Humanitarian Diplomacy at the United Nations
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I en verden preget av kriser, langvarige væpnede konflikter og hyppigere naturkatastrofer på grunn av klimaendringer, forventes humanitære behov på tvers av landegrenser og kontinenter å øke. Dette tvinger humanitære aktører til å utvikle ferdigheter innen det som kan kalles humanitært diplomati - for å overtale beslutningstakere og sentrale interessenter til å handle i sårbare befolkningers interesse.Hva, mer spesifikt, er humanitært diplomati, og hvordan manifesterer dette seg i FN-sammenheng? Det er blant spørsmålene Salla Turunen undersøker i sin forskning fra Universitetet i Bergen og Chr. Michelsen Institutt (CMI). I sitt prosjekt utvider hun ideen om diplomati til å inkludere ikke-statlige aktører og undersøker hvordan disse engasjerer seg i diplomatisk praksis. Dette gjør hun med fokus på humanitære aktører, FN og FNs ‘Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’, som er FNs hovedkoordineringsorgan for internasjonal respons ved humanitære kriser. I sin forskning finner Turunen at: • humanitært diplomati er en selvstendig form for diplomati; • humanitær diplomatisk praksis kan konseptualiseres og hjelpe til med å forstå hvordan humanitært diplomati gjør seg gjeldende i verden; • OCHA og FN balanserer mellom humanitære idealer og pragmatiske realiteter i sitt humanitære arbeid; • humanitært diplomati er et kjønnet fenomen slik det utforskes gjennom dets utøvere.This dissertation discusses humanitarian diplomacy at the United Nations (UN). Humanitarian diplomacy, a diplomatic engagement practised by humanitarian actors, represents a modality of diplomacy that is not restricted to state-relegated, Westphalian diplomacy. With an expansion of diplomatic space, actors, and professions in line with developments of, for example, globalization, multilateralism, and technology, practices of diplomacy have migrated to a vast variety of social spheres. Humanitarianism represents one of these, albeit diplomatic practices of negotiation, representation, and compromise, among others, have long existed in the field and only recently labelled as ‘humanitarian diplomacy’. Whereas definitions for humanitarian diplomacy remain far-ranging and actor-dependent, the meaning of the term used in this dissertation is as follows: humanitarian diplomacy entails forms of negotiation, persuasion, and strategizing, among other diplomatic practices, which aim to advance access to and aid delivery of resources and protection for vulnerable populations worst affected by crises, conflicts, and emergencies. It is practised by humanitarian actors who seek to represent, influence, and advocate for a humanitarian polity in a non-humanitarian world against other, non-humanitarian polities, and such humanitarian representation can be considered a cornerstone of humanitarian diplomacy. This PhD dissertation is located in the discipline of international relations (IR). It is motivated by the exploration of humanitarian diplomacy as a new and illustrative concept that allows novel directions of analysis to examine the current status of international affairs. As such, coining the term captures a potential for questioning and reshaping the conceptual categories of humanitarianism and diplomacy. By merging two different semantic fields together as one, humanitarian diplomacy questions the boundaries of who constitutes diplomatic actors, in which spaces does both humanitarianism and diplomacy take place, and with what kind of acts. By broadening this scope of analysis, humanitarians can be seen as agents that actively shape national and international politics, dynamics, and relationships. This dissertation explores this agency by seeking to address the following research question: how do humanitarian practitioners engage in humanitarian diplomacy? Taking an institutional focus on the UN, the organization represents both a diplomatic body and humanitarian actor. However, the UN has been under-researched in terms of humanitarian diplomacy. Whereas scholarly works exist both for diplomacy conducted at and by the UN, and the UN humanitarian interventions, inspecting the UN through the concept of humanitarian diplomacy remains at tentative stages. In contributing to this lacuna of knowledge, this dissertation argues that humanitarian diplomacy at the UN can be illustratively understood as principled pragmatism. The UN humanitarians continuously seek balances between humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, independence, and humanity, and operational realities and restrictions on the ground that impact humanitarian action. From high-level humanitarian decision-making to frontline humanitarian negotiations, the UN humanitarians are forced to come up with practical solutions in reaching vulnerable populations worst affected by crises, conflicts, and emergencies. The theoretical framework guiding this scientific inquiry draws from practice theory. Reasons for this theoretical choice include its suitability to studies of traditional and non-traditional forms of diplomacy, the contemporary disciplinary interest given ‘practice turn’ in IR scholarship, and the practitioner focus of this dissertation. Further, humanitarian diplomacy translates into harvesting support for humanitarian interventions, whether that support is political, economic, social, and/or logistical, among others. In these processes of gaining such support, humanitarian diplomacy can be reified through certain sets of practices, that include, inter alia, collaboration between different humanitarian actors and stakeholders, and relationship-building in public and political partnerships. Practices, therefore, represent a central concept of this dissertation, understood as socially meaningful patterns of action by international actors – humanitarian practitioners. This dissertation is a prospective thesis by publication, meaning that it is intended and created as an article-based PhD project. It includes an introductory part for the dissertation (‘kappe’ in Norwegian), and three qualitative research articles. Whereas these articles can be treated and read independently, these pieces of research thematically intertwine to form a self-standing piece on humanitarian diplomacy at the UN. Article one, ‘Humanitarian Diplomatic Practices’ published in