2016-2017 Global Development Studies Senior Thesis Projects
Sierra Miller '17
Project Title: Winning the Virtuous Battle, but Losing the War? The Tradeoffs of Humanitarian Aid and its Impact on Human Development
Summary: This paper addresses the question of what conditions best enable recipient countries to harness humanitarian aid to create long term human development. In an examination of the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami in Sri Lanka, it becomes clear that the conditions that limit humanitarian aid’s potential for human development are more apparent than those that enable it. Political conflict, instability, inequalities, and social divisions in the recipient countries contribute to the limited effect of humanitarian aid on development, but institutional weakness, inconsistency, and competition within the international humanitarian aid community have a larger impact on development potential. These limitations are difficult for recipient states to overcome due to the structures of inequality between recipients and donors, which undermine recipient capacity and voice, creating cycles of dependence. The international humanitarian aid community promotes the importance of development in humanitarian aid. While it sets forth nonbinding agreements and procedures to promote development, those steps are rarely followed because of the underlying structures they would challenge. This is the tradeoff of contemporary humanitarian aid, while it provides important relief that saves many, through issues of political influence, it also preserves conditions of dependence, inequality, and vulnerability which can limit human development and thereby increase future humanitarian crises.