The Humanitarian Blog
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For many years, our BOFAXE series, has provided our faculty and partners the opportunity to publish short think pieces on international humanitarian and human rights law. However, given the IHFV's leading role in Germany as a centre for education and research on humanitarian action, we aim to provide similar opportunities to highlight the research and opinions for our social scientists and those involved in humanitarian studies. 

Within this scope, we are proud to publish ‘The Humanitarian Blog’, a new joint initiative by the Institute for International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict (IFHV) and the Centre for Humanitarian Action (CHA) with contributions from both institutions and guest authors. Contributing authors to all blogs include CHA and IFHV staff, international researchers, and practitioners. We welcome input from interested scholars, journalists, and humanitarians. If you would like to contribute a piece to the blog, please contact, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

You are most welcome to join the discussion through the comment function below each published blog and to share and republish our contributions. Please name the source of our blogs when sharing with other audiences.

Author: John Mitchell

About the Author: 

John Mitchell is Director of the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance in Humanitarian Action (ALNAP). With over thirty years’ experience in humanitarian action, he is a leading exponent of humanitarian practice and policy and led the ALNAP network for the past 15 years in its mission to improve global performance of humanitarian aid. He is well known in the humanitarian community as a key-note presenter.



In the mid 1980’s, I was part of a small group who accompanied the UK Minister of Overseas Development (ODA), Timothy Raison, on a fact-finding visit to emergency feeding centres in East Africa where millions of people had been affected by famine. All of us were profoundly affected by what we saw, but one thing that surprised me was that the Minister always made a point of asking local government officials if, when things returned to normal, they were in favour of free enterprise.

To me it seemed like an incongruous question given the gravity of the circumstances, but at that time the ODA was part of the UK Foreign Office. The Minister obviously saw aid and global politics as inextricably linked, and part of his brief to defeat communism, save lives and enhance the standing of the UK abroad.

Now, after the recent announcement by the UK’s Prime Minister to merge DFID back into the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, we have returned to similar territory where UK humanitarian assistance and national/geo-political interests will become bedfellows once again. The above announcement was greeted with an avalanche of criticism from ex-prime-ministers, parliamentarians and UK aid agencies, all of whom were upset and justifiably concerned about a long list of issues.

But for us humanitarians, the real worry is that mergers like this could mean that the principled allocation of humanitarian assistance based on need is more likely to be trumped by national interests. This would directly contravene the Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) initiative, which has been widely embraced by donor governments, all of whom affirm the core humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence in the financing of humanitarian assistance.

If such fears are realised, there could be serious repercussions. Not only could it reduce humanitarian assistance reaching affected populations, it could also increase the risk of harm for front-line staff. As the UN Secretary General has emphasised, principled assistance is essential so that humanitarian organisations can earn trust and acceptance among State and non-State armed groups in order to gain and maintain access and operate in safety. Of course, negotiating humanitarian space has never been easy whatever the institutional arrangements. Crisis situations are almost always entangled with a myriad of political priorities – migration, counterterrorism, trade deals, arms sales and so on – but common sense suggests an independent office would have more autonomy to make principled decisions than a blended hybrid. 

Some donor governments have found that the aid function combined with a foreign service, development and trade can, when managed wisely, elevate the strategic importance of aid and enhance impact.

Or there again maybe it doesn’t? Some donor governments have found that the aid function combined with a foreign service, development and trade can, when managed wisely, elevate the strategic importance of aid and enhance impact. Experiences from both Canada and the Netherlands suggest that consolidated knowledge can lead to better policies and a more connected approach. As always, challenges need to be overcome – including harmonising different sorts of expertise and working cultures, and managing a range of policies that have different speeds of implementation and types of impact – but the experience shows that it is possible.

This begs the question: who is right? Are humanitarian principles more likely to be watered down by national interests in an amalgamated office, or can they be protected and enhanced in a consolidated approach?

Unfortunately, the evidence base for this is thin. The development sector has created a principled aid index which monitors and reports on 29 DAC donor’s adherence to principled aid but, apart from DARA’s Humanitarian Response Index (no longer in existence), the humanitarian sector has no equivalent. The Core Humanitarian Standard (CHS) – a set of commitments founded on humanitarian principles – has provided much helpful evidence from NGOs in key operational areas, but is not designed to address donor adherence to principles.  This should be part of the job of independent evaluations – but a major evaluative gap exists when it comes to assessing the degree to which humanitarian principles are upheld in practice.

Recent work commissioned by the UN shows that evaluations do address critical issues of access, security and protection but only six evaluations out of a sample of 142, explicitly provided a link to humanitarian principles. And almost never do they look at how decisions about allocations are made and on what basis, or how administrative structures influence decisions.

On one level this seems surprising as the humanitarian community has been discussing these issues for some time. Nearly twenty years ago, members of the UK DEC took the initiative by using the Red Cross/Red Crescent Code of Conduct as performance criteria in their evaluations of the Gujarat Earthquake and the Southern Africa Crises. More recently, the UN has commissioned guidance material for specifically evaluating humanitarian principles – and this has the potential to be extremely useful – but apart from a few notable exceptions, agencies appear to be holding back when it comes to commissioning evaluations that will really focus on these questions. 

A major evaluative gap exists when it comes to assessing the degree to which humanitarian principles are upheld in practice.

We need to talk about how to protect principles and do so based on good evidence. The international aid architecture is changing at a rapid pace and many people are feeling that old certainties – respect for humanitarian principles and IHL, a workable level of international cooperation and access to people in need – can no longer be taken for granted. At a time like this it is necessary to clarify and re-emphasise the importance of our values, principles and purpose.

Evaluating how humanitarian actors can best live up to their principles would not only build trust across the system and strengthen accountability. Over time, it could provide an evidence base to help us understand how best to manage future mergers so that humanitarian principles can be protected and enhanced, rather than diluted.

Authors: Christos Stylianides and Prof. Dr. Pierre Thielbörger

About the Authors:

Christos Stylianides was European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management from 2014 to 2019. He served as the European Union’s Ebola Coordinator since 2014 after his appointment by the European Council. He was previously Member of the European Parliament, the Parliament of the Republic of Cyprus and Spokesperson of the Cypriot government. Since 2020, he is Visiting International Professor at Ruhr University Bochum.

Pierre Thielbörger is Professor of German Public Law and Public International Law and Executive Director of the Institute for the International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict (IFHV) at Ruhr University Bochum. He is President of the General Assembly of the Network on Humanitarian Action (NOHA) and Co-Convener of the Interest Group on Human Rights of the European Society of International Law. 


COVID-19 is a crisis of its very own kind. Comparing COVID-19, for instance, to the Ebola crisis of the mid 2010s, one difference is obvious and striking at the same time: the Ebola epidemic never became a pandemic. Very differently, COVID-19, as we now know, has shaken the European family of states to its core. In this post, we want to address four related points specifically: the role of the EU as a global leader in the global COVID-19 response; COVID-19 as a challenge to ‘solidarity’ between EU member States and with a view to non-European States; the EU’s institutional responsibility for the pandemic; and COVID-19 as a crisis for the EU in a broader sense.

Global Leadership
The EU is the biggest humanitarian donor globally. It has by now also taken a leadership role in the global COVID-19 response. The successful donor pledging conference initiated by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, that raised 7,4 billion Euro and the EU Communication on a Global Response to COVID-19 demonstrate this. Indeed, common European responses in times of public health crises are essential. Ebola is a good proof for this claim. By taking the political initiative to facilitate the crucial regional cooperation of the three affected countries in West Africa (Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea), by establishing a European Medical Corps back in 2014 and by deploying European medical teams with doctors from different EU member states, the EU contributed considerably to preventing the Ebola epidemic to spread further – even if it is also true that almost all actors initially reacted rather late in the Ebola crisis inclunding aid agencies the UN, donor countries and, of course, also the EU.

In the COVID-pandemic, the EU must make sure that it continues to live up to its humanitarian responsibilities and commit to further financial investments in humanitarian action that confirm its leadership role – but also its solidarity with the global south. Against the backdrop of the indirect and longer-term effects of the measures against COVID-19, it will also be important to adapt the nexus approach that was actually developed in the context of armed conflicts and fragile states in order to promote the link between humanitarian action, peace and development to this new context, and make sure that aid instruments are flexible and complementary.

European Solidarity IN NEED
In contrast, the EU’s internal measures to tackle the health emergency in response to COVID-19, in particular in the initial stages, were rather coy. When Italy activated the Union Civil Protection Mechanism on 26 February 2020 requesting help, other Member States stayed silent. It is true that the Commission immediately sat down to adapt its legal bases in order to coordinate management of stockpiles of medical equipment, like ventilators and masks. But these revised rules applied only as from 19 March, and brought little tangible support. In addition, the Emergency Support Instrument was re-activated to apply retroactively from 1 February 2020. Nevertheless, all of it appeared as too slow a reaction to an immediate and overwhelming need. Absent a robust and convincing Union response, European States focused on national responses, incoherent and fragmented, rather than a common European response, as a compliment to national actions.

Solidarity is more than a naive aspiration. The European treaties themselves stipulate ‘solidarity’ for its members. Article 222 of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) contains a solidarity clause that can be invoked if an EU state is a victim, inter alia, of a natural hazard (like a virus outbreak). The states are then obliged to act jointly in a spirit of solidarity and to assist member states who ask for help. Germany had early onwards in the COVID-19 crisis suggested to make use of this clause, but it never officially happened. (Even if it had been triggered, with all the member states affected, its practical use remains, of course, hypothetical). Regardless of Art. 222 TFEU being triggered or not, the question whether member states showed enough solidarity to the most affected European States, like Italy and Spain, is a painful one for them. The President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen apologized before the plenary of the European Parliament for a lack of solidarity of the EU with Italy in the early days of the crisis. We agree.

One might add that solidarity beyond its legal meaning in Art. 222 TFEU should not stop at the borders of the EU. For a global leader, the EU must also display such solidarity to its global (non-European) partners – which is currently lacking dramatically behind. EU solidarity is also needed with the Global South.

The EU’s Institutional Responsibility
But, in how far then is the EU really to blame for this lack of response among member states? According to Art. 168 TFEU, the EU can only complement national policies and encourage cooperation in the field of public health. The EU thus only has a supporting competence. True power in the field of public health lies with the member states. The EU can foster cooperation and make recommendations. Ultimately what matters, is the preparedness of member states to act on these recommendations. In light of COVID-19, a competence shift appears rather appropriate, if not necessary, in times of pandemics. Such competence shift is at the same time not likely in the near future. The national welfare state is an integral part of national identity. Given the high costs associated with it, a further transfer of competences (requiring Treaty change) is not to be expected. It remains crucial that the EU makes the most of its given role and its existing instruments (such as rescEU) in this difficult situation – as history tells, the EU can make a real difference, as it did during the previous Ebola crisis. And we must not underestimate the political clout that the EU has: in this sense, the EU can achieve a lot even in fields where it does not have exclusive or shared competences.

COVID-19 as a crisis for the EU in a broader sense
Does this mean that the EU now faces a broader (legitimacy) crisis beyond the field of public health? We believe there is indeed such a risk. Populism is on the rise in many member states. We witness that the “foreign virus”, as it is sometimes dubbed by populists, is used to increase xenophobia and strengthen sentiments of nationalism. We also have to note unprecedented restrictions of fundamental rights in almost all member states. Travel restrictions, curfews and restrictions on freedom of assembly go hand in hand with significant changes in parliamentary and judicial procedures. Oftentimes these restrictions rest on unstable legal grounds that were not made for the case of a pandemic – a scenario to which they are now nonetheless applied. In many cases the end of these restrictions is also not clear. The EU must continue to point to these restrictions and speak out loudly and clearly where such restrictions are too intense, where they last longer than required or where they are even only misused for other political purposes. At least since the EU Charter on Fundamental Rights has become part of primary EU law in 2009 with the Lisbon treaty, the EU has become a Union not only of States, but a Union for its citizens. The expectation to the EU is then not only to facilitate public health. It is equally expected to promote fundamental rights – mainly within the EU Members States, but, as we pointed out for the case of solidarity above, also on a global scale.

The best way forward for the EU to maintain its legitimacy in a broader sense is thus not to focus on the protection of public health alone, but to take a more balanced approach. Health is an important fundamental right, in Europe but also globally, but there are others that are also challenged during the COVID-19 crisis. The EU must be a champion of all fundamental rights. In doing so, the EU has proven its resilience in the past. In its short history, it has (sometimes better, sometimes worse) managed and mastered several crises. If focusing on its core values – the social market economy, rule of law, democracy, solidarity and, maybe most importantly, fundamental rights – it can also overcome this one. p However, as discussed above, solidarity cannot stop at the outer borders of the EU. The EU must acknowledge the shortcomings of its initial response and show leadership and solidarity equal to the task at hand. The human costs of further failure to act out of solidarity would be far greater given the reduced capacity of public health systems in many states of the Global South. Global superpowers like the United States and Russia have proven to be unable or unwilling to effectively address the public health crises in their own countries, let alone abroad. Given the competition for protective equipment and ventilators seen throughout the crisis, it is clear that such a response cannot simply be financial. There seems little point to giving financial support while simultaneously driving up the cost for life saving equipment. Instead, solidarity, with a neutral examination of where need and capacity are greatest at its core, is a must. This needs to be at the forefront of any coordinated EU response to future outbreaks worldwide and, hopefully, to the distribution of a potential vaccine.

Author: Charlotte Faltas

About the Author: 

Charlotte Faltas is an intern at the Centre for Humanitarian Action (CHA). Charlotte studies International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law at the European University Viadrina. In her master’s thesis called “The Legal Architecture of Counterterterrorism Legislation and Sanction Regime: Impacts on Principled Humanitarian Action” she deals with the legal tension between principled humanitarian aid and counterterrorism measures.


Impacts on Humanitarian Action and Opportunities for Germany

Over the last years, more and more humanitarian organisations are expressing their concerns about the (unintended) consequences of multi-levelled counterterrorism legislation, measures and sanction regimes on their work.[1] Paradoxically, whereas counterterrorism and humanitarianism both aim for the protection of civilians and therefore have a shared objective, they at times oppose,[2] leaving the room for humanitarian activity  increasingly contested[3] or shrinking.[4]

The troublesome relation between counterterrorism and humanitarianism was identified as a key concern by Germany for its two-year elected membership to the UN’s Security Council.[5] Germany explicitly expressed to prioritise the strengthening of the humanitarian system,[6] to mobilise UN-members to implement IHL, protect civilians and humanitarian workers[7] and give access to principled humanitarian action,[8] especially when drafting resolutions and laws containing counterterrorism measures or establish sanction regimes.[9] Given the rapid expansion of counterterrorism measures whilst global humanitarian needs increased more than tenfold since the early 2000s,[10] this focus is highly pertinent. What are Germany’s current actions and positions and what are further steps to be taken in order to effectively safeguard humanitarian action?

Germany currently takes active part in a multitude of international, multilateral and regional forums concerned with counterterrorism such as the UN, the Council of Europe, the EU, the NATO, the OSCE and the Global Counterterrorism Forum.[11] Moreover, Germany is a leading member[12] of the Coalition against Da’esh, engaging in military intervention aimed to halt ISIS activities, a non-state armed group (NSAG) designated as a terrorist organisation. Germany is now also the second-largest donor state for humanitarian aid,[13] with overall humanitarian funds quadrupling since 2014. These parallel developments arguably make for interesting possibilities for Germany to position itself as an ‘honest broker’ within this matter. 

The danger of criminalising and politicising humanitarian action
Aims to strengthen the humanitarian system and respecting international law, however, do not happen in vacuum: they are increasingly subject to legal and politico-military dimensions, placing the relation between counterterrorism and humanitarianism in a highly criminalised and politicised context. Current legislation now prohibits ‘material support’ to designated groups, jeopardising the flow of humanitarian aid and compromising the humanitarian principles. Thus, it will be argued that tackling these issues is crucial in ensuring consistency and unity in Germany’s ongoing efforts. The question arises how to effectively address the skewed relation between counterterrorism and principled humanitarian action and how Germany can build upon its generated momentum and current influence[14] by setting new examples of good practice that put the current worrisome developments at a halt. 

The vast increase of counterterrorism efforts,[15] translated into an extremely complex, incoherent and multi-levelled collection of donor requirements, sanctions, blacklists and legislation, is difficult to navigate for humanitarian organisations and the consequences on their work are far-reaching. These regulations severely impede the flow of aid, posing bureaucratic hurdles for organisations and depriving civilians from humanitarian action. More so, humanitarian actors increasingly fear criminal charges or fines. The hardening and severe expansion of counterterrorism requirements through legal operationalisation and criminalisation leaves less room to manoeuvre[16] and, consequently, increases risk aversion.[17] This, finally, impedes the access and execution of principled humanitarian action itself. Therefore, an obvious first step Germany could undertake, is a clearer a priori identification of legal pitfalls on all levels of legislation, but at a minimum at its own State level, guarding aid organisations through the current complex judicial architecture.

The lack of definitional clarity and unity does not solely limit itself to the question how terrorism is defined. It also adds uncertainty about how and whether to classify (or designate) an individual or organisation as terrorist and when (if ever) this perceived threat no longer occurs and de-listing can be initiated. By consequence, organisations trying to offer humanitarian action are drawn into these unclarities and risk being accused of aiding organisations and regimes deemed as terrorist and being treated accordingly. Both procedures are therefore ununiform and differ greatly between the power levels of which Germany is also part. This heterogeneity highlights how politically dictated these practices are, enabling the use (or threat) of listing procedures as political leverage.[18] An example of how perceived threats of listed entities are subject to change is that until 2008, Nelson Mandela and his ANC party were still listed on the terrorist watch list by the US and travel restrictions applied.[19] This, although he was released in 1990 to assist in the peaceful transition to majority rule in South Africa, ultimately being elected president four years later. Classifying certain individuals or organisations as terrorist is thus a highly political and in transparent procedure that calls for urgent revision – a stance Germany could emphasise more thoroughly in its current position.

The missing definitional consensus allows for States to employ a self-serving definition and a broad scope for developing counterterrorism legislation[20] tailored around specific state interests in terms of security, military and/or political goals. Both receiving and aiding states and other multi-levelled actors seem to favour a broad as possible ‘working definition’, leaving room for manoeuvre between ‘state security obligations’ and humanitarian action. Humanitarian organisations are forced to play along and abide by the rules, thus compromising the humanitarian principles as well as their neutral mandate. The latter would  gain more operational room by humanitarian exemptions, a potential solution to enhance differentiation between humanitarianism and other forms of activities that might support terrorism. Legally safeguarding humanitarian action, however, is still contested and complex and therefore requires extensive research – another issue that Germany should advocate for. 

Generally, within the realm of politics, under the ‘War on Terror’-banner, much seems to be allowed. The demarcation between what is morally right, legally prohibited and what is politically justified is highly unclear, with the latter usually given prominence. It also raises the question whether counterterrorism regulations are sometimes employed to justify actions questionable or even prohibited under international law[21] whilst severely impeding humanitarian action. Although deploying political tools to de-politicise humanitarian action may seem a contradiction, Germany must continue putting this issue on the political agenda and lobbying for international support for this. Only stronger legal embeddedness and clarification of obligations under IHL and exemptions can improve the current context toward humanitarian action retaining a de-politicised and de-criminalised status.

Potentials and opportunities
The coalescence of criminalisation and politicisation of humanitarianism, forming a blur of uncertainty, could trigger future conflict between NSAGs and states and unnecessary prolongate suffering of civilians in conflict areas. Aid organisations are incurring ever greater political and legal risks while navigating (inter)national legal loopholes and experience structural, operational and internal obstacles[22] in executing principled humanitarian action. This marks the great importance of finding a way to truly set an example on how counterterrorism and humanitarian action can both be accommodated.

Germany’s attempt to elevate attention for the strengthening and protection of the room for humanitarian activity and consequent principles should be viewed as an important step in the right direction. However, itsefforts are ineffective and skewed as long as humanitarian action is linked to (inter)national security strategies. The blurring of lines between military, political and humanitarian goals enables humanitarian aid to be used as an instrument of foreign policy or employed as a mere political tool for conflict prevention and resolution,[23] such as with the rise of preventing/countering violent extremism (P/CVE) strategies, whose political objectives are adopted into the UN and EU.[24]  Currently, anti-terrorism policies maintain this development, for example under the EU comprehensive security strategy and the UN’s plan of action to prevent violent extremism.[25] This calls for some internal soul-searching as it could bolster further politicisation and criminalisation[26] and cloud over the distinction between security and humanitarian objectives,[27] affecting the perceived independence and neutrality of humanitarian organisations. Therefore, it is crucial to place humanitarian action outside this current framework. Addressing it calls for transparency, openness and clear guidelines on how to navigate this interlinkage. Here lies an example-setting role for Germany, that could openly address this uneven balance in its own foreign and donor policies by clearly differentiating between political and humanitarian goals.

Ideally, emphasis should be placed on providing more clarity on the facilitation of humanitarian action under counterterrorism requirements. The first step is for Germany to take stance in the debate about how to systematically and durably include humanitarian exemptions in (inter)national legislation. Such (sectoral) exemptions[28] will aim to exempt mandated humanitarian actors from potential punishment for violations imposed within sanction- and counterterrorism regimes.[29] Legal embeddedness can shield these exemptions from becoming political. Similarly, it would be recommended to secure efficient monitoring of how counterterrorism legislation and sanctions are implemented and truly affect humanitarian action. This could be achieved by stronger organisational reporting mechanisms as well as promoting in-depth and objective research and political analysis.

In conclusion, Germany would have the potential to be an ‘honest broker’ [30] by seizing the opportunity of its growing importance to continuously address and counteract the impact of both the political and legal counterterrorism-dimension and their negative impact on humanitarian action through consistent policies and legislation, a coherent and transparent political stance in the debate and ditto actions within the humanitarian space.

[1] See for example the positioning paper of the Norwegian Refugee Council of January 2019, available at and this 2019 Humanitarian Congress panel interview, last accessed 12.02.2020. 
[2] Parker for The New Humanitarian, 2019, see note 1. 
[3] A term borrowed from Collinson & Elhawary, 2012. 
[4] As stated in the speech by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the UNSC briefing on safeguarding humanitarian space on 01.04.2019, see, last accessed 12.02.2020. See also the positioning paper of the Norwegian Refugee Council of January 2019, endnote 1. 
[5] The German membership of the United Nations Security Council started on 01.01.2019 and lasts until the end of 2020. 
[6] Other priorities were, for example, advancing the women, peace and security agenda and climate change and security policies. 
[7] This was particularly emphasised by the French-German Call to Action, launched in April 2019. See, last accessed 12.02.2020. 
[8] See endnote 2.
[9] See, last accessed 12.02.2020. 
[10] Südhoff & Hövelmann, 2019, p. 4, available at, last accessed 20.04.2020. 
[11] See, last accessed 12.02.2020. 
[12] See, last accessed 12.02.2020. 
[13] See, last accessed 25.02.2020. 
[14] See, last accessed 12.02.2020. 
[15] This development was significantly boosted by the events of 9/11. 
[16] See for a more detailed analysis: Roepstorff, Faltas & Hövelmann, 2020, available at, last accessed 20.04.2020. 
[17] See, last accessed 12.02.2020. 
[18] Elliott & Parker for The New Humanitarian, 2019, see, last accessed 14.02.2020. 
[19] Decrey Warner in Humanitarian Gathering, as noted by Elliott & Parker, 2019, see endnote 18. See also the official FBI Watchlist,
[20] See endnote 18. 
[21] Be it under human rights law, ius in bello orutilised to qualify for ius ad bellum. 
[22] This trinity of impacts was identified in the 2018 NRC Study, see O’Leary, 2018, p. 8. 
[23] Dany, 2019a, see, last accessed 20.04.2020. 
[24] O’Leary, 2018, pp. 18-19 mentions the UN’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (2016), the EU’s Comprehensive Approach in External Conflicts and Crises (2016) and the UN’s New Way of Working and the Triple Nexus (2017). 
[25] See endnote 23. 
[26] Dany, 2019b, pp. 25-26, see        , last accessed 12.02.2020. 
[27] See endnote 26. 
[28] However, its workability is currently still debated by scholars and practitioners as some fear further limitation of humanitarian action, encourage bribery or misuse of the mandate by terrorist groups, see King, Modirzadeh & Lewis, 2016, pp. 8-9, available at, last accessed 20.04.2020. 
[29] King, Modirzadeh & Lewis, 2016, p. 8. 
[30] Südhoff & Hövelmann, 2019, p. 23.

