States of fragility: stabilisation and its implications for humanitarian action

Authors


Correspondence
Dr Sarah Collinson, Research Fellow, Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute, 111 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7JD, United Kingdom. E-mail: s.collinson@odi.org.uk

Samir Elhawary, Research Fellow, Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute, 111 Westminster Bridge Road, London SE1 7JD, United Kingdom. E-mail: s.elhawary@odi.org.uk

Dr Robert Muggah, Research Director, Small Arms Survey, Avenue Blanc 47, 1202 Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: robert.muggah@smallarmssurvey.org

Abstract

This paper explores the evolution of international stabilisation agendas and their significance for humanitarian action. Stabilisation includes a combination of military, humanitarian, political and economic activities to control, contain and manage areas affected by armed conflict and complex emergencies. Encompassing narrow security objectives and broader peace-building efforts, stabilisation is both a conservative and potentially transformative, comprehensive and long-term agenda. The open-ended approach allows for widely varying interpretations and applications in different circumstances and by different actors with an assortment of implications for humanitarian action. The relationship between the two is highly uncertain and contentious, due not only to the controversies surrounding stabilisation policies, but also to deep-seated ambiguities at the heart of humanitarianism. While humanitarian actors are preoccupied with the growing involvement of the military in the humanitarian sphere, the paper argues that it is trends in the humanitarian–political interface that represent the more fundamental dilemma.

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