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Vienna lecture

The Rise of the Resilience Paradigm in Humanitarian Action

Humanitarian aid has always been a key instrument to mitigate the effects of armed conflict. However, their role has changed considerably from the times of Henry Dunant’s legendary effort at the Battle of Solferino, which eventually led to the foundation of the Red Cross. In order to discuss this role change, the ASPR invited Thea Hilhorst, Professor of
Humanitarian Aid at the Erasmus University of Rotterdam, together with Elias Sagmeister, Ground Truth Solutions, and Andreas Papp, humanitarian practitioner, to an ASPR Vienna Lecture on the transition from classical to resilience-based humanitarianism. According to Hilhorst, the shift to the resilience paradigm effectively translates into the end of humanitarian exceptionalism as it is enshrined in the humanitarian principles. Instead, humanitarianism turns to the capabilities of people, communities and societies in order to mitigate the effects of complex crises. Yet, such approach runs risk at turning crisis into the new normality. At the same time, affected people, meant to be the predominant responders, may be overburdened by this role, as Andreas Papp highlighted. Elias Sagmeister bridged the gap by introducing an inclusive approach to evaluating effectivity based on assessing the perceptions instead of the quantity of aid delivery. Resilience will remain a contested new paradigm, since it challenges traditional modalities of aid delivery. Undisputedly, however, it impacts the ways humanitarianism works and institutionalises.

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