There is a stark contrast between the extensive Norwegian engagement in humanitarian assistance and the limited scholarly attention to this subject in Norway. Existing academic expertise is uncoordinated; researchers do not have a disciplinary or theoretical common ground, and there are no comprehensive university courses on humanitarianism. Critical public debate on the intentions and effects of humanitarian engagement regularly emerge, but without rooting in a broader research tradition. Addressing this gap between theory and practice, academic critique and field experience, we continue our work to establish a solid research base for humanitarian studies in Norway.
This project explores the premises and implications of contemporary humanitarianism by identifying humanitarianism as a form of non-violent intervention and by problematising the role of humanitarian actors from a security perspective. In response to the inadequate capacity of nation states to protect their populations against wars, internal conflicts, famines and natural disasters, the 20th century saw the dual emergence of international Humanitarian Organizations (IHOs)1 and state humanitarianisms. As illustrated by events over the past ten years, these institutional and political frameworks will continue to shift the terrain of global governance in the new century, posing novel challenges to traditional ideas of sovereignty, security and human welfare. To understand the political, legal, ethical, cultural and economic implications of this development, there is a need for basic research into the premises and impact of contemporary humanitarian practice, with a focus on developing better conceptual and methodological approaches. The goal of this proposal is to establish a strong humanitarian research community at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo (PRIO) with the ability to undertake interdisciplinary and long-term research at the highest academic level.