States of fragility: stabilisation and its implications for humanitarian action

Working and discussion papers
May 2010
Sarah Collinson, Samir Elhawary and Robert Muggah

The international policy context and circumstances of humanitarian action have seen some significant changes over the past decade. Relief and development agencies are operating in an increasingly diverse array of war-affected and difficult contexts, while donor government policy has evolved, reflecting a growing preoccupation with so-called weak and fragile states.

This evolution has led to a plethora of responses and interventions seeking to ‘stabilise’ and mitigate identified threats. These efforts typically involve integrating ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ forms of intervention – both military and civilian – implying an explicit securitisation and politicisation of North–South relations

This HPG Working Paper considers the implications of ‘stabilisation’ for international humanitarian action. Drawing on a series of background case studies conducted in 2009 and
2010, it argues that, while humanitarian actors have been most preoccupied with the growing engagement of the military in the humanitarian sphere, it is trends in international political engagement in these contexts that represent the more fundamental challenge.

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