The Journal of Humanitarian Affairs is an exciting, new open access journal hosted jointly by The Humanitarian Affairs Team at Save the Children UK, and Centre de Réflexion sur l’Action et les Savoirs Humanitaires MSF (Paris) and the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute at the University of Manchester. It will contribute to current thinking around humanitarian governance, policy and practice with academic rigour and political courage. The journal will challenge contributors and readers to think critically about humanitarian issues that are often approached from reductionist assumptions about what experience and evidence mean. It will cover contemporary, historical, methodological and applied subject matters and will bring together studies, debates and literature reviews. The journal will engage with these through diverse online content, including peer reviewed articles, expert interviews, policy analyses, literature reviews and ‘spotlight’ features.

Our rationale can be summed up as follows: the sector is growing and is facing severe ethical and practical challenges. The Journal of Humanitarian Affairs will provide a space for serious and inter-disciplinary academic and practitioner exchanges on pressing issues of international interest.

The journal aims to be a home and platform for leading thinkers on humanitarian affairs, a place where ideas are floated, controversies are aired and new research is published and scrutinised. Areas in which submissions will be considered include humanitarian financing, migrations and responses, the history of humanitarian aid, failed humanitarian interventions, media representations of humanitarianism, the changing landscape of humanitarianism, the response of states to foreign interventions and critical debates on concepts such as resilience or security.

Call for Papers

Potential contributors should be aware that these calls follow four (4) thematic topics

Further information on the journal, these CfPs, and submission guidelines may be found on the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs website.

Programmed Themes for 2019-2020

All calls are currently live and running. They may not appear in the order that is given here.


Theme 1:

Humanitarian Security

leads Michael Neuman, MSF, Róisín Read, University of Manchester, Fernando Espada, Save the Children)

The vast literature devoted to humanitarian security remains largely the prerogative of humanitarian organisations and think-tanks that revolve around them.

They primarily focus on the issue of access (including SAVE’s “What it takes: principled pragmatism to enable access and quality humanitarian aid in insecure environments, November 2016), produce figures (Humanitarian Outcomes AWSD Reports), advertise the use of humanitarian principles (ACF’s “Humanitarian principles in conflict”).

Academic reflections in recent years have questioned humanitarian relations to risk and danger (Silke Roth, Bertrand Taithe), others have worked on the reality of security management using an ethnographical approach (Dandoy, Duffield). More recently, the “humanitarian security studies” field saw the publication of Larissa Fast’s “Aid in Danger and MSF-Crash’s “Saving Lives and Staying Alive”. Both are the result of a mix of observations of practices and reflections taking stock of social sciences academic work on risk management. Both books deliver a critic of the contemporary management of their security by humanitarian agencies.

The aim of this issue would be to continue the reflection, covering themes that have been previously unexplored or need update. It aims at covering, on the one hand, the present state of knowledge with regard to threats, and on the other hand, the “practice” of humanitarian security management.

More precisely, we are interested in:

  • Field researches attempting to portray implementation of risk management strategies by relief organizations.
  • Researches on sexual abuses of humanitarian workers.
  • Researches on the transformation of warfare and death count: what do the data tell us?

In addition, we would like to commission a literature review pertaining to risk management in the humanitarian sector, browsing academic as well as grey literature from relief agencies origin.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs


Theme 2:

Humanitarianism and the End of the Liberal Order

(Leads Juliano Fiori, Save the Children, Isabelle Schläpfer, University of Manchester)

A significant body of scholarship produced over the last two-and-a-half decades has explored the mutual dependencies between the post-Cold War liberal order and humanitarianism (Barnett, for example). If the triumphalist liberal narratives of the early 1990s were quickly discredited by wars and the course of international relations, there is no doubt that unipolarity provided a more permissive context for the expansion of the humanitarian enterprise, and humanitarian tropes and language gained prominence.

