Call for papers for the 16th issue of Humanitarian Alternatives

For its forthcoming 16th issue, which will be published in March 2021, Humanitarian Alternatives is launching a call for papers for its next focus theme, “Sexist and sexual violence in the humanitarian sector”. If you are an actor, researcher or observer of the international humanitarian community, and you wish to submit a proposal for an article on this subject, please send a summary of your argument and an outline (2 pages maximum) to the following email address by 26th October 2020: You will receive a reply by 2nd November 2020 at the latest.

The final deadline for submitting the article is 1st February 2021. Please note that the article must be around 2,400 words.

As for each issue, the call for papers extends to “miscellaneous” articles, which could fit into the following columns: “Perspectives”, “Transition”, “Innovations”, “Ethics”, “Reports” or “Tribune”.

Prevention, awareness and sanctions for sexist and sexual violence: the current state of the humanitarian sector

Codirected by Jan Verlin, postdoctoral researcher at the Chair in Geopolitics of Risks – École normale Supérieure, and associate researcher at the Centre for the Sociology of Organisations (CNRS-Sciences Po)

In early 2018, the “Oxfam affair” – in which several of the organisation’s employees were accused of committing acts of sexual abuse in Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake in 2010 – revealed that the humanitarian sector is not immune to the epidemic of sexist and sexual violence. Other NGOs, and international organisations, subsequently revealed cases of “sexual misconduct” which had been allowed to take place within their organisations, with victims including direct beneficiaries, vulnerable populations or other humanitarian staff. In reference to the MeToo movement, the hashtags AidToo and ReformAid began trending, becoming the banners for those who had decided to reveal, fight and punish the sexual abuses carried out by staff in the international aid sector. In response, a number of humanitarian organisations outlined the mechanisms which they had already put in place, or offered to reform their recruitment procedures, develop training on sexist and sexual violence, and to overhaul existing sanctions.

In October 2019, a report published by the International Development Committee of the British Parliament reported the limited progress achieved by NGOs in terms of transparency, with some organisations remaining reluctant to publish the number of allegations of sexual abuse which they had received, and the results of their enquiries. Some months earlier, in France, Coordination SUD and its member organisations adopted a chart committing them to implementing specific procedures to prevent and treat cases of bodily and psychological harm, and in particular cases of sexist or sexual violence. These procedures included transparency surrounding confirmed cases, internal sanction measures and reporting to the courts. Other NGO platforms throughout Europe (VENRO in Germany, Partos in the Netherlands, Bond in the United Kingdom), fell in line with this approach, whilst the European Union’s General Directorates ECHO and DEVCO demanded similar assurances from their NGO partners.

In short, the “Oxfam affair” became the affair of the entire domain of international solidarity, representing both a revelation of practices and a possible transformation of the sector. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on this dynamic – as on others – and the signs of its prioritisation or reduction in such a context also have to be addressed.

This focus section aims to study how the moral condemnation of sexist and sexual violence is being translated into organisational reform. Firstly, it is necessary to establish an inventory of existing mechanisms to fight against sexual harassment in the workplace and against sexist and sexual violence towards direct beneficiaries, vulnerable populations or other humanitarian staff.

Based on this perspective, articles may fit into one of the three following themes:

1/ Grasping sexist and sexual violence in the humanitarian sector

How are these forms of violence defined and categorised by humanitarian actors? Which facts are associated with which kinds of violence? Between abuse, exploitation, sexual misconduct and sexism, which perspective should we be working from in order to identify these facts, and why? Which mechanisms have been put in place to flag up and index these facts? How and when were these mechanisms implemented? What are their limitations?

2/ Situating sexist and sexual violence

Do these kinds of violence in humanitarian aid originate in specific social and gender relations? How can they be situated in the interweaving of the relationships between the West and the Global South, rich countries and poor countries, stable countries and fragile countries, and gender relations? What role do field dynamics and relationships between headquarters and field staff play in the reproduction of this kind of violence?

3/ Fighting against sexist and sexual violence

Which procedures and tools have been put in place by humanitarian actors in order to fight against this violence within their organisations? What kinds of sanctions are in place, and how are they implemented? What are the organisational challenges with regard to disciplinary procedures? Which protective measures are available for the victims? How are humanitarian organisations raising awareness amongst their staff in order to fight against sexual violence? What is the role of recruitment procedures in the prevention of said violence?