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Zones of engagement: regional action and humanitarian response

In recent years regional organisations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have assumed a more prominent role in responding to and preparing for crises in their neighbourhoods.

The existence of dedicated humanitarian departments within regional intergovernmental institutions points to a growing awareness of humanitarian issues within a number of different organisations; however, practical experience and response capacity remain limited in comparison to other multilateral organisations. Little is known about how regional organisations are tackling humanitarian issues, where, with what levels of capacity and resources and, most importantly, with what effect.

This project is designed to explore the role of regional organisations and the rationale for their involvement in humanitarian action. The degree to which their approaches may or may not differ from those of other humanitarian actors are research foci as well as if there are particular models of providing humanitarian assistance that may be used and/or built upon during or in advance of future crises. The project will also examine the implications for humanitarian norms, values and principles as they are generally understood by the humanitarian system.

While regional organisations are the key focus, their relationship with other organisations, particularly NGOs/humanitarian organisations (but also other inter-state bodies) will be an integral part of the research process. In addition, this study will examine the internal dynamics among regional bodies and how these contribute to or constrain the policies and models of humanitarian action they pursue. 


Lilianne Fan, Eva Svoboda, Hanna Krebs

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