Overseas Development Institute Report on Humanitarian Action & Foreign Policy: Balancing Interests and Values

paper looks at how the role government play in responding to crises in other countries is influenced by wider foreign policy drivers more than just the humanitarian imperative alone.

Actors such as political will, and the importance of humanitarian assistance weighed against national security, trade and public opinion.

Foreign policy interests other than humanitarian action are most often seen as detrimental to principled humanitarian action because they prioritise security or trade over saving lives

Some major points the report raises:

  • the relationship between humanitarian values and interests is not fixed. its context-specific, non linear and multifaceted. they are constantly shifting as global power dynamics change. 

  • Politics around assistance  include -whether a crisis is a priority for world powers and donors , and the interest and actions of players such as government, the affected communities and  non-state groups.

  • Changes in the geopolitical environment have lead to increase in global south asserting themselves in internal responses. geopolitical shifts seen in structures and systems of international humanitarian response.  newly recognised actors are becoming more prominent in humanitarian response such as China, Turkey, AU, ASEAN, OECD.

  • In the Arab world, humanitarian and development work are interconnected and Emphasise infrastructure development as core to their humanitarian and development strategies.Gulf and Arab lending is directed to building infrastructure. and channeled to social and agricultural sectors.

  • For China,  trade interests are commonly held up as a primary mover in its assistance policies, but solidarity with the Global South and a sense of moral obligation are also important factors in its foreign policy engagement and its funding of humanitarian response. 

    Click here for for full report