The role of humanitarian action in the pursuit of liberal peace has been studied in detail (Chandler, Duffield, etc.), but suggestions of a decline in commitment to liberal ideals have been made with increasing force and frequency in recent years (Richmond, Hopgood, etc.). The election of Donald Trump, the referendum vote in favour of Brexit, and a rise in insurgent nationalisms now seem to indicate a rupture with, if not the end of, the liberal order of the post-Cold War era, potentially threatening long-standing liberal humanitarian institutions.

This issue of the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs will focus on how this apparent alteration in the global ideological landscape relates to changes in humanitarian discourse and practice.

We are particularly interested in papers that explore: how tighter border controls, protectionism, and opposition to globalisation are affecting, and might affect, the implementation of humanitarian activities and the people they are intended to support, especially refugees; how the behaviour of states and parties to conflict is changing in relation to liberal norms and international law; the extent to which trends in public and private donorship for humanitarian activities reflect a shift away from liberal internationalism; changes in humanitarian practice, ethics, and discourse that reflect challenges to the liberal order.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs


Theme 3:

Innovation and the Changing Face of Humanitarian Practice & Ethics

(Leads Gemma Sou, University of Manchester, Tanja Müller, University of Manchester)

Recent discussion within humanitarian affairs has centred on the so-called innovation of humanitarian practises, and the changing face of the humanitarian sector. For instance, there has been a proliferation of ‘gadgets’, ‘gizmos’ and alternative technologies. Other conversations also focus on the need to professionalize the humanitarian sector, as well as increase the role of local communities in humanitarian action. There is also great debate on the need to blur the lines between humanitarian action and a set of agendas such as development, peace, state building and military action. These ‘innovations’ are framed as progressive and potentially increasing the effectiveness of the humanitarian sector, particularly in contexts of increasingly complex crises. However, there is still a need to question the normativity of these so-called innovations, and to critically question their impacts on the humanitarian sector. In light of this background, this Special Issue seeks to explore the diversity of so-called innovative and new humanitarian practises. Some questions include: To what extent are these practises new and unprecedented phenomena within humanitarianism? Are they forging a (re)conceptualisation of humanitarian norms, ethics and principles? How are they (re)configuring the micro-politics of humanitarian practice? Are they increasing the effectiveness of humanitarian programmes? A chief consideration for contributions to the Special Issue will be originality in the form of theory and concept building, methodological innovation, novel policy perspectives and original field research and data.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs


Theme 4:

Gender, Sexualities and Humanitarian Action

(leads Róisín Read, University of Manchester, Bertrand Taithe, University of Manchester)

Humanitarian actors have long embraced notions of ‘gender’ and ‘gender mainstreaming’ in their programming and policy priorities, yet, surprisingly little attention has been played to the ways in which the humanitarian sector and humanitarian aid are gendered. Gender is often seen as an operational problem and much of the humanitarian literature which deals with this is, thus, problem-solving in nature. Critical approaches to gender in the humanitarian sector are conspicuously absent, while they figure prominently in related fields such as development and peace and conflict studies. Intersecting gendered and racialized power dynamics haunt the humanitarian sector yet are rarely the explicit focus of research. Yet gender definitions and interactions between humanitarians and their ‘beneficiaries’ are at the intersection between culture, class, nationality and religion.

The gendered concept of ‘care’; militarised and romanticised representations of aid workers; and recent claims about levels of sexual harassment and discrimination in the humanitarian are just some of the topics in this area which warrant more attention and highlight the need for more reflection the gender dynamics of the sector. This special issue wishes to consider all gender concerns challenging our understanding of humanitarian action, and how notions of masculinity and femininity define the boundaries but also drive humanitarian aid.

We invite articles which address these themes, from a range of theoretical and methodological approaches. In particular, we are keen for contributors to reflect on questions such as: How are practices of humanitarianism gendered? How do different bodies experience humanitarian space? What insights/issues are made visible by feminist approaches to humanitarianism? How is humanitarianism implicated in the creation and maintenance gendered power structures? Why has sexuality been overlooked in humanitarian studies?

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs