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Humanitarian responses: can history make us wiser?

Written by Eva Svoboda

The Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG), in partnership with the Arab Thought Forum (ATF), is looking at past responses to humanitarian crises in the Middle East and North Africa to see how history can influence the forms and practice of humanitarianism today.

Responses to civil conflict, wars and natural disasters will be debated by humanitarians, historians and academics, to see which trends, challenges, concepts and tools can be used when thinking about present-day actions.

“Most current day crises have occurred before in a similar form, and have been shaped by past experiences. The field of humanitarianism is developing at such a fast pace, but this begs the question: can we inform today’s responses with a better awareness of the past?” said HPG Research FellowEva Svoboda.

“We are pleased to be co-hosting this event, as there have been countless regionally-driven responses to humanitarian crises over many years. This partnership shows a commitment from HPG to better understand different world views and regional perspectives in a sector that was perceived to be traditionally led, over the last century, by the Western world”, said the Secretary General of the Arab Thought Forum Dr. Sadiq al-Faqih.

“Causes of humanitarian need in the region, the differing understandings of humanitarianism as a sector, challenges and lessons that can be applied across regions will be discussed as we explore the history of humanitarianism in the Middle East and North Africa,” added Ms Svoboda.

The Middle East and North Africa Regional Conference is being held at the Arab Thought Forum in Amman, Jordan, from 15 - 16 April, 2013.

This event is one of the many activities within HPG’s research project A Global History of Modern Humanitarian Action. This work aims to identify and understand changes to humanitarian sector action globally over the course of the twentieth century.

The HPG is part of the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and is one of the world’s leading think tanks on humanitarianism.