The Realist power dynamics of the Humanitarian aid delivery system

‘Human’ aspect is missing from the humanitarian agenda; rather, politics and realism play a part in the humanitarian-aid delivery systems.

‘Human’ aspect is missing from the humanitarian agenda; rather, politics and realism play a part in the humanitarian-aid delivery systems. Security and power are the unavoidable truths of human nature serving as the driving force of all humanitarian agendas.


Proving a positive link between disaster relief and the systems in place for development assistance is a challenging task. Science and scientists can only partially account for any impact of human or natural disasters, which automatically make the assistance-providing systems problematic. The systems and framework in place may give more aid to one country and less to the other when the same disaster hits both. In yesteryears, there was an acknowledgement that politics plays a part in setting up the humanitarian agenda and policies; however, the new humanitarianism promised to separate the aid agencies and the process of aid delivery from the political domain, driving the agenda to resolve world issues like poverty, and hunger.[1]

Academics and international institutions often scrutinise the capacity to deliver on such a promise. The funding governments and the decision-makers do not appropriately address significant challenges. Politics governs international relations and humanitarianism; as a result, the developing nations affected by natural disasters struggle to cope with the expectations or predicted statistical data. Audit states that citizens of developing countries cannot rebuild their lives and institutions immediately in the aftermath of a disaster.[2] The core argument of my essay is that the ‘human’ aspect remains missing from the humanitarian agenda; rather, politics and realism play a part in the humanitarian-aid delivery systems. Security is the driving force of all humanitarian agendas.


The ‘human factor’ brought the development agenda to light, aiming to provide relief and support to the people regardless of their citizenship, nature, colour, or gender. The terms ‘relief’ and ‘rehabilitations’ are measures to ensure the proper revival of the socio-economic conditions in the countries until they can function normally. Here vulnerability links the concept of rehabilitation and relief to development.[3] In the international space, every country can be seen as vulnerable to threats; the new humanitarian agenda, which incorporates risk analysis and assessment to provide aid for long-term peace and stability coupled with the fact that each donor state invests in the humanitarian agenda to facilitate international peace and security explains why there are ineffective delivery systems.

The Israel and Palestine water crisis also referred to as the open-air prison, indelible for many years is a perfect example; Israel controls all the water resources and has weaponised it, directly violating human rights to dignity and livelihood. However, no strict actions were feasible because of the risk assessment structure in place. Trauma is not only a state of an individual’s mental health; it can measure the condition of states; as a result of sympathy for suffering, people are forced into a specific kind of subjectification that allows politics to interfere.[4] These detrimental conditions are means to acquire funding and gain global recognition. However, they fail to deliver on the humanitarian agenda. The realist school of thought suggests that survival in an anarchic world is rudimentary for humans.

Human Nature, Security and the Humanitarian agenda

Security means the absence of threats. Many human rights are linked to security—without it, humans suffer paranoia and anxiety. Hobbes argues that humans, by nature, are pessimists, selfish, and unpleasant.[5] What makes man unique is his ‘awareness’; this awareness of death drives governments to contribute to the humanitarian cause.[6] Underdevelopment is the primary cause of violence and terrorist activities. Parts of funding by donor states are influenced by their security, which directly contradicts the traditional humanitarian principles of impartiality and neutrality.[7] The main predicament with the term ‘Humanitarian’ is that it defines the ‘post disaster’ period. All the remedies focus on respite after a disaster, which is a significant step backwards for any nation. The term development assistance, in this case, changes to calamity assistance. Understanding and simplifying development has been difficult because each nation’s development has a different meaning. It is, therefore, impossible to create a single curriculum and define it as a common means to provide ‘development assistance.’ Humanitarian thinkers have tried to change and put in place a more substantial long-term project, establishing the major principles that govern the developmental aid spectrum. The international frameworks need to be clarified; instead of linking aid with development, they become a barrier to assistance. The respective objectives of each government are unique and driven by the needs of its citizens. Disasters cause trauma and create a handicap for growth and development. Is there any aid for that? Do international agencies give an account of the psychological state of the citizens? Do disasters affect the self-efficacy and self-esteem ratio of the developing country? These are non-security-related questions that need to be tackled and answered.

[1] Duffield, Macrae and Curtis, Politics and Humanitarian Aid, p.269

[2] Audit, From disaster relief to development assistance: Why simple solutions don’t work, p.110

[3] Ibid., p.112

[4] Fassin, The humanitarian politics of testimony: Subjectification through Trauma in the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict, p.533

[5] Hobbes, Hobbes’s leviathan, p.

[6] Ahrensdorf, The Fear of Death and the Longing for Immortality: Hobbes and Thucydides on Human Nature and problem of anarchy, p.580

[7] Duffield, Macrae and Curtis, Politics and Humanitarian Aid, p.270

Tejvir Bawa
Tejvir Bawa
Tejvir Bawa is pursuing a Master of Research degree from Western Sydney University, the Graduate research school. He is identifying the link between realist political economy theory and foreign policies. He strives to comprehensively understand the Indo-Pacific regions and the changing political formation in the international arena.