Category Archives: Call for papers

Call for papers for the 17th issue of Humanitarian Alternatives

In view of its 17th issue, to be published in July 2021, the Humanitarian Alternatives review is launching a call for papers for its Focus on a topic whose provisional title is “Research and humanitarian aid: the challenges of a collaboration”. If you are a participant, researcher, or observer of the international humanitarian field, and wish to submit an article proposal on this topic, please send a summary of your argument and a draft plan (2 pages maximum) to the following email address before February 15th 2021: You will receive a reply by March 1st 2021 at the latest.

The final article must be submitted before May 31st 2021, with the average length being around 15 000 characters, including spaces (or approximately 2 400 words). Around six or seven articles will be accepted for this section.

As for every issue, your proposals are also welcome for the “Perspectives”, “Transitions”, “Innovations”, “Ethics”, “Reporting” and “Opinion” columns.

Research and humanitarian aid: the challenges of a collaboration

Section co-directed with Valéry Ridde, head of research at the IRD (France) and ISED/UCAD (Senegal), and Daouda Diouf, executive director of Enda-Santé (Senegal)

Despite noteworthy collaborations and the joint work that has been carried out over the last few years, a persistent wariness remains between researchers and humanitarian actors. The former are still sometimes seen as lesson-givers, comfortably settled in their ivory towers, whereas the latter are, in the eyes of the researchers, incapable of thinking before acting. However, few would dispute the respective qualities of each group. It is acknowledged that research teams display methodological rigour, knowledge of theories and expertise in fields (nutrition, health, transport, cities, etc) and contexts (areas, countries, societies, etc) that has been built up over the course of their long-term involvement. No one denies that humanitarian actors have significant capacities for action and reaction, long-term field partners, and expertise in the management and follow-up of projects, as well as humanist values. But the problem lies in the merging of these qualities in order to work together and collaborate. This dichotomy of skills and knowledge is all the more caricatural given that it still too often contributes to reciprocal ignorance or to the undervaluation of joint work.

Those who are familiar with these two worlds know that these caricatural visions are out-of-date. People from both worlds navigate between the two. Many current researchers in the field of humanitarian action were formerly volunteers or employees of NGOs. Partnerships between research teams and NGOs have proven fruitful. We have even seen universities create units to implement humanitarian interventions, and we can no longer keep count of the number of NGOs that have created departments or foundations devoted to research on humanitarian action. The boundaries between these two worlds, formerly real or artificially maintained, have thus become very permeable, especially if we focus less on institutions than on the way in which people from the two worlds collaborate.

Yet the fact remains that these collaborations have not been exploited to their fullest potential, beyond persistent prejudices. Indeed, the organisation of partnerships between humanitarian workers and researchers is never easy. But this collaboration will only really bear fruit if each party realises that it would enable them to go beyond what has already been achieved. Research can give humanitarian actors the means to base their actions on proven theories and conclusive data in order to maximise their efficiency in the field. It can produce knowledge about their actions to go beyond the accountability of the monitoring and evaluation required by sponsors, and become more generalised, to better share the lessons learned and to better capitalise on experiences. Humanitarian actors can be partners for research teams seeking to test interventions whose potential for efficiency and equity has been demonstrated by their research. They can be involved in the sharing of data and field results, but also in processes of advocacy in order to change practices and policies. Yet there are many pitfalls, and the challenges of this partnership remain complex. These problems are clearly institutional, since these two kinds of organisation have opposing cultures, which does not facilitate collaboration between them. Their members also follow very different training routes. Whilst they often share a critical view of the world, they see its transformation on very different timescales which ought to be complementary. Finally, we must not neglect the fact that the possibilities of negative influence, and even manipulation, are also numerous, especially when we take into account the importance of sponsors in the financing of the two domains.

It is on this relationship between the worlds of humanitarian aid and research that we would like to invite you to reflect in this special Focus of the Humanitarian Alternatives review. We want to allow actors from both of these worlds, and their observers, to suggest practical and theoretical reflections on these issues. We especially hope to come up with answers to the following questions:

  • What are the challenges of collaboration between research and humanitarian aid?
  • Which processes might reinforce collaboration between research and humanitarian aid?
  • How can we better train the actors of these two domains in order to better collaboration?
  • Which influences (positive/negative) can emerge from these partnerships?
  • How can research collaborate with humanitarian action whilst maintaining its independence and rigour?
  • How can humanitarian aid collaborate with research without being hampered by the slow pace of knowledge-production?
  • How are power issues taken into account in these collaborations?
  • What are the particularities of partnerships driven by researchers and humanitarian actors from the Global North, of those driven by researchers and humanitarian actors from the Global South, and of those occurring at the intersection of these two poles?
  • What are the institutional and individual issues involved in these collaborations?
  • How are reciprocal influences and links/conflicts of interest taken into account?

The articles that we are looking for are intended to share experiences, as reflexive texts enabling the authors to share the lessons drawn from their experiences. We do not expect theoretical articles, but authors must ground their analyses in a rigorous approach based on field data.

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?