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Regionalism and humanitarian action in West Africa and Southeast Asia

Research reports

Written by Alice Obrecht


This paper examines the factors that shape regional organisation’s humanitarian approaches. It draws from experiences of facilitating an exchange programme between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on humanitarian issues.

The paper reflects on how strategic attempts by regional bodies to enhance their power have shaped their approaches to humanitarian action.

Key messages:

  • Supranationality has substantial trade-offs and will only lead to more effective humanitarian action when appropriately resourced and backed by the necessary political will.
  • Regional organisations’ humanitarian action will always involve broader political and socio-economic concerns, but this is not necessarily negative.
  • Now, the key question should be how humanitarianism fits within the mandates and interests of regional organisations, rather than how regional organisations fit within the humanitarian system.
Alice Obrecht and Justin Armstrong