Author: Ole Hengelbrock

About the Author: 

Ole Hengelbrock is Humanitarian Policy Advisor at the Disaster Relief Coordination Department at Caritas international. His main work areas include humanitarian advocacy, lobbying, and policy work.


The Corona pandemic has disrupted humanitarian aid overnight. At the same time, old difficulties remain. After and during Corona, it will become clearer than ever what levels of inequality can be allowed, both nationally and globally. And how deadly this inequality is. 2020 will forever remain a reference for what is possible with the right political will.

Humanitarian considerations that were valid yesterday are null and void under present conditions. Planned aid projects are being cancelled. Activities already taking place must be reorganised or stopped. The dangers of the virus push the primary reasons for aid into the background. Dr Michael Ryan, Executive Director of the Health Emergency Programme of the World Health Organization (WHO), therefore calls for decisive and uncompromising action: “Be fast, have no regrets. You must be the first mover. The virus will always get you if you don’t move quickly.” Caritas international has never received so many requests for help from all over the world at the same time. Rapid action seems to be the imperative of the hour. The pandemic is enforcing new priorities under great time pressure, causing dilemmas for humanitarian actors. And even more so for the people who are currently receiving no aid.

The necessary focus on Corona has bitter consequences. Already existing emergencies and crises have almost completely disappeared from the radar. Already at the beginning of the Corona crisis, over a hundred million people were dependent on humanitarian aid. 71 million displaced persons are on the run worldwide. The level of hunger – which had been diminishing for many years – started rising again. More than two billion people have no access to clean drinking water. Droughts and floods are occurring with greater frequency and intensity due to the climate change. Instead of preparing people for natural disasters, 80% of the ever-increasing demands for humanitarian aid must reduce suffering in wars and conflicts. In contrast, the funding gap is constantly widening. In 2017, a total of USD 23.6 billion were estimated, but USD 9.2 billion were missing. In 2019, the humanitarian demands rose to 29.7 billion US dollars, and the gap to 13.7 billion US dollars. The largest donor countries have reduced ODA resources in relation to their gross national income (GNI). Now they are also facing debts as they must cope with the healthcare and economic consequences of Corona at home. According to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, humanity is currently facing its greatest challenge since the Second World War. In view of existing and past emergencies, can this be weighed with certainty? Think, for example, of the immeasurable suffering to which, according to estimates, more than 2 million people succumbed in the killing fields of the almost four-year-long reign of terror of the Khmer Rouge. Or the suffering by millions of people due to the ongoing series of wars in the central region of Africa since the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. The greatest challenge facing humanity is the humanity itself.

Considerations and prioritisation in humanitarian aid are not new. Inequalities in the distribution of financial resources and political or media awareness are a reality. In the worst case, the decision as to who is helped and where the help is provided means that this help simply cannot be provided elsewhere. This results in “forgotten crises”. While the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP) for COVID-19, launched in March, was 44% full within one month with around $879 million, since the beginning of this year the aid plans for 36 individual countries outside the Corona thematic have only been covered to a total of 12%. The GHRP – estimated at $7.3 billion since May – was set up to prevent other crises from draining the funds. No issue should be sacrificed to others. But that is exactly what happens implicitly. After the pandemic, governments will be asked what they have done. Their answer decides on international validity. The contributions into the “Corona pot” show what is possible with political will. In addition to urgency and necessity, the outlook for political dividends counts. In times of crisis, positions are created. This seemingly never-ending dilemma is, as Albert Camus said, a never-ending defeat. In view of the existing possibilities, it should not come to that: in 2019, 1,917 trillion US dollars were spent on armaments worldwide. What else could be done with an average of 218 million US dollars per hour? On the question of priority, we are the “developing countries”.

The shifts in standards and the new rules of the game always result in losers. For example, vaccine deliveries through cancelled charter flights have fallen by up to 80%. Almost 120 million children could not be vaccinated against measles because of the Corona measures. Last year alone, up to 6,000 children died of it in the Democratic Republic of Congo. For local people, interventions against a single virus are difficult to legitimize, while at the same time people die from untreated diseases such as measles, meningitis, polio, or diarrhoea. Already at the beginning of the year, up to four million deaths were feared from HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and neglected tropical diseases. Corona has so far been the priority of the Western world. Thus, an EU donor conference can quickly raise at least 7.5 billion euros for the Corona vaccine.  The question of relevance always arises on the ground. This is one of the reasons why the Congolese population was very resentful during the Ebola outbreak in 2018, which was ultimately directed against international organisations.

Suffering cannot be outweighed, because “all tears are salty”, as Janusz Korczak said. But it is to be feared that the negative consequences of the prescribed measures will end up producing more suffering than the virus itself.  Billions of people who work in the informal sector are primarily affected. Half of the world’s working population works on a daily wage. In India, as many as 90%. There are no contracts, insurances and reserves, nor are there any government financial aid packages. Countless family members live from hand to mouth. In Germany and other European countries, shops were closed for several weeks. Fashion chains terminated contracts with textile suppliers in order to limit financial damage. Textile production is the key industry of Bangladesh. The income of many people is barely enough to live on in any case. Global poverty could rise for the first time since 1990. The notorious 1.90 US dollars per day, otherwise the lower poverty line and an expression of harsh reality, could temporarily become an unattainable resource. The world is becoming poorer primarily in places where people are already far too poor financially anyway. Development Minister Müller warns of a “hunger pandemic”. During the Ebola epidemic in 2014, 40% of the arable land in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia was not cultivated due to the effects of the measures. This initially affected small farmers. Then food prices on the market rose. Something similar could now happen again on a global scale. The concrete problem of hunger is being carried home. In East Africa, swarms of locusts are also destroying the harvest of the coming months and the feed for livestock, often the main livelihood of the people.  Malnourished or undernourished children are risk groups for all kinds of infectious diseases. However, there will be no statistics for these cases. And even if there will be any, who will notice them? The measures to contain the virus correlate with the issue of food security. It needs to be integrated urgently into all plans and guidelines regarding Corona.

The key term is context. Measures must not be understood universally and transferred categorically. What works here is utopian elsewhere. Around 1.2 billion people – about 15% of the world’s population, or almost one in six – live in informal, densely populated settlements. Several households are housed in tiny apartments, which makes social distancing practically impossible. In Dharavi, Mumbai’s largest slum, at least 700,000 people live in two and a half square kilometres. The demand for hand hygiene becomes a mere platitude here. Should implies can. That is the imperative of this pandemic!

From this point of view, humanitarian aid must come to terms with regional, country-specific, and local requirements. In other words, Corona measures must be designed more locally and accountable. The question of whether and how planned or existing activities should be stopped, postponed, or reprogrammed must be answered locally. It may sound unrealistic for us to give away the basis for decision-making, but there are actors who know better what support is needed on the ground, who benefits from it, and how the aid should be structured. In many cases, neighbourhood help and own aid initiatives already exist. Just think of the 1 US Dollar Corona test kit in Senegal. Relevance and context are questions about the priorities and possibilities for action of the people affected. This must be accompanied by a “right of protest”, which allows people to reject aid projects without having to fear disadvantages. The situation is dynamic. Aid projects can also grow organically. This requires more flexibility in all phases. We must constantly ask ourselves how our assumptions came about. And yes, revise, correct, and emancipate. Humanitarian aid is not just a service, but first and foremost, a social interaction.

Again, and again, the question arises: what could be different after Corona? There must be no “after Corona” because the pandemic should forever remain a reference for what is possible with the appropriate political will: That tomorrow the world will not allow the same level of inequality as today

Author: Ralf Südhoff

About the Author: 

Ralf Südhoff is Directior at the Centre for Humanitarian Action (CHA). Prior to joining CHA, he worked for the UN for 12 years, most recently in Jordan as the Director of the UN World Food Programme Regional Bureau for the Syria Crisis. Before he worked as Advisor to Ms. Uschi Eid, State Secretary in the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.


In the midst of the global corona pandemic, the German Federal Foreign Office is celebrating a milestone anniversary. But not only the pandemia highlights: There is little to celebrate for the ministry.

Seldom are international politics as ubiquitous as in the current climate. These should be high times for German foreign policy makers, with as of late migration policies, climate change, Brexit, and corona being at the forefront of the international agenda. The German Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt – AA) is commemorating its 150-year anniversary these days. But is there reason to celebrate?

COVID-19: a mammoth foreign policy task
With border closures across Europe, EU video conferences, and virtual G7 summits, many adjustments are being made in the political environment in response to the corona crisis. Global collaborative efforts are as critically needed as seldom before. At the same time, Berlin is representing its foreign policy as guided by humanitarian principles rather than national interests, as defending a rule-based multilateral system. Berlin perceives itself as a global player, yet a mediator of foreign affairs, with ‘values, ethics, and a sense of responsibility at its core’. Measuring Berlin by its own standards however, it becomes clear that also beyond the challenges of COVID19, German foreign policy is failing to meet its own ideals.

This is evident when examining the actions of the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, whose main focus in current times is on the crucial repatriation of German holiday-makers, while we hear very little on the nightmarish scenarios unfold in refugee camps in Greece and Syria, or the threats for well over 1 billion people who live in overcrowded slums globally. -While such conditions worsen, NGOs and aid organisations are imposing hiring freezes in anticipation of dramatic decreases in donations. The result? COVID19 could become another global crisis that hits the poorest of the poor hardest. The new public community spirit, which has arisen over the past weeks, could remain a humanism of the wealthy for the wealthy – overseeing or simply forgetting those who fall outside this bracket, unless we make quick and concrete measures now to protect the vulnerable.

The challenges that the Federal Foreign Office faces, the humanitarian projects and opportunities to implement new policies, call for concrete action in these troublesome times. And yet these times exemplify discrepancies between the major financial commitments made and the rarely strategic engagement of German foreign policy makers.

In the tradition of checkbook diplomacy?
Former Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher once personified ‘checkbook diplomacy’, which lay at the heart of German foreign policy for decades. During this time, while Germany engaged financially, it did not want to engage in other areas for historical reasons. Today, criticism arises that while Germany claims to engage on all levels, it is not able to do so. The best example of this phenomenon can be found in an area of which the German Federal Foreign Office is particularly proud, but is overlooked within discussions on the Corona pandemic: its humanitarian commitment.

Germany’s humanitarian aid has increased sixteen-fold in the last ten years, with funding increases of more than 400% since 2015 alone. Berlin is now the world’s second largest humanitarian donor, providing approximately 1.5 billion Euro yearly. This increase in financial aid has led to increased hopes and expectations regarding Berlin’s global role in major crises, the latter’s supra-regional impact, and on issues of life-and-death importance for those in profound need.

These expectations arise against the backdrop of the humanitarian principle of giving aid based on the core notion of providing unconditional, neutral support to those who are in greatest need, which is being threatened to an extent unseen since the end of the Cold War. A German foreign policy would be crucial to defend humanitarian values, following the most basic notion and belief that the life of every person has intrinsic value and should be protected, regardless of personal status, gender, religion, ethnicity, or identity.

The fact that this basic humanitarian principle is drifting into the shadows, away from sight and mind, cannot anymore be blamed solely on the elites in Damascus and Moscow, in Riyadh or Tehran. Governments in Washington, Brussels, Paris, Rome, and Athens have lately shied away from core humanitarian principles with their own policies. Experts for good reason speak of a ‘Shrinking Humanitarian Space’ even in the heart of Europe.

In 2019, it remained almost unnoticed how explicitly Washington was instrumentalising humanitarian aid simply for political reasons (see Venezuela), and refusing to adequately support even the most vulnerable, namely children on the Mexican border. Similarly, there was a short outcry followed by profound silence when the EU decided to stop rescuing migrants drowning in the Mediterranean prioritising migration policies over principles. Then those civilian agencies and ship captains who tried to help were criminalised. Now the situation in Greece: For political reasons, the EU let overcrowded refugee camps on the Greek Islands sink into absolute chaos. And now Athens is suspending the basic human right to seek asylum at its borders, with the explicit consent of the EU.

And Berlin? Promises are made to take in some underage refugees. Some funds have been made available. Plus, it emphasises how it is lobbying for more human approaches.

In view of the major crises: no progress at all
As we can be sure the right motives are in place, specifically in the humanitarian departments of the Foreign Office: What interests and internal power dynamics are at play when powerful Berlin cannot convince Athens to build toilet facilities for refugees? Or when the German UN Ambassador after a year as member of the UN Security Council sums up that ‘with regard to major crises, we could not initiate any progress’.

While on the one hand lack of progress can be attributed to external factors, such as the veto powers within the UN Security Council, the focus needs to be on the ministry with its systematic lack of strategic capacities and staff. For example, when negotiations began at the UN Security Council on the Syrian Crisis, the only competent German diplomat was on well-deserved leave. The issue at hand is not purely anecdotal. Structural overload is a problem. While the Office has almost twice as many resources available as ten years ago, the number of global staff employed has increased by less than 10% in the same time period. The personnel reserve needed for crisis missions is currently 1.7% of total staff, far from the necessary 8%.

Currently, 73 individuals within the entire ministry are responsible for humanitarian aid worldwide, and less than 1% of total staff control approximately 25% of the budget. According to the ministry’s internal calculations, other donors invest twice (Great Britain), three times (USA), eight times (EU) or even ten times (Switzerland) as much into their staff, in comparison to every Euro in aid they give. One consequence is that the Federal Audit Office (Bundesrechnungshof) has revealed almost 2.5 billion Euro from the total budget have been spent by the ministry in recent years without adequate auditing. The proposed solution to solve this issue is the establishment of a new federal agency.

Furthermore, hardly any other country today has such a centralised structure as the German diplomatic service, despite having 227 foreign missions located around the world. Even Niels Annen, Minister of State at the Federal Foreign Office, has critically drawn attention to the issue, questioning ‘How can we involve our missions abroad in the decision-making process here at our Berlin headquarters?’. Other donors no longer make important decisions solely in the capital; rather they have decentralised processes and involve experienced humanitarian experts on the ground in Nairobi, Beirut or Bamako. But Germany? When questioned by the parliament, the Foreign Office could not name one specific expert in any embassy who is responsible for dealing with major crises on the ground.

Moreover, as all staff are rotated, all staff members start from scratch on a new subject area on average every three years. The result is an absence of local networks and a lack of expertise, weakening the sustainable impact of major German initiatives such as in the Libya crisis. An archaic concept of knowledge management further hinders decisive action from occurring.

While the Office is currently moving forward with its new humanitarian strategy, emphasising opportunities for innovation and digitalisation, and financing innovation labs with hip slogans such as ‘failing forwards’, it still lives in a world of paper files. Even the sharing and parallel processing of documents on ‘share points’, which is common practice in every small start-up today, is still in the pilot phase within an organisation that houses almost 7500 employees. -The issues within the ministry go beyond management, involving differing interests and structures within the AA and beyond. Representatives have conflicting standpoints within the ministry and even within single departments. As an example, Department S – ‘S for Stabilisation’ – oversees humanitarian projects. Germany’s stabilisation policy however follows its own guiding principles and is structured around pursuing German interests over humanitarian values, focusing ‘primarily on the crises and conflicts that particularly affect German and European security interests’.

Take the Sahel as an example. The Federal Foreign Office describes countries such as Mali as a prime example of how ‘diplomacy, armed forces, and police operations … work with stabilisation and sustainable development projects towards a common goal’. Meanwhile, humanitarian aid workers on the ground strongly challenge this view. They perceive international involvement to be related to the West’s politically-based interests regarding migration, military, and security in the context of the fight against the Islamic State. For humanitarians, this stands in the way of NGO mission’s impartiality and neutrality which helps protect employees in volatile situations. Besides, those involved in this field, such as the Institute for Security Policy at Kiel University, lament that the necessary expertise for ‘impacting dynamics of conflict’ through stabilisation policies has not yet been developed, and is ‘often still unknown, perhaps also uncomfortable terrain’ for the Federal Foreign Office.

Plea for a value-oriented German foreign policy
A foreign office that has the authority to implement its own initiatives and is united on core issues would be of paramount value within the Federal Government, surely also in post-corona times, since the roles of the Federal Foreign Office, the Chancellery, and the Ministries of Defence, Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) are often contradictory, and conflicts between defence and foreign ministers are now being discussed on the public stage. Moreover, the German predilection for strict compliance to rules and regulations halts progress that could be made. For example, efforts for closer co-operation between the BMZ and AA are limited due to conflicting requirements of the Ministry of Finance. The latter’s response to calls for better cooperation is an insistence that budgeting laws be met and tasks be strictly separated, and the application of the same transparency measures for humanitarian aid in Syria bombing raids as applied for the construction of kindergartens in Munich-Pasing.

Who decides on how Germany engages on an international scale, in ways that some hope, while others fear? Foreign observers have raised the question as to whether Germany needs to have a national security council that coordinates government policy. After all, who decides the outcome of concrete questions, when it comes to defending ethical values against political interests? When it comes down to weighing up what matters more in the case of arms export to war-torn countries – the millions of civilians suffering in Yemen, or shipyards and jobs in German Wolgast? When the decisions relate to providing corona-specific funding to the world’s poorest and not to focus only on packages to support the German economy? Who is defending humanitarian priorities and prioritising these?

Today in Berlin, in Europe, and in the world’s major crises, a German foreign policy based on humanitarian values, and a ministry that is strategically, culturally, and in its human resource policies appropriate to the 21st century context might be more important than ever before. However, how long the path to this goal is and how fundamental the issues to be fixed, was recently highlighted by Minister of State Niels Annen: After 150 years of existence, he declared it is necessary to create a Federal Foreign Office that exemplifies ‘team spirit rather than autocratic behaviour, collegiality rather than believing in your own superior knowledge, and feminism rather than patriarchy’.

How will the Covid-19 pandemic reshape refugee and migration governance?

Authors: Dr Kristin Bergtora Sandvik and Dr Adele Garnier

About the Authors: 

Dr. Kristin Bergtora Sandvik is a Professor in the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law at the University of Oslo and Professor of Humanitarian Studies at the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO). 

Dr. Adele Garnier is a Professor in the Department of Modern History, Politics and International Relations at Macquarie University (Australia). 


Synopsis:  The blog identifies marginalisation, legal distancing and the ambiguity of care as the key characteristics of the Covid-19 pandemic response currently reshaping refugee and migration governance.

Almost three months into the Covid 19-outbreak, the impact is becoming clear: the pandemic will reshape the governance of international migration and forced displacement. This piece provides some early reflections on the direct and indirect consequences and possible post-pandemic trajectories. The geographical examples are selective, but we hope, illustrative. While responses so far vacillate between care and control, with an emphasis on care for domestic populations and control of migrant movement and interaction, there is likely to be a long-term impact of the proliferation and routinisation of extraordinary practices. 

Direct consequences

The exacerbation of marginalisation through herding, lockdowns and de-facto expulsions
Those in an already precarious position are further marginalised in terms of removal/isolation from the rest of the population.  The first type of consequence is the herding and lockdown of migrants in confined and overcrowded spaces without adequate healthcare for public health purposes. The Greek government is imposing a curfew on refugees and migrants in the overcrowded Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, as part of its response against the Covid-19 pandemic. As is well known, camps on the Greek islands were designed for fewer people than currently occupy them  and health services are already inadequate. In Australia, fears have escalated as a guard at a migrant detention centre  tested positive for the virus. While there have been instances of prisons being opened to let out low-risk inmates, we have not been able to identify examples of migrants being released from detention centres. Governments have also taken active steps to remove poor migrants physically from their national territory. In Norway, the Oslo municipality recently flew 140 individuals of the Roma minority back to their homes in Romania. Foreigners without a residence permit can also be expelled. 

The ambiguity of care
There is news of the suspension of deportations and better health coverage for migrant populations. Several countries, including Canada, Germany and the US have stopped deportations. The reasons for this are not humanitarian but point to impracticability, such as travel bans and putting the health of immigration officials at risk. While the long-term fate of deportees is unknown – some might be able to stay on for humanitarian grounds – they are being put back into detention centres with the same risk of contagion and lack of health care discussed above. At the same time, Covid-19 is being used as an opportunity to resist deportations, as illustrated by Guatemala’s decision to halt US deportations. On a different note, a side effect of more intense screening is an expansion of health coverage for newcomers in Ontario and British Columbia. This is beneficial to the newcomers, who are usually excluded from universal health care coverage during their three first months in these Canadian provinces, but it also benefits the wider population.

Covid-19 is engendering the closure of programs on a massive scale. The most serious onslaught of the existing refugee protection regime has been the suspension of international refugee resettlement. Both UNHCR and IOM state that  they ‘look forward to resuming full resettlement travel as soon as prudence and logistics permit’. Yet until they do so, no refugees will be resettled by a state willing to admit them. Pronouncements about the ‘death of resettlement’ are a regular occurrence. This time, however, and despite the commitments and promises made at the Global Refugee Forum to expand resettlement, the suspension occurs in the context of: a sharp decline of US resettlement, the unwillingness of the European Union (EU) and its member states to redistribute refugees hosted by Greece and Italy to other EU countries, and the increasing ‘offshoring’ of resettlement through so-called Emergency Transit Mechanisms operated out of Rwanda and Niger. Resettlement is therefore facing a struggle to make a the comeback that was anticipated at the 2016 UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants.

The Rule of law in the centrifuge
Another issue of high importance concerns ‘legal distancing’, which further entrenches the marginalisation and exclusion of migrants. This happens with opposing cycles of speed: great regulatory haste on the one hand, and an institutional slowdown of due process mechanisms and bureaucratic processing on the other. At present, the US is imposing a growing list of restrictions that are being adopted in a haphazard manner, with migration courts being closed and hearings postponed.  An Italian example includes a drastic reduction of asylum processing as only one person is being let in at a time. Many countries now just turn people away at the border and do not accept visa or asylum applications. The potential consequence is that a growing list of restrictions combined with systems ‘going to sleep’ may be converted officially to temporary and then permanent halts across a broad swath of migration categories and administrative processes.

Indirect effects
There will also be further indirect consequences from the many examples of extensive emergency legislations being rushed through domestic parliaments, allowing governments to rule by decree or threatening human rights. The new laws may contribute to a general democratic backlash with direct policy and regulatory implication for the migration field. One danger of broad discretionary rules is that the margin of interpretation is left to executive authorities with limited legal oversight or opportunity for legal recourse, and, potentially, the arbitrariness of rules whose application varies on an individual basis. Importantly this also allows for bureaucratic discretion with little or no oversight. While the problem of underresourcing, capacity-deficits, intransigence and disfunction are familiar challenges for refugee and migration bureaucracies, the adverse impact on vulnerable refugees, migrants and asylum seekers will likely increase. Furthermore, many ordinary laws already in place can have serious knock-on effects. As time goes on, we will likely see these kinds of examples multiply, and it is important that they are recorded and analysed.

Untangling logics and moving forward
In conclusion, while thinking about migration as an issue of global governance has in recent years been shaped by concerns about rightwing extremism, populism and the decline of solidarity, the initial responses to the Covid 19 pandemic in many cases appears to have fast tracked this political agenda.

Many of the developments described above are well-known to observers of international migration governance. While the 2014 Ebola outbreak embodied a very clear North-South dimension with respect to othering and the initial phase of the Covid 19 outbreak was characterized by a focus on China, i.e. Trump’s insistence on describing this as the “China-virus”, the rapid global spread of the virus has mapped onto existing patterns of structural inequality. From a scholarly perspective, this reveals complicated interfaces that will require some careful untangling. We end with three observations.

1. The first concerns the kind of work ‘biosecurity’ will do in the migration context and how the merging of a biosecurity rationale with national security maps onto the migration context. With respect to border management, open borders have now been re-constituted as threat-objects. The closure of borders (including borders within federal states, such as in Australia) is done in the name of ‘flattening the curve’ (ultimately, ‘saving lives’) and thus protecting the local as well as the global population. Multiple border closures are seen as a ‘biological necessity’ and careful attention will be needed to the evolving justification of these closures as well as their popularity.

2. The second is about emergent new combinations of political rationalities: a widely reported