Perceptions of Rights and the Politics of Humanitarian Aid in Myanmar

Journal article

Nilsen, Marte (2020) Perceptions of Rights and the Politics of Humanitarian Aid in Myanmar, The European Journal of Development Research 32 (2): 338–358.

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Actors in the humanitarian sector often find themselves torn between their prime objective of alleviating suffering through realizing the humanitarian imperative and the broader agenda of addressing structural injustices to prevent new crises. The trade-off between getting access and securing rights is a constant source of debate among aid providers. This article uses the example of Norwegian humanitarian aid to Myanmar to illustrate how rights are defined and understood differently among various aid providers, and how different political objectives, competing theories of change, and shifting priorities among donors influence the response of these aid providers in humanitarian crises and their operationalization of a rights-based approach. The article concludes that these competing approaches and theories of change have contributed—in practice, and unintentionally—to a division of labor where the need for humanitarian access has been reasonably balanced with a continued push for rights and political change.

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