My dissertation research asks: Why do humanitarian INGOs choose the interventions they do? Why does an INGO adopt different strategies or pathways in response to similar humanitarian needs?
My aim is to build a theory that explains why INGOs expand or limit the scope of interventions when there is recognized but unmet humanitarian need. My focus is on the processes and mechanisms driving change. Thus, I compare processes of adaptation and innovation by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (ICRC), and Save the Children International (SCI) at critical moments in the evolution of humanitarianism, including responses to: HIV/AIDS in the 1990s, Ebola in 2014, and refugee health since the Syrian Civil War broke out in 2011.
Coming Soon: I will be posting some of my notes from the field.
First, I will be sharing what it is like to be inside the operating room at an MSF hospital.
As part of the Comparative Program on Health and Society (CPHS) Working Paper Series I reflect on why and under what conditions do humanitarian international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) change their on-the-ground response and the humanitarian mandate? This article explores variation in pathways to adaptation by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), a humanitarian actor that arguably leads the field of humanitarian INGOs in mandate expansion. By comparing three instances of humanitarian response, it shows that radical innovation occurred in response to HIV/AIDS needs in the late 1990s; incremental adaptation facilitated response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa in 2014; and obstructed innovation characterizes responses to today’s displacement crisis in the Middle East. Humanitarian INGOs can be deliberately accommodating of change, which facilitates incremental adaptation, when there is: uncertainty about the appropriateness of humanitarian action; an internal organization that distributes authority to facilitate field-based, bottom-up political entrepreneurship; and humanitarian space for novel solutions. Notably, when actors are designing responses to new needs and begin to question their mandate, we may see either radical innovation that creates new space for response by redefining the boundaries of humanitarianism or innovation obstructed by an unwillingness to confront the humanitarian-development divide.
You can find a PDF version of this article at xxx
Thank you to the CPHS Program and the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.