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Depoliticising disasters and humanitarian action: New article and 2021 IHSA conference panel

News from Dec 03, 2021

Isabelle Desportes and Ntombizakhe Moyo-Nyoni (researcher at Midlands State University in Zimbabwe) published a new article in the journal Disasters. Entitled ´Depoliticising disaster response in a politically saturated context: the case of the 2016–2019 droughts in Zimbabwe´, the article questions the why, how and ´so what´ of depoliticising disaster response in conflict-affected authoritarian contexts. It describes the discursive, institutional and rule-based depoliticisation practices which state, international and civil society actors engaged in while responding to the droughts, and identifies three main motivations to present disaster response as not political: strategic, coerced and routine managerial depoliticisation. Looking at the implications of depoliticisation, including at community level, the article details how depoliticisation can have implications for information management, monitoring, accountability and protection, and thus ultimately for upholding humanitarian principles.

Depoliticising humanitarian action was also the central theme of a panel organised by Isabelle Desportes and Alice Corbet (researcher at the French CNRS - LAM Sciences Po Bordeaux) at the 2021 IHSA conference in November in Paris. Over two panel sessions, six panellists presented their findings, ranging from the portrayal of indigenous groups´ relation to disasters in the media (as presented by Anuska Morsurska) to the principles of medical teams involved in protest demonstration in Hong Kong (as presented by Sophie Roborgh), over neoliberalism as a depoliticising ideology of humanitarian action (as presented by Bertrand Bréqueville). The panel started off with a Myanmar civil society member (anonymous) sharing her field-based experience on de/politicised humanitarian action. Participants greatly valued the discussion with audience members present both physically and online.

The paper is accessible online ahead of print, and will remain open access:


The panel description as well as full list of presenters and their abstracts can be found here:


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Berlin Southern Theory Lecture