Aligning Humanitarian Actions and Development

  • Gerry O’ReillyEmail author
Part of the Key Challenges in Geography book series (KCHGE)


Humanitarian action is reviewed including creation of the League of Nations and United Nations Organisation following the World Wars and ensuing geopolitical world orders. Between 1945 and 91, humanitarian action and law remained circumscribed by the geopolitical parameters of the Cold War. With implosion of the Soviet system (1991–2003), there was greater hope for people-centred humanitarian mechanisms, as in the UN Responsibility to Protect Principle (R2P) promoting a citizen, people-centred sovereignty and establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The 2001, 9/11 attacks on the USA and War on Terror critically impacted on the humanitarian landscape. Hyper-globalization created greater tensions between UN inter-state actions within the UN, and attempted misuse of the R2P. The perceived corporatization of humanitarian aid, along with mission creep and role confusion, were compounded by the War on Terror. This created defies for the humanitarian community, with workers on the ground being targeted by belligerents. The limited success of pacification and democracy-building in Afghanistan (2001 on) and Iraq (2003 on) contributed to further destabilization, and increase in jihadism. The 2007 economic crash, and global institutional mantra of Western-style democracy, neo-liberal economics, and austerity left many people vulnerable and disaffected. Nonetheless, the imperative of humanitarianism, impartiality, neutrality and independence remains central to humanitarian organizations where the Hippocratic standpoint of ‘do not harm’ is embedded. That has to be juxtaposed with the nexus of hazard, vulnerability and risk, depending on interplay of geographies and geopolitics in natural, human-made, technological and complex emergency situations.


Humanitarism Development Underdevelopment Poverty Hazards Vulnerability Risk Stakeholders 


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of History and Geography, St. Patrick’s CampusDublin City UniversityDublinIreland

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