Ethics, Technology and Innovation in Humanitarian Settings: Calibrating the Conversation.


The relationship between ethics, innovation and technology in humanitarian settings is a fraught one, but also a fruitful area for practitioner-academic collaboration.  Such collaboration can improve practice,  document and analyze processes to build knowledge in the sector and enhance academic engagement. While the humanitarian sector is busy adopting new technologies and creating spaces for innovation, the humanitarian studies field is equally busy describing, cheering on or critiquing these developments. What both fields of practice have in common, is that they are in the early stages of framing and unpacking the problems and challenges of technologizing the humanitarian space, the ‘turn’ to data and the rise of the innovation paradigm. Considering what is ethically at stake as humanitarians take up emergent technologies, and how particular technologies intersect with, support, or challenge ethical commitments, is thus crucial.

Based on the panel session “Ethics and Technology in Humanitarian settings” organized by Dónal O’Mathúna (Ohio State U and Dublin City U) and Matthew Hunt (McGill) at the IHSA 2018, featuring Anna Skeels (Elrha’s Humanitarian Fund), Katrina Petersen and Olivia Iannelli (TRILATERAL), Neil Townsend (START Network) and Kristin Bergtora Sandvik (UiO/PRIO), this blog post brings together diverse perspectives from practitioners, funders, researchers and educators. It touches on how we might focus and calibrate critical discussions about problem-definitions, ethical tradeoffs and bottom-up knowledge production in this burgeoning field of humanitarian practice.


Dónal O’Mathúna, Matthew Hunt, featuring Anna Skeels, Katrina Petersen, Olivia Iannelli, Neil Townsend and Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, International Humanitarian Studies Association, October 2018.

Date Published

October 29, 2018

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