Climate Change Adaptation Through Humanitarian Aid? Promises, Perils and Potentials of the ‘New Humanitarianism’

Volume 48 Number 4
Published: August 9, 2017

A major reform of the humanitarian sector is currently under way, focusing increasingly on the prevention of crises rather than on providing relief once crises have occurred. This article examines whether and how this new humanitarian approach can also improve people’s ability to adapt to climate change. We identify three approaches central to this ‘new humanitarianism’, namely resilience, disaster risk reduction and early warning systems, and discuss them in relation to broad principles for adaptation to climate change. We find that, despite encouraging potential and a lot of common ground, key barriers and hindrances still exist, such as inertia of organisational cultures and existing financial models. We suggest that realising this potential will require acknowledging and addressing the multitude of local social, historical and political inequities that drive both humanitarian crises and vulnerability to climate change.


  • Aid
  • Climate Change
From Issue: Vol. 48 No. 4 (2017) | Courting Catastrophe? Humanitarian Policy and Practice in a Changing Climate