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New humanitarian actors and the UN


Dennis Dijkzeul, Professor of Organisation & Conflict Research at the Institute for International Law of Peace & Armed Conflict (IFHV) at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum depicted the challenges and difficulties the humanitarian system has to face.





Karl-Otto Zentel commented on Dijkzeul's presentation by adding his perspective as Secretary General of CARE Gemany-Luxembourg e.V.



In a discussion lead by our moderator Björn Müller-Bohlen, both our guests answered questions from the audience.


Dennis Dijkzeul argued that the humanitarian system also needs to be considered when talking about the SDGs in New York.


Karl-Otto Zentel and Dennis Dijkzeul are both pleased that the challenges the humanitarian system has to face are finally recognized and will be discussed during the first World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.



Karl-Otto Zentel also highlights that one should not only keep the current status of the humanitarian system in mind but also need to think of possible future scenarios.



To conclude the evening, Björn Müller-Bohlen asks the leading question of the lecture series: "What can the UN do to be "Fit For the Future We Want?".


[UNat70] Dr. Dennis Dijkzeul, Professor of Organisation & Conflict Research at the Institute for International Law of Peace & Armed Conflict (IFHV) at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum and Karl-Otto Zentel, Secretary General of CARE Gemany-Luxembourg e.V. were our guests at our sixth 'UN at 70'- lecture at the Bonner Universitätsforum on September 16th, 2015.

On September 16th, 2015, Prof. Dr. Dennis Dijkzeul gave a talk on „New Humanitarian actors and the UN“ at the FIW. After a comment by Karl-Otto Zentel, Secretary General and Board at Care Germany-Luxembourg e.V., both guests discussed their thoughts with the audience.

„The humanitarian system has never been fully unified,“ said Dennis Dijkzeul, Professor of Organization and Conflict Research at the Ruhr-Universität Bochum, while explaining the different trends in the global humanitarian relief system. Beginning with a brief historical overview, Dennis Dijkzeul introduced the current architecture of the humanitarian system that is based on the UN Resolution 46/182 and the reforms in 2005 which then brought the cluster approach into account. Nonetheless, „much depends on the cluster lead and humanitarian coordinator,“ said Dijekzeul and criticised the silo structure of this top-down organized humanitarian system.

„Does the one in need really care, whether the help comes from, for example, Walmart or a [traditional] humanitarian organisation?“ asked Dennis Dijkzeul the audience, when talking about for-profit-actors. 

Speaking of 'new' humanitarian actors, Dijkzeul separates eight types of humanitarianism. Generally, all actors are driven by different goals, approaches and ethics. Although the cluster approach tries to improve the response time, accountability and transparency to raise effectiveness and cooperation, it does not always work out smoothly as aid is driven by different purposes – including for-profit-interest, geopolitical impacts and many more. „The ‘new’ actors rarely fully respect the humanitarian principles”.

„The humanitarian principles remain important, but their unifying strength is limited. They cannot stop the fragmentation“. It seems the UN and the humanitarian system are not yet fit for the future we want.

In his comment, Karl-Otto Zentel described Care’s situation and analysis and asked: “What are the needs and demands the humanitarian system has to face in 20 years time?“ The system clearly has to be prepared. He also highlighted the matters of finance in a world with growing numbers of conflicts and disasters.

  • Like to know more about the event? Here is our Storify.

The lecture series is co-organised by the German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE), the Forum Internationale Wissenschaft (fiw) and the Liaison Office International Academic Sciences of the UN City of Bonn.

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