Humanitarian Assistance

By Taylor Seybolt - "Humanitarian Intervention and International Security" .Blackwell Publishing, 2010.
The article is part of the International Studies Association Compendium Project, a comprehensive review of the literature in the field of international studies. It traces the development of major trends in humanitarian intervention, a topic that lies at the intersection of realism and liberalism, where power and the material interests of states meet human rights and the responsibilities of sovereignty.

By Taylor Seybolt - “Harmonizing the Humanitarian Aid Network: Adaptive Change in a Complex System”.International Studies Quarterly 53 (2009): 1027-1050.
Humanitarian aid operations save many lives, but they also fail to help many people and can have unintended political consequences. A major reason for the deficit is poor coordination among organizations. In contrast to ‘‘lessons learned’’ studies that dominate the literature on this topic, this article uses systemic network theory, drawn from business management literature. It presents the humanitarian aid community as a complex, open, adaptive system, in which interaction of structure and processes explain the quality of the response to environmental demands. Comparison of aid operations in Rwanda in 1994 and Afghanistan in 2001 probes the argument that the humanitarian system is becoming more effective by developing characteristics of a network through goal-directed behavior of participating organizations. The study finds development of network characteristics in the system when clusters of organizations learn to coordinate more closely, but the system is constrained by the workload of a crisis environment, lack of trust among organizations, and the political interests of donor governments.

By Taylor Seybolt - Humanitarian Military Intervention: The Conditions for Success and Failure.Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007 and 2008.

Sample chapter: "Controversies About Humanitarian Military Intervention"

The central premise of this book is that humanitarian military intervention can be justified as a policy option only if decision makers can be reasonably sure that intervention will do more good than harm. The book defines success as saving lives in the short-term and sets out a methodology for estimating the number of lives saved by a particular military intervention. Analysis of 17 military operations in areas that were the defining cases of the 1990s—northern Iraq after the Gulf War, Somalia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Rwanda, Kosovo and East Timor—shows that a slight majority were successful by this measure.

In every conflict studied, however, some military interventions succeeded while others failed. To explain the different outcomes, the book highlights the importance of the interveners’ objectives and strategy. Four types of humanitarian military intervention are offered: helping to deliver emergency aid, protecting aid operations, saving the victims of violence and defeating the perpetrators of violence. The focus on strategy within these four types allows an exploration of the political and military dimensions of humanitarian intervention and highlights the advantages and disadvantages of each of the four types.


Ford Institute for Human Security
3930 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260