International Humanitarian and Development Aid and Big Data Governance

Zwitter, A., 6-Jul-2020, (Accepted/In press) The Routledge Handbook to Rethinking Ethics in International Relations. Schippers, B. (ed.). Routledge

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review

Modern technology and innovations constantly transform the world. This also applies to humanitarian action and development aid, for example: humanitarian drones, crowd sourcing of information, or the utility of Big Data in crisis analytics and humanitarian intelligence. The acceleration of modernization in these adjacent fields can in part be attributed to new partnerships between aid agencies and new private stakeholders that increasingly become active, such as individual crisis mappers, mobile telecommunication companies, or technological SMEs. These partnerships, however, must be described as simultaneously beneficial as well as problematic. Many private actors do not subscribe to the humanitarian principles (humanity, impartiality, independence, and neutrality), which govern UN and NGO operations, or are not even aware of them. Their interests are not solely humanitarian, but may include entrepreneurial agendas. The unregulated use of data in humanitarian intelligence has already caused negative consequences such as the exposure of sensitive data about aid agencies and of victims of disasters. This chapter investigates the emergent governance trends around data innovation in the humanitarian and development field. It takes a look at the ways in which the field tries to regulate itself and the utility of the humanitarian principles for Big Data analytics and data-driven innovation. It will argue that it is crucially necessary to formulate principles for data governance in the humanitarian context in order to ensure the safeguarding of beneficiaries that are particularly vulnerable. In order to do that, the chapter proposes to reinterpret the humanitarian principles to accommodate the new reality of datafication of different aspects of society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook to Rethinking Ethics in International Relations
EditorsBirgit Schippers
ISBN (Print)9781472479693
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 6-Jul-2020


  • Big Data, humanitarian action, humanitarian principles, humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence, governance, Artificial intelligence
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