Humanitarianism: a field of diverse disciplines

Humanitarian action involves by essence many different professional disciplines. Even if a humanitarian organization has historically developed its activities in a specific professional sector (e.g. law, public health, engineering), the multi-faceted character of humanitarian crises has often led organizations to acquire expertise in a wide variety of disciplines. Lawyers and managers thus need to understand and often cooperate with doctors and political scientists.

Also, the complexity of current crises and responses, necessarily calls for knowledge of, and approaches stemming from, a wide spectrum of disciplines which include Political Science, International Relations, Law, History, Development Studies, Medicine and Public Health, Epidemiology, Education, Ethics, Economics, Communication, Environmental science, Conflict studies, Refugee studies, Gender studies, Administration and Management, Demography, Geography, Engineering, Statistics, Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, Philosophy). Analysing the conceptual frame of the sector thus implies to develop an interdisciplinary approach

Research areas of publications having “humanitarian” in their title (1900 – 2017) (Source : Web of Science)



For the purpose of this research project, we use the following working definition of interdisciplinary research: “a process of answering a question, solving a problem, addressing a topic that is too broad or complex to be dealt with adequately with a single discipline, and draws on disciplines with the goal of integrating their insights to construct a more comprehensive understanding” (Repko, 2012, p. 16).