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Power, politics and the economics of humanitarian action

Time (GMT +00) 16:30 18:00

Contributing chair

Christina Bennett @cr_bennett  - Head, Humanitarian Policy Group, ODI


Gilles Carbonnier @gcarbonnier - Author of Humanitarian Economics: War, Disaster and the Global Aid Market; Professor of Development Economics, the Graduate Institute

Sarah Collinson @sarahcollinson2 - HPG Research Associate, ODI; author of Constructive Deconstruction, Re-thinking the Global Humanitarian Architecture

David Rieff @davidrieff - Journalist and author of A Bed for the Night (via video link

Degan Ali @DeganAli - Executive Director, Adesco (via video link


The humanitarian market has been booming for the past twenty years; yet, humanitarian actors still face many constraints in terms of access in the midst of armed conflict, leaving millions of people unassisted and unprotected. In addition to that, violations of international humanitarian law continue to be on the rise.

Factoring the economics of war and terrorism can enhance our understanding of complex crises and improve the outcome of negotiations with combatants.

In his book entitled Humanitarian Economics: War, Disaster and the Global Aid Market, author Gilles Carbonnier examines what some have called ‘the dark side of compassion’: the political economy of humanitarianism in situations of war, terrorism, and disaster.

Facing harsh competition on the marketplace, has the humanitarian sector substituted its principles for material incentives? Looking at armed groups, what have been the individual and collective incentives and behaviour in war beyond rules, norms and international law? 

This event convenes longstanding experts of the humanitarian ecosystem to examine the political and financial cost-benefit calculus that go into the conduct of war and disaster response.

203 Blackfriars Road London