Broadening the Concept of Humanitarian Accountability

PRIO Paper

Anstorp, Henrik Buljo & Cindy Horst (2021) Broadening the Concept of Humanitarian Accountability. PRIO Paper. Oslo: PRIO.

How is accountability practiced and conceptualized among different humanitarian actors? The humanitarian system has long been understood as the sole domain of Westernized (I)NGOs, and yet, a range of civic actors are crucial providers of humanitarian aid. Civic actors are embedded in local contexts, engaged in long-term reciprocal relationships, and thus understand the need to mutually negotiate the distribution of responsibilities and expectations. These realities require us to ask different types of questions on the particular power relations and accountability mechanisms that may be of relevance in such contexts. Understanding accountability as a two-way street of responsibilities that can be anchored in several institutional and relational frameworks, this report argues for the need to expand our understandings of humanitarian accountability in terms of “upwards” and “downwards” legal and moral dimensions to include the concept’s relational and contextual dimensions.

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