This article examines gender equality in humanitarian diplomacy. To date, there has been no discussion of gender in relation to humanitarian diplomacy, which stands in contrast to an existing body of literature on gender and diplomacy. Gender is often discussed in relation to the recipients of humanitarian initiatives, but less is known about how gender impacts aid providers. This article argues that alike diplomacy as a masculine field with homosocial tendencies, these characteristics are also found in humanitarian diplomacy. Based on interviews with staff of the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (ocha), this exploratory case study of the UN’s gendered humanitarian diplomacy finds the following: In contrast to the UN’s mission of promoting gender equality, the current practices place men as the norm and women as the exception in the organization’s humanitarian diplomacy.
Humanitarian diplomacy is a new term, yet an old practice, and has received relatively little academic attention. This contrasts with the reality of humanitarian practitioners’ work, which has shown increasing interest in and use of the term humanitarian diplomacy from the millennium onwards. Humanitarian diplomacy covers humanitarian action and its intricacies in catering for humanitarian needs, which sets it distinctively apart from other forms of diplomacy. In contributing to this underexplored area, in a theoretically driven discussion this article uses practice theory to propose an analytical framework for humanitarian diplomatic practices. The article suggests that humanitarian diplomacy, as currently led by practitioners, can be best understood by examining its characteristics at the level of its practices. This understanding produces a systematisation of the meaning of the term for scholarly audiences and assists practitioners themselves to identify their humanitarian diplomatic engagement as a self-standing practice.