The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, discusses how humanitarian diplomacy can be reified, understood, and analysed at the level of its practices. It also presents an analytical framework of humanitarian diplomatic practices through five basic characteristics: ‘why’ humanitarian diplomatic practices take place; ‘what’ they mean; ‘who’ they include; ‘where’ they occur; and ‘how’ they are done. In article two, ‘The Principled Pragmatists: Humanitarian Diplomatic Practices at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’ under review in Journal of Humanitarian Affairs, the analytical framework of the first article is applied empirically into an exploratory case study of OCHA. Article two illustrates how OCHA’s humanitarian diplomacy can be seen as a case of ‘principled pragmatism’, referring to a merge between humanitarian ideals and operational/pragmatic realities of humanitarian action. This second article also begins a targeted discussion of humanitarian diplomacy taking place at one of the leading, yet currently under-discussed, humanitarian diplomatic actors, the UN. Lastly, article three, ‘“Have You Been Recruited Because You Are a Woman or Because You Are Good?” Gendered Humanitarian Diplomats at the United Nations’ accepted for publication in Diplomatica, offers a first research intervention of gender analysis to humanitarian diplomacy with an explicit focus on humanitarian diplomats. This study reveals a discrepancy between the UN’s global leadership in gender equality and its struggles to achieve such a mission internally. Furthermore, the article discusses that gender inequality among humanitarian practitioners hampers the aim of gender equal humanitarian action. Methodologically this dissertation employs both a desk study approach and empirical data collection. Article one represents a desk study for conceptual building for which empirical data was not collected, rather, it draws from current existing research on humanitarian diplomacy and practice theory. Then, articles two and three draw from research interviews. The author conducted nineteen interviews with current and former OCHA staff members. Whereas these interviews are limited in number, they represent one of the largest samplings in studying humanitarian diplomacy, and the interviewees’ work experience with OCHA spans 30 different countries. These interviews were semi-structured, and all but one of the research interviews have been treated as anonymous throughout the study. These interviews provide rare research insights into humanitarian diplomacy, as the existing research in the field collects, displays, and quotes interview data to a limited extent. Prior to the inclusion of these three research articles, the introductory part (‘kappe’) of this dissertation is organized as follows: Section one defines and frames the three key concepts used in this dissertation, those of humanitarianism, diplomacy, and humanitarian diplomacy. Section two illustrates how the three research articles included contribute to answering the main research question of this dissertation, and provides an overview discussion of the articles more in detail. Section two also includes a conversation on researcher positionality as a central factor guiding this research and its interests. Section three situates the conducted research within the axes of disciplinary location in IR, philosophy of science, theoretical framework, and the inclusion of gender perspective in studying humanitarian diplomacy. Section four serves as a literature review, capturing the current state of the art in the field of related studies. Section five sheds light on the research design used in this dissertation in terms of case selection, data collection, and ethical considerations, while section six concludes the introduction with a focus on the main findings and suggestions for future research. The main findings include a phenomenological argument that humanitarian diplomacy can be seen as its own, independent form of diplomatic engagement with ideologies, characteristics, and practices that sets it distinctively apart from other forms of diplomacy (article one). In exploring the empirical context of the UN, the dissertation provides an understanding of humanitarian diplomacy, without an attempt to exhaust all forms of humanitarian diplomacy, inside and outside of the UN. The approach captured in this dissertation finds that humanitarian practitioners – guided by humanitarian principles – gain grounds for pragmatic compromise, practical dealings, and access to political spheres through diplomatic engagement (article two). The inclusion of gender in the analysis of humanitarian diplomats at the UN showcases how gender as a social attribute defines opportunities and limitations for practitioners, underlining a masculine premise of humanitarian diplomacy and female exceptionality, which fit into the institutional, gendered context of the UN (article three). In addition to the main findings, this dissertation contributes to an emerging scholarly field on humanitarian diplomacy in five ways: 1) Conceptualization of humanitarian diplomatic practices; 2) Theoretical expansion of practice theory to include humanitarian diplomacy; 3) Introduction of gender analysis to the field; 4) A novel case study selection and focus on the UN and OCHA; and 5) Showcasing data collection on humanitarian diplomacy with humanitarian practitioners. In addition to research contribution, the dissertation seeks to cater for practitioner-audiences in making sense of their own humanitarian diplomatic engagement. This includes notions of how humanitarian diplomacy manifests in the world, what kind of engagement it entails, and what potential its institutionalization could offer.
Has partsPaper I: Turunen, S. (2020). Humanitarian Diplomatic Practices. The Hague Journal of Diplomacy, 15(4), 459-487. Not available in BORA. The article is available at: https://doi.org/10.1163/1871191X-BJA10008
Paper II: Turunen, S. The Principled Pragmatists: Humanitarian Diplomatic Practices at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). Not available in BORA.
Paper III: Turunen, S. (2022). “Have You Been Recruited Because You Are a Woman or Because You Are Good?” Gendered Humanitarian Diplomats at the United Nations. Diplomatica, 1(aop), 1-23. Not available in BORA. The article is available at: https://doi.org/10.1163/25891774-bja10071