors that have contributed to the massive use of quantitative data. Discourses promoting ‘evidence-based humanitarianism’ have fostered massive hope in the humanitarian community: a good use of quantitative data could enhance contextual analyses, intervention monitoring or even the safety and security of humanitarian workers. However, this study has discovered that these narratives overestimate the ease with which humanitarian workers deal with numbers. In fact, it shows that the use of quantitative data is mainly determined by a specific, restrictive, hierarchically oriented evidence-based system which nurtures bottom-up accountability rather than day-to-day project management. As a result, the datafication of the humanitarian field does not seem to have been accompanied by an improvement of the data literacy of humanitarian workers.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
How IPC Data is Communicated through the Media to Trigger Emergency Responses
François Enten

The article shows how the data of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) remain ‘poor numbers’. First, because of the intrinsic uncertainty that presides over their production, but above all because of their necessary translation into the media system to trigger responses to crises. Drawing on Boltanski’s thesis on the politics of pity, it emphasises how figures are seen as a partial element of media rhetoric. The figures becomes a performative number when combined with registers of emotion and collective representations of famine. Two examples are developed through interviews with humanitarian practitioners: the crisis in Yemen (2018) as an ‘overexposed crisis’ and the crisis in Madagascar (2021) as a ‘silent crisis’.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
An Interview with Irina Mützelburg (October 2022)
Brendan Lawson
,
Joël Glasman
, and
Irina Mützelburg

In this interview, Irina Mützelburg discusses the production and spreading of humanitarian numbers in the on-going Russian–Ukrainian war since February 2022. She traces the emergence of the announced number of Ukrainian refugees several months before the beginning of the full-scale invasion and analyses the ways in which the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) compile statistics respectively on Ukrainian refugees abroad and internally displaced persons (IDPs). Numbers are produced to be coherent and higher, to illustrate the need for attention and funding. Furthermore, the debated issue of Ukrainians who (were) moved to Russia since the invasion is reviewed, discussing not only the numbers, but also the ways the Ukrainian and the Russian states frame the ways and reasons for which Ukrainians came to Russia. Finally, the interview covers the term ‘evacuee’ and ‘evacuation’ that both Russian and Ukrainian politicians and media use in unusual ways and which have been taken up by international media outlets.

Irina Mützelburg is a post-doctoral researcher at the Centre for East European and International Studies in Berlin and a co-coordinator of the German-French ANR-DFG project, Limspaces, researching everyday life in Moldova and Ukraine. Currently she studies the educational situation of displaced pupils from Ukraine in Germany. She holds a PhD from Sciences Po Paris and has published on Ukraine, migration policies, norm transfer and public policy analysis in the Journal of Intercultural Studies, European Journal of Migration, Revue française de science politique, Revue d’études comparatives Est-Ouest, Revue Gouvernance and Trajectoires. Her book Transferring Asylum Norms to EU Neighbours: Multi-Scalar Policies and Practices in Ukraine has been published with Palgrave Macmillan (London) in 2022.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
The Difficulties of a Randomised Clinical Trial Confronted with Real Life in Southern Niger
Mamane Sani Souley Issoufou

This article describes and analyses the tensions linked to the flaws in the system of a randomised clinical trial conducted by Epicentre, an epidemiological research centre created by the non-governmental organisation Médecins Sans Frontières, in southern Niger. It presents an ethnography of the practice of therapeutic experimentation in the context of a clinical trial in which we observe the meticulousness of a set of monitored practices, framed by a bureaucracy and a hierarchy specific to the medical profession, intended to reduce bias as much as possible in order to produce reliable data. Based on an ethnographic survey with the combined use of participant observations (interviews as part of the real-time follow-up of this clinical trial), this article is part of the literature of Science and Technology Studies (STS), which consists in describing the science in the making (Callon, 1986, 2003; Latour and Woolgar, 2006; Pestre, 2010). It shows the difficulties of a trial that has not taken into account the local contexts of its implementation, the ‘real life’ and its unexpected effects.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Joël Glasman
and
Brendan Lawson

The modern humanitarian sector is gripped by a data frenzy. How can we take a step back and critically engage with what datafication means? This introduction to the special section begins by outlining three broad theoretical positions within the literature: positivist, constructivist, and reflexivity of actors. To dive deeper, and to tie together the four pieces in this special section, we point to ‘ten things we know about humanitarian numbers’. The ten points cover issues of epistemology, institutionalisation, linguistics, social justice, technology, theorisation and power. Taken together, they offer different springboards from which academics can launch into critiques of data in the humanitarian sector.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Cathrine Brun
and
Cindy Horst

In this article we suggest that the call for widening participation as part of the quest for a more localised humanitarianism has overlooked the clash of ethical registers that this would entail. We show that the formal script of the professionalised humanitarian system operates with an individualised ethics, while multiple other actors that exist alongside the humanitarian system operate with a relational ethical register. Based on a literature review on civic humanitarianism and humanitarianism embedded in social practice, we explore dimensions of the web of social interaction within which humanitarian practices often take place. We ask how to conceptualise these humanitarian relationships when relationships in themselves are understood as compromising humanitarian principles. Inspired by decolonial perspectives and relational ontologies and ethics, we then identify key dimensions of a relational humanitarianism: solidarity, responsibility and justice; identity and belonging; social distance and proximity; and temporality. In conclusion we suggest that for calls for localisation to succeed in genuinely changing power relations and practices, better understanding and recognition of relational ethical registers that operate alongside the formal script of the professionalised humanitarian system is required.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
China, Russia, and the United States
John M. Owen

Nye defines soft power as ‘the ability to get others to want the outcomes you want’. Soft power is non-coercive; it persuades, seduces, and co-opts. Soft power is power, or the ability to achieve outcomes that one wants. Except in the unlikely event that a state enjoys universal appeal, its soft power will always encounter resistance and balancing from other actors who want different outcomes. Today, US soft power provokes balancing from China and Russia. That balancing sometimes is done with soft power. But soft and hard power are imperfect substitutes; if a state can use soft instead of hard power, it can also do the reverse. Thus Russia and China sometimes balance against US soft power with hard power. Russia has answered US soft power with military power in Georgia and Ukraine, while China has answered US soft power with the Belt and Road Initiative. Although the world is better off when states use soft power, it is ultimately entangled with hard power; soft power thus does not provide an escape from traditional great-power competition.

in Soft power and the future of US foreign policy
Rethinking the machinery of US public diplomacy for the post- COVID- 19 era
Nicholas J. Cull

This chapter considers the institutions of and approaches to public diplomacy necessary for bolstering reputational security: the elements of security that derive from a positive reputation. Implicit in the argument is the idea that a positive reputation requires both attention to image and reality. The chapter considers the past and future of the constituent functions of public diplomacy including: listening, advocacy, culture, exchange, international broadcasting, broader policy/quality control, domestic politics, and issues of coordination and leadership. The final section argues that in a connected world reputational security cannot rest on a state’s own institutions. In the same way that physical security has necessitated mutual security platforms like NATO so reputational security requires assistance to allies and an awareness of the shared interest in a stable media environment: collective reputational security.

in Soft power and the future of US foreign policy
Lessons learned from US cultural diplomacy
Carla Dirlikov Canales

Cultural diplomacy has been a vital tool of US foreign policy since the United States’ emergence as a global power. This chapter explores the history of those efforts from World War II onward. It includes examinations of well-known initiatives linked to Franklin Roosevelt's Good Neighbor Policy, Cold War examples including the Jazz Ambassador missions and Ping Pong diplomacy and more recent digital era efforts. It assesses the effectiveness of such programmes, offers a critique of past weaknesses and a prescription for harnessing the full, often untapped, power of culture in the future. The chapter draws directly on the extensive experience of the author, Carla Dirlikov Canales, who has served as a US cultural envoy for nearly the past two decades. Dirlikov Canales is also an internationally known opera singer and a well-known speaker, writer and professor focused on cultural diplomacy-related theme and the thrust of the analysis draws on her practical, on-the-ground experience doing this work.

in Soft power and the future of US foreign policy