The politicization of Humanitarianism in Africa

Main takeaways:  

  • The world we live in today is one that is defined by humanitarian assistance provided by national and non-state actors on a global scale. Africa represents a continent that is heavily dependent on humanitarian aid. The main reason is the emergencies, both natural and human, that fuel famine, inequalities, and violent conflicts. 
  • In the area of non-military humanitarian assistance, key actors such as WFP, and Save the Children have a prominent face of humanitarian response in the world. There is a strong link between the political, economic, and security interests of donor countries and institutions as part of their broader policy objectives.

On June 27, 2022, YPFP hosted a UN Series event on ‘The Politicization of Humanitarianism in Africa’. The event was moderated by Programmes Officer Lina Stahl, who was joined by Mr. Chris Kwaja, who currently is a Senior Lecturer and Researcher at the Centre for Peace and Security Studies (CPSS), Modibbo Adama University, Yola, Adamawa State, Nigeria, and has been appointed in 2018 as a member of the Working Group on the use of Mercenaries at the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. 

The brief presentation by Mr. Kwaja prioritized the key undercurrents, both internal and external, which explain the state of play relating to humanitarianism in Africa. Challenges such as corruption, bad governance, and great power competitions between the West, East, and China fuel tensions and conflicts and consequently lead to the need for national security at the expense of human security. Mr. Kwaja stated that Africa is in urgent need of humanitarian aid adopting a proactive and strategized approach to protecting lives and providing relief assistance towards achieving a holistic approach to ensuring human rights, freedom, and security.

The Q&A session mainly discussed humanitarianism as a strategic policy tool and the burning question of whether humanitarian aid comes with conditionalities in African countries. The discussion also shed light on many topics going beyond just mainstreaming humanitarian aid in Africa from a political and academic perspective, following insights into the question of whether the world has forgotten Cameroon or what are the procedures that need to be approved in advance in order to provide aid from International Organizations. Finally, Mr. Kwaja gave exclusive insights into the lessons learned from former crises and how we can best prepare to deal with what is coming as a humanitarian system. 

Written by Lina Stahl, UN Series Officer, YPFP Brussels.