No.186 Humanitarian Crises and the Rise of the Rest: The Future of Humanitarianism from the Perspective of Four Latin American Emerging Countries

  • #Working Papers

This paper offers a critical perspective on the future of humanitarianism, drawing on the experience of four Latin American emerging countries: Brazil, Chile, Colombia and Mexico.

Their experience in the region and beyond provides a mix of characteristics that result in a unique understanding of crisis and response. Except for Haiti, Latin America is rather well-off and is mostly outside the scope of major humanitarian emergencies. However, Latin America is still affected by high inequality, organized crime, and all types of disasters, while hosting a major population displacement in Colombia as a result of civil conflict. Thus, emerging countries of the region remain on the global humanitarian watch list.

TThe paper explores this duality, based on over one hundred semi-structured interviews in the selected countries, complemented with direct observations and primary data analysis. Among significant findings, the paper describes a historical resistance from the region to be seen as the locus of humanitarian crisis, reflected both through capacity building and diplomacy. At least four older and more recent principles of action are identified, namely ‘non-indifference’, ‘reciprocity’, ‘sustainability’, and ‘horizontality’. In particular, horizontality underscores a rich diversity of South-South exchanges between line ministries and other offices in charge of specific crises that goes beyond being ‘donors’. Indeed, emerging countries explicitly challenge the traditional humanitarian establishment, so their contributions are better understood as reflecting ongoing transformations in their human development and security agendas.

Keywords: Global governance, emerging powers, crisis management, South-South cooperation, humanitarianism

Oscar A. Gomez
Date of issuance
March 2019
Related areas
  • #Latin America
  • #Human Security
  • #Emerging Donors
Research area
Development Cooperation Strategies
Research project