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About the event

European and North-American led humanitarian responses to contexts of forced displacement are increasingly being paralleled and at times overtly challenged by an ever-expanding array of 'alternative' models of humanitarian intervention. However, while extensive research has been conducted on South-South development programmes (ie Chinese development funding in sub-Saharan Africa), and 'alternatives to development' (ie post-development studies), there remains a need to comparatively examine South-South humanitarian partnerships.

This workshop provided a space for critical reflection upon the various histories, modes of operation and implications of diverse 'alternative' models of humanitarian action; such critical analysis is particularly important given increasing governmental and UN interest in Southern-led humanitarianism for a variety of financial and political reasons. The papers presented at the workshop addressed key questions including: 

  • What is the history of different models of state and non-state South-South humanitarianism?
  • Given the heterogeneity which exists between and amongst Northern and Southern state and non-state actors, what, if any, are the similarities and differences which exist between Northern-led and Southern-led humanitarian initiatives?
  • What are the motivations underpinning diverse Southern state, civil-society, collective and individual responses to contexts of displacement?
  • How are South-South humanitarian programmes and projects experienced and assessed by different members of Southern displaced populations?
  • Do diverse South-South humanitarian initiatives complement and/or challenge Northern-led humanitarianism?
  • What is the relationship between South-South humanitarianism and the “international” humanitarian principles of neutrality and impartiality?

The background paper underpinning the workshop will be available to download from this page in October 2012. A selection of the papers presented at the workshop will in turn be published as part of the RSC Working Paper Series and in a peer-reviewed journal Special Issue or edited collection.

Read more about the RSC's research project on South-South Humanitarianism in Contexts of Forced Displacement.


09.45–10.10    Registration (Tea/Coffee)

10.10–10.20    Welcome and Introduction, Prof. Dawn Chatty (Director, RSC, Oxford University)

10.20–10.30    Opening Remarks, Dr. Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (RSC, Oxford University)

10.30–11.15    Opening Lecture: Contemporary Humanitarian Action and the Role of Southern Actors: Key trends and debates, Simone Haysom (Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute)  

11.15–13.00    Session 1: South-South Civil Society Responses to Displacement: Past and Present, Chair: Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (RSC, Oxford University)

  • Bottom-Up, Not Top-Down: Accommodating the displaced in mid-Albania in 1918, Beryl Nicholson (Independent researcher, UK)
  • An Activist’s Perspective on South-South Humanitarianism in North-West Bangladesh, Rumana Hashem (University of East London)
  • South-South Faith-Based Humanitarianism: Understanding the Social and Spiritual Capital of Local Faith Communities, Helen Stawski (Archbishop of Canterbury’s Deputy Secretary for International Development)

13.00–13.45    Lunch

13.45–15.30    Session 2: Southern Host States’ Responses to Different Forms of Displacement: Humanitarianism or Politics? Chair: Simone Haysom (Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute)

  • Who Is a Refugee? Explaining Variation in African Host State Policies, Alexander Betts (RSC, Oxford University)
  • Contradictions in South-South Counter-Trafficking Initiatives: A case-study of post-war Iraq, Julia Smith (IOM Iraq)

15.30–15.45    Coffee

15.45–16.45    Session 3 Beyond Hosting: The Politics of Southern Donor States, Chair: Jeff Crisp ( Policy Development and Evaluation Service-UNHCR)

  • Controversial South-South Humanitarianism: Brazil’s performance in post-disaster Haiti and towards Haitian displacement to Brazil, Diana Zacca Thomaz (Universidade Federal Fluminense, Brazil) and Fernando Brancoli (San Tiago Dantas Program, Brazil)
  • South-South Humanitarianism and its Impact(s): Reflections on the Sri Lankan experience, Bhavani Fonseka (Centre for Policy Alternatives, Sri Lanka)

16.45–17.15    Closing Remarks, Jeff Crisp ( Policy Development and Evaluation Service- UNHCR)

17.15–17.30    By Means of Conclusion: Future steps, Dr Elena Fiddian-Qasmiyeh (RSC)

The Workshop was kindly supported by the Refugee Studies Centre, the Oxford Department of International Development’s Outreach Fund and the Policy Development and Evaluation Service of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (PDES-UNHCR).

Supporting Documents

Event Outputs 

Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture

The Annual Elizabeth Colson Lecture is held in Trinity term. It is named after Professor Elizabeth Colson, a renowned anthropologist.

Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture

The Annual Harrell-Bond Lecture is named in honour of Dr Barbara Harrell-Bond, the founding Director of the Refugee Studies Centre. It is held each year in Michaelmas term.

Public Seminar Series

Each term the RSC holds a series of public seminars, held on Wednesday evenings at Queen Elizabeth House. Click here for details of forthcoming seminars.

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Saturday, 20 July 2024, 2pm to 3pm @ The Crypt Cafe, St Peters Church, Northchurch Terrace, London N1 4DA