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Title: A crisis of legitimacy for humanitarianism : in conflict situations how does the close relationship between Western power and humanitarian aid affect emergency response capacity and access for aid organisations?
Author: Whittall, Jonathan
ISNI:       0000 0004 5363 4840
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2015
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Humanitarian aid faces a crisis of legitimacy in many conflicts as a result of a close relationship with Western power, which can result in both its failure and rejection. The rise of institutional humanitarian aid has been a part of the rise of Western power. Humanitarian aid has been used as a tool to advance hegemonic power and as rhetoric to justify intervention. However, power is changing. Western norms and institutions are being contested in an emerging global multi-polarity and diffusion of power, often misconceived as shrinking humanitarian space. Institutional humanitarian aid has been so intertwined with Western power that as the West declines humanitarian organisations are either retreating with the tide or being left exposed. The relationship between humanitarian aid and Western power means humanitarian space is actually a Western space. In the places where aid can be deployed – within the realms of the West's influence - its effectiveness is in question due to its incorporation into longer-term processes of liberal democratic state-building that overlooks the basics of emergency response. This is demonstrated in the findings of this qualitative doctoral thesis. Case-study research took place in South Sudan and Syria. In South Sudan, a breakdown of emergency-response capacity as a result of the incorporation of aid into a state-building agenda is demonstrated. In Syria, the relationship between humanitarian aid and Western power is a key justification for the Syrian government to limit emergency-response access. However, changing global power is challenging the conceptualisation and practice of humanitarian aid. If liberal democracy underpins current approaches to humanitarian aid, in emerging states like Brazil and South Africa – where interviews were conducted – the politics of aid are linked more to counter-hegemony, both from the state and diffused forms of power. Changes in global power may not present solutions to the challenges of humanitarian effectiveness and access, but the ongoing affiliation between humanitarian aid and Western power hampers its ability to negotiate a dynamic landscape. This research demonstrates that institutional humanitarianism must disentangle itself from Western power to remain effective and to access the most vulnerable.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: H Social Sciences (General) ; JA Political science (General)