“Unravelling humanitarian concepts – From divergent meanings to a common understanding?”

Prof Doris Schopper was invited to deliver the keynote speech “Unravelling humanitarian concepts – From divergent meanings to a common understanding?”  at the inaugural meeting of the Research Network on Humanitarian Efforts, a joint initiative of three Norwegian research institutions, funded by the Norwegian government.

The presentation raised much interest and led to a lively discussion with the audience on the Humanitarian Encyclopedia and in particular the research approach.

Workshop in Mexico – February 2019

The workshop was organised by one of the Humanitarian Encyclopedia scientific committee member, Simone Lucatello (Academia, Instituto Mora) jointly with Juan Pablo Farias, the OCHA representative in Mexico. The meeting was hosted by OCHA in the UN building

More than 20 people attended the workshop. Participants chose key concepts central to their work and then created categories to group them. The results of this exercise were quite distinct form workshops held in other regions. Two groups created two main categories: development and humanitarian action. The third group distinguished between Disaster risk management and Humanitarian Action. This categorising seems to be quite emblematic of the situation in Mexico and Central America: disaster response is not perceived as Humanitarian Action, but as a responsibility of the government (civil protection); disaster risk reduction is closely linked to development; Humanitarian Action is focused on refugees and displaced people, with migration being a central issue.

Clara Egger – Humanitarian Encyclopedia research lead – and two members of HE governance bodies signing articles in Humanitarian Alternatives review!

The ninth issue of Humanitarian Alternatives bilingual review was launched in November under the thematic “1968-2018 Breakdown and continuity”.

The editorial is signed by Clara Egger, Humanitarian Encyclopedia research lead.

Then, in the forum space, François Grünewald, member of the Advisory Board speaks about “Aid workers and the uprooted: chronic of a parallel evolution”, and Oscar Gomez, member of our Scientific Committee elaborates on “Sovereignty as responsibility in East Asia response to crisis”

Enjoy the reading!!!

The Humanitarian Encyclopedia third governance meeting took place in Geneva from 19th to 21st November 2018

Both the Advisory Board and Scientific Committee gathered this week in Geneva to take stocks on past months project evolutions. We had enriching discussions and debates, alternating plenary session with workshops sessions.

Tuesday morning session was dedicated to a joint meeting for the two instances, where the methodology leading to the selection of 126 key humanitarian concepts was presented and adopted. We reached an important milestone that will drive our next research phases.

We want to thank all our governing bodies members for their active participation and their active engagement around the Humanitarian Encyclopedia initiative.

We would like to extend our gratitude to all the humanitarian practitioners who contributed to March 2018 survey, and to the workshops that were held during the Summer in India, Malaysia, Mali, Kenya, Lebanon and Iraq. The survey and the workshops results together with text analysis led to the selection of the 126 concepts through a combination of the three methodologies.

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The Humanitarian Encyclopedia taking part to the HEW2018

This year again, we are pleased to contribute to “The Humanitarian Evidence week”, aka the HEW2018!

HEW2018 is an initiative led by Evidence Aid, in collaboration with the Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine, University of Oxford, to promote a more evidence-based approach together with many other organisations. During the HEW organisations provide webinars, blogs and debates to highlight topics related to generation, use and dissemination of evidence in the humanitarian sector, details of which you will find in their timeline – scroll through to November 23rd and you will find our contributions:

The HEW2018 takes place from November 19th to 25th. If you missed some of the events,  you can consult most of the contents online, on evidence aid website.

Public conference « 1968 – 2018 : Humanitarian concepts across time and spaces » November 20th, campus Biotech 18h30 – 21h

Fifty years after the Biafra war, which set the stage for the “without borders” movement, humanitarian aid has become a resolutely strategic sector, both in terms of action and of image, encompassing an increasing number of players with ever more diverse profiles and practices. This double movement of expansion and diversification has profoundly affected the conceptual frame of humanitarian action. In this context, participants will explore contemporary reconfigurations on humanitarian action by exploring how concepts central to humanitarian action have evolved across time and spaces.

This event will see the launch of the ninth issue of Humanitarian Alternatives : “1968-2018: disruption and continuities”  and confront the perspectives of seasoned practitioners and researchers and doctoral on humanitarian practice, taken as a field of investigation.


Marie Luce Desgrampchamps, Lecturer, History Department, University of Geneva

Duncan Mc Lean, Senior researcher, The Research Unit on Humanitarian Stakes and Practices (UREPH or Research Unit) of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Switzerland – “A reassertion of state sovereignty? Humanitarian implications”


Fabien Cottier, Post doctoral researcher, Department of political science and International Relations, University of Geneva “A Climate of Exclusion ? Environmental Migration, Political Marginalization and Violence”


Despite alarmist claims in the public discourse about the consequences of environmentally-induced migration for security, little empirical research has attempted to evaluate the contention. My Ph.D. dissertation, therefore, sets out to examine the linkage between environmental change, rural-urban migration, and nativist violence. To do so, I present new data on rural-urban migration for 17 Sub-Saharan African countries. The findings unambiguously indicate that climate change does affect rural-urban migration flows, but only to a limited extent. In turn, these migratory flows may cause a moderate increase in the probability of nativist violence, particularly when the native population is marginalized by the central government. The findings, thus, reject the alarmist predictions. Climate change is unlikely to cause mass migration and, as a consequence, to substantially destabilize states.


Janine Bressmer, PhD candidate in political science and international relations, Centre on Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding (CCDP), The Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, “The Spatiality of Risk Management in Aid: Manuals, Walls, and (In)Visibility”


Over the past two decades, humanitarian action has arguably experienced a shift in terms of its conceptualization and physical manifestations on the ground. Debates over a shrinking ‘humanitarian space’ levy accusations against an increasingly dangerous environment in which aid is not given the physical space to operate and humanitarian principles are not respected. Rather than siding in this argument, it can be said that the space in which humanitarian organizations operate, characterized by warfare and violent non-conflict settings, has generated an environment in which such organizations work (conceptually and practically) reactively vis-à-vis the security and risk implications on the ground. Changes in humanitarian discourse and norms, practices such as remote- and risk-management and the separation of aid workers and beneficiary through material and space provide an interesting entry point, this presentation argues, through which to better understand some of the spatial considerations attached to delivering aid in volatile environments


Claudio Todisco, PhD, Department of Anthropology and Sociology, The Graduate Institute Geneva  “So far and yet so near: the production of difference in humanitarian action”

The most diverse international stakeholders who operate in South Sudan display different understandings of humanitarian action, peace- or state-building and development, and through a variety of policy frameworks. This notwithstanding, they share a common heritage of representations about the indigenous people which, while readjusted to the current globalization of politics, can be traced back to the colonial state. Drawing on long-term professional experience with Médecins Sans Frontières and on ethnographic research among the Murle people of South Sudan, this talk will examine processes of differentiation among aid actors who negotiate definitions of humanitarian concepts and related practices within a common system of international governance. The call is both for practitioners and scholars to review current paradigms of knowledge and practice.


Chairs and moderators

Sadio Ba Gning, Assistant Professor, Université Gaston Berger, Saint Louis (Sénégal), Co-Chair of the Humanitarian Encyclopedia Scientific Committee

Clara Egger, Research lead, Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action

Doris Schopper, Director, Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action

Next stop: Kuala Lumpur – Excellent meeting with Mercy Malaysia staff

The Humanitarian Encyclopedia team carries on its Asian Journey in Malaysia.

We organised our second workshop with Mercy Malaysia staff. An incredible and interactive session, thank you all!!!


Oscar A. Gomez (Research fellow at JICA – Japan International Cooperation Agency | Research Institute) was supporting the Humanitarian Encyclopedia team in the facilitation process. Oscar A. Gomez is a member of the Humanitarian Encyclopedia scientific committee.


Tomorrow, we will have a second meeting in Kuala Lumpur with humanitarian practitioners from Malaysian organisations.

Both these workshops would not have been possible without the support of our partner Mercy Malaysia, and the strong commitment of its president Dato’ Dr. Ahmad Faizal Perdaus, member of the Advisory Board of the Humanitarian Encyclopedia.


Workshop in New Delhi – August 6th

20 participants from diverse humanitarian organisations took part to the Humanitarian Encyclopedia Workshop in New Delhi on August 6th.

It was the first inter-organisational workshop of a long series, and this event was made possible thanks to our partner organisations: AIDMI and SEEDS.

If you connect on Facebook you will hear Mihir Bhatt, Director of All India Disaster Mitigation Institute, talks about how Humanitarian Encyclopedia has helped build coherence to ideas between global and local actors, on how it has enabled effective collaboration between them, and took joy in having met people who will continue to build the project together, in India and across the world.

Manu Gupta, Co-founder of SEEDS India, expressing his delight in having co-host the Humanitarian Encyclopedia Initiative in Delhi.

‘It meant a lot to us and the humanitarian world here in India to have participated in this program’, he said. ‘We are now part of a new global architecture of a common universal language.’

Next workshops will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from August 9th to August 11th.

Keep posted!

Summer time and regional workshop tour !

Dear Humanitarian Encyclopedia friends and followers,

It’s Summer time and many of you will enjoy some Holidays.

Meanwhile the Humanitarian Encyclopedia team is preparing a regional workshop tour, gathering humanitarian practitioners in Asia (India and Malaysia), Africa (Mali and Kenya) and Middle East (Lebanon and Iraq) from August to September.

A real opportunity for every humanitarian practitioner to shape her/his humanitarian encyclopedia.

Follow us on the Encyclopedia website,  and twitter #ShapeMyHE


Enjoy a well deserved break!

Your Humanitarian Encyclopedia Team

Have you Heard?

On the occasion of its 35th anniversary, the organization Handicap International changed its name to become Humanity & Inclusion. Being part of HI’s network, the Foundation also changed its name.

The HI Institute on Humanitarian Action is a great partner and supporter of the Humanitarian Encyclopedia.

Dr Nathalie Herlemont  – Director of the HI Foundation – has recently be nominated as co-chair of the Advisory Board of the HE. HI Foundation will also greatly support the organisation of two workshops in Iraq, scheduled for September 2018.

Go and read their annual report – freshly released!- you will see their new logo, and another one (tree shape)… that probably looks familiar.