Les drones humanitaires

Journal article

Sandvik, Kristin Bergtora & Maria Gabrielsen Jumbert (2015) Les drones humanitaires [Humanitarian drones], RIS La Revue Internationale et Strategique 98 (2): 139–146.

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English summary (article published in French):

What can drones do for humanitarianism? And what kind of work is humanitarianism doing for drones? While drones from the interwar years were seen as the prerogative of military action, today they are increasingly being explored for their possible humanitarian functions.

The humanitarian sector faces an unprecedented number of crises globally. The growing operational and financial deficit in the capacity of governments and humanitarian organizations to respond has led to calls for changes in the way such crises are understood and managed. In response to this dual humanitarian and institutional crisis, humanitarian action is experiencing a "technological turn". Drones hold significant promises for improving information about unfolding crisis and humanitarian access, and for making aid delivery more effective and efficient. At the same time, the humanitarian frame is now deployed by a variety of non-humanitarian actors who want to deploy drones for their respective "humanitarian" purposes. The literature engaging with the "humanitarian" as a frame shows that it is both a strategic label, as far as it comes with connotations of altruism, of doing "good" and of contributing to a better world, and a qualifier that can be filled with a range of different contents. We argue here that these multiple promises of doing "good" that come with the "humanitarian drone" are part of a broader tech-optimism trend, presenting new technologies as the solution to virtually any crisis or technical response problem. In this article we propose to unpack these promises to better understand their rationales and the purposes they serve. Aware that the "humanitarian drone" may mean a lot of different things according to the context or the actors who employ the term, how and why do different actors create and promote specific notions of "humanitarian drones", and what do they aim to achieve?

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