Research project

Humanitarian Transition - Development - Authoritarian regime

This research examines the meaning and the scope of the “humanitarian transition” in Laos, which is not considered a priority country because it does not undergo large-scale natural disasters or armed conflicts. However, considerable humanitarian needs still exist: Laos remains one of the poorest countries in the world. By coupling an approach to anthropology of development with spatial analysis through the use of GIS (geographic information systems), this research project aimed to make an inventory of humanitarian action in Laos and to describe the transformations of its field of intervention by focusing particularly on the renewal of practices, the ethical positioning, and the definition of a strategy in a complex political and economic environment.

Based on field surveys conducted in Laos between July 2014 and August 2015, this paper proposes a mapping of the humanitarian landscape as well as a qualitative, quantitative and spatial analysis of its actors, activities, dynamics and modes of governance. We questioned the position of the humanitarian aid system in a context where priority is given to development.

The case of Laos is instructive as it clearly shows the porous borders between humanitarian and development activities, both for the populations concerned, aid workers, donors, and rulers. We tried to describe the difficulties and dilemmas faced by humanitarian actors. How to work in an authoritarian context? How to position themselves? Should they withdraw to make way for development players or do they have to change and adapt their interventions given the political context, the changing of needs and funding mechanisms? Finally, is the classic dichotomy between humanitarian and development aid relevant in Laos?