(How) should scholars say what humanitarians can’t?

Picture from Bliss blog

Roanne van Voorst and Isabelle Desportes wrote an article about the complications humanitarian workers face in Myanmar if they openly speak about human rights violations.

In January this year, a long day of interviewing aid workers involved in the Myanmar Rohingya crisis revealed that these aid workers often refrain from talking about the human rights violations in Myanmar. Out of fear to be forced to cease operations or to get fired, they keep silent and carry on.

This raises the question: should the scholars engaging with them speak up in their stead? This blog post provides a reflection of whether and how scholars can get involved in the entanglements of humanitarianism and conflict. It also provides insights into the ethical and practical reasons why both aid workers and scholars sometimes hesitate to become more engaged.

About the authors

Roanne van Voorst is a postdoctoral researcher involved in the research project ”When disaster meets conflict. Disaster response of humanitarian aid and local state and non-state institutions in different conflict scenarios” at the ISS.

Isabelle Desportes is a PhD candidate working on the governance of disaster response, in particular the interplay between humanitarian and local actors.