Humanitarianism and the Quantification of Human Needs: Minimal Humanity (Paperback)
This book provides the first historical inquiry into the quantification of needs in humanitarian assistance. Ultimately the book argues that we cannot understand the global humanitarian aid movement, if we do not understand how humanitarian agencies made human suffering commensurable across borders in the first place.
The book identifies four basic elements of needs: as a concept, as a system of classification and triage, as a form of material apparatus, and as a codified standard. Drawing on a range of archival sources ranging from the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR), M decins sans Fronti res (MSF), and the Sphere Project, the book traces the concept of needs from their emergence in the 1960s right through to the modern day, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's call for "evidence-based humanitarianism". Finally the book assesses how the international governmentality of needs played out in a recent humanitarian crisis, drawing on detailed ethnographic research of Central African refugees in the Cameroonian borderland in 2014-2016.
This important historical enquiry into the universal nature of human suffering will be an important read for humanitarian researchers and practitioners, as well as readers with an interest in international history and development.