Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2463

Article | Open Access

Regulating Humanitarian Governance: Humanitarianism and the ‘Risk Society’

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Abstract:  This research advances the critical literature of humanitarian governance by demonstrating how ‘risk management’ is reproduced within the governance and regulatory structures of humanitarian institutions and, crucially, how it distorts patterns of emergency assistance coverage. Focusing on the impact of post-disciplinary forms of control, it reveals how humanitarian resources are disciplined by banks’ responses to regulatory changes initiated by the adoption of counter-terrorist financing legislation designed to counter flows of money to terrorists. This has resulted in the systematic shedding of NGO customers and the routine blocking of their international transactions—known as derisking. In an effort to limit this, NGOs have adopted a ‘precautionary approach’ to managing risk in their own activities, limiting their ability to reach some of the most vulnerable populations and curtailing innovation. Furthermore, the impact of this on the governance and structure of the humanitarian system has spread beyond contexts of conflict into situations more conventionally labelled as natural disasters such as drought, enabling the exercise of new techniques of power over significant parts of the humanitarian system.

Keywords:  banking regulation; governance; humanitarian; risk; Syria; terrorism



© Stuart Gordon. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.