The humanitarian-development nexus: humanitarian principles, practice, and pragmatics
The humanitarian–development nexus is increasingly being cast as the solution to humanitarian concerns, new and protracted crises, and to manage complex war-to-peace transitions. Despite widely endorsed amongst policymakers, this nexus presents some challenges to those implementing it. Humanitarian action and development assistance represent two distinct discursive and institutional segments of the international system that are hard to juxtapose. Humanitarianism’s apolitical and imminent needs-based approaches building on established humanitarian principles are fundamentally different from the more long-term, political, rights-based approaches of development. As they rub shoulders, as intentionally instigated by the nexus, they affect and challenge each other. These challenges are more acute to the humanitarian domain given the constitutive status of the humanitarian principles, which, when challenged, may cause changes to the humanitarian space and a mission-cum-ethics creep. This article explores the formation and effects of the humanitarian–development nexus as rendered both at the top, amongst policymakers, and from the bottom. The latter explores the discursive transition from conflict to reconstruction in Northern Uganda. Humanitarian organisations’ different response to the transition demonstrate more pragmatic approaches to the humanitarian principles and thus how the nexus itself is also formed bottom up and further exacerbates the mission creep.
Journal of International Humanitarian Action