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Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Gender Equality and Culture in Humanitarian Action
Ricardo Fal-Dutra Santos

Despite increasing attention to gender issues in the humanitarian sector, the notion of gender equality as a humanitarian goal remains largely rejected, as some argue it would require interfering with cultural values and practices, and thus lie beyond the remit of humanitarianism. This paper questions this by examining the close relationship between certain humanitarian goals, and cultural values and practices. It ultimately calls for a gender-transformative humanitarian action that recognises and supports local feminist actors, in an effort to transform gender relations both in local communities and within humanitarianism itself.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Catherine Akurut

This review examines the appropriateness of including men within the existing sexual and gender-based violence programming in armed conflict settings rather than providing services explicitly designed to address their needs. A central premise of the paper is that men experience sexual violence differently to women and that the way they seek help also varies. This gender-specific difference calls into question why humanitarian organisations pursue a ‘gender-inclusion’ approach, which simply extends services designed for women to men. There is a need to reconsider this approach, and specifically its implementation. The paper reviews relevant secondary sources and argues that current practices of sexual and gender-based violence programming fail to translate into actionable responses suited for and sensitive to men.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Dispelling Misconceptions about Sexual Violence against Men and Boys in Conflict and Displacement
Heleen Touquet, Sarah Chynoweth, Sarah Martin, Chen Reis, Henri Myrttinen, Philipp Schulz, Lewis Turner, and David Duriesmith

Sexual violence against men and boys in conflict and displacement has garnered increasing attention over the past decade and has been recognised in UN Security Resolution 2467. Despite increased evidence and understanding of the issue, myths and misconceptions nevertheless abound. The authors of this article – practitioners and academics with extensive experience in the field – aim to dispel ten of the most common misconceptions that we have encountered, and to highlight the current evidence base regarding sexual violence against men and boys in humanitarian settings. We argue that just as there is no universal experience of sexual violence for women and girls, there is no universal experience for men and boys, or for nonbinary people. In order to address the complexities of these experiences, a survivor-centred, intersectional approach is needed.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Corporations, Celebrities and the Construction of the Entrepreneurial Refugee Woman
Annika Bergman Rosamond and Catia Gregoratti

In this article we seek to extend recent debates on how the promotion of self-reliance through vocational training and entrepreneurship has become the new neoliberal mantra among refugee-supporting agencies, policymakers and humanitarian actors. More specifically, we do so in the context of corporate and celebrity-endorsed humanitarian partnerships and initiatives that single out refugee women and girls. Informed by postcolonial feminist scholarship and guided by Carol Bacchi’s ‘what is the problem represented to be’ (WPR) approach we compare IKEA’s partnership with the Jordan River Foundation (JRF) in Jordan and Angelina Jolie’s support for the RefuSHE project in Kenya. While differences between the two problem representations exist, both initiatives seek to empower refugee women by activating latent entrepreneurial abilities. These, we conclude, reinforce a saviour/saved humanitarian logic while also obscuring the gender division of responsibilities and precarious nature of artisanal labour.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
The Aid Industry and the ‘Me Too’ Movement
Charlotte Lydia Riley

In 2018, the global #MeToo movement turned its attention to the aid industry, after scandals at Oxfam and Save the Children highlighted the sexual harassment, abuse and assault prevalent in the sector. This article explores #MeToo in the context of the aid industry (informally known by many participants as #AidToo), particularly within a British context. The article argues that the aid industry exists in a historical, social and political space that is particularly volatile. The abusive behaviour of men in the sector is shaped and enabled by race, class and gender inequalities, which undermine many of the stated aims of international aid programmes. The humanitarian and development aid sector will not eradicate this behaviour until it recognises how it is enabled and encouraged by these inequalities. The article argues that the aid sector needs to develop an ethical code of conduct around sexual relationships, harassment and abuse that recognises power inequalities within the sector and seeks to protect vulnerable individuals.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Megan Daigle, Sarah Martin, and Henri Myrttinen

Humanitarian, development and peacebuilding work has become increasingly dangerous in recent decades. The securitisation of aid has been critiqued, alongside the racialised and gendered dynamics of security provision for aid actors. What has received less attention is how a range of intersectional marginalisations – gender, racialisation, sexuality, nationality and disability – play out in constructions of security, danger and fear in aid deployments. Focusing on sexual harassment, abuse and violence as threats to safety and security, the article examines how in training and guidance for deployment to ‘the field’ (itself a problematically securitised notion), danger is projected onto sexualised and racialised ‘locals’, often overlooking the potentially far greater threat from colleagues. Here, we employ a review of security guidance, social media groups, interviews with aid staffers and reflections on our own experiences to explore how colonialist notions of security and ‘stranger danger’ play out in training. We argue that humanitarianism is still dominated by the romanticised figure of the white, male humanitarian worker – even if this problematic imaginary no longer reflects reality – and a space where those questioning exclusionary constructs of danger are quickly silenced and even ridiculed, even in the age of #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Bert Ingelaere

The gacaca process was introduced in Rwandan society to deal with the legacy of the 1994 genocide against Tutsi. Empirically informed research points to the ambiguous and ambivalent attitudes of participants regarding testimonial activities, namely the search for the truth. Hence the questions: what does the gacaca experience reveal about this elusive and multidimensional notion called ‘the truth’? And, what does ‘the truth’ as experienced by Rwandans reveal about the nature of the gacaca process? This article aims to answer these questions by identifying and qualifying the different styles of truth at work in the gacaca process, namely the forensic truth, the moral truth, the effectual truth and, the Truth-with-a-Capital-T. The first is a consequence of the design of the court system, the second is derived from the socio-cultural context, the third is a consequence of the decentralised milieu in which the gacaca courts were inserted, the fourth is the result of the overall political context in which the gacaca activities took place. This process of assembling these different styles of truths is conceptualised through the notion of agencement that captures the intricate interplay of agency and structure, contingency and structuration, change and organisation shaping the gacaca process.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Marie-Luce Desgrandchamps, Lasse Heerten, Arua Oko Omaka, Kevin O'Sullivan, and Bertrand Taithe

This roundtable took place on 16 January 2020, at the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the end of the war in Biafra. It brought together Marie-Luce Desgrandchamps, Lasse Heerten, Arua Oko Omaka and Kevin O’Sullivan. The roundtable was organised and chaired by Bertrand Taithe, University of Manchester.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Hakim Khaldi

How can we go about our work of saving lives when, in Syria, civilians, the wounded and their families, medical personnel and aid workers are all targets – whether in areas controlled by the government or those held by the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) or various rebel groups with diverging political agendas? Over the course of several field missions, the author of this article, a member of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), sought to decipher the political and military engagements undertaken in different regions of Syria during the war years. He also factored into his analysis the endless flow of data, information and positioning being produced and published over this period, because the war was also fought every day on the internet where the representatives and ideologists of warring groups, human rights organisations, Syrian diaspora organisations and spokespersons of the Syrian central authorities were and still are a permanent presence. Drawing on all these observations and data, the author relates and analyses the emergency relief activities carried out by MSF in Syria, how these activities evolved and the conditions in which choices to intervene and decisions to withdraw were taken.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs