Disaster-affected Populations and “Localization”: What Role for Anthropology Following the World Humanitarian Summit?

in Public Anthropologist
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The international humanitarian sector has long been criticized for relying on standardized responses that make little, if any, adjustment to social and cultural differences between different disaster contexts and disaster-affected populations. Responding to such criticisms, the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit set an ambitious target for “localizing” international humanitarian funding flows so that a quarter would be provided by local and national responders. But what precisely “local” might mean was little theorized, and what humanitarian agencies themselves could learn to improve their own aid-effectiveness from the disaster-affected populations’ own responses to severe stress was not prioritized. This article identifies some of the challenges the new funding regime needs to address for it to have the best chances of meeting its stated objectives, and it explores what role anthropology could play in researching such issues in an action-investigation frame. It concludes with some reflections about effective public anthropology in that conducive frame.

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