Explore the past, present, and future of emergency aid in our Rethinking Humanitarianism series

When the West falls into crisis

An online conversation

Watch our online conversation, “When the West falls into crisis,” recorded on 18 June. 

#BlackLivesMatter, COVID-19, and the fragility of democratic institutions in America and the West are converging to challenge our assumptions of how we define a crisis.

The globalisation of vulnerability – made clear by the coronavirus pandemic and a global anti-racism movement – is putting into question traditional conceptions of humanitarian aid, too.

Will this historic moment force a rethink of international solidarity?

Should the current situation in the United States be considered a humanitarian crisis? 

How does the language we use around different geographic crises reinforce assumptions about people in those countries?

Is the international nature of aid inherently problematic? 

TNH Director Heba Aly posed these questions to panelists from across the aid sector. 

Candace Rondeaux, in Washington, D.C., who spent years as an analyst with the International Crisis Group before joining the Center on the Future of War and New America’s International Security Program as senior fellow – addressed why America is a fragile state.

Award-winning writer and filmmaker Uzodinma Iweala, CEO of The Africa Center in New York and author of Beasts of No Nation – spoke to the links between racism in the United States and flawed assistance abroad, and why philanthropy should be recast as reparations.

Aid worker and member of Black Women in Development Angela Bruce-Raeburn, regional advocacy director for Africa at the Global Health Advocacy Incubator in Washington D.C., discussed why this is a turning point in which “white saviour” aid is losing the little credibility it had left.

Abby Maxman, president and CEO of Oxfam America, which is prioritising local humanitarian leadership to “fight inequalities, power and privilege” in aid – addressed how the humanitarian system must shift to operate in this brave new world.

Additional insights were offered by:

Cartoonist and political commentator Patrick Gathara, who has worked on stabilising Somalia and navigating political strife in his own country, Kenya – who spoke on the irony of it all.

Degan Ali, CEO of Adeso, an NGO trying to change the way people think about and deliver aid in Africa – discussed why it has taken so long for the sector to face up to its racist and colonialist roots.

Humanitarian foresight advisor Aarathi Krishnan offered her thoughts on alternative futures for humanitarian action.

Watch the full virtual event below: 

Stay tuned for our full takeaways and reader reactions from this conversation.

This online discussion is part of the Rethinking Humanitarianism series. As The New Humanitarian marks our 25th anniversary, we are looking back on the evolution of crisis response over the last quarter century – and ahead to what it may look like in the future. Here’s one of the first pieces in the series: This global pandemic could transform humanitarianism forever. Here’s how.

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