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Learning from the past to shape the future: lessons from the history of humanitarian action in Africa

Working paper

Written by Christina Bennett, Matthew Foley

Working paper

Africa has in many ways been the proving ground for modern humanitarian action. In order to understand the state of humanitarian action today, an understanding of the evolution and history of humanitarian action in conflict and disasters in sub-Saharan Africa is essential.

Examining the lingering legacy of colonialism, the patronising and objectifying iconography of disaster and assistance, the privileging of external technical solutions over low-tech local ones, and the complex relationship between humanitarian assistance and wider social processes and phenomena, the papers in this collection touch on long-standing issues to provide a historical background to the challenges faced by modern humanitarian action.

Christina Bennett, Matthew Foley, Hannah B Krebs, Kevin O'Sullivan, Sonya de Laat, Valerie Gorin, Jennifer Palmer, Pete Kingsley, Christian Williams, Tony Vaux, Leben Nelson Moro, Richard Benda, Melissa Labonte and Ishmeal Alfred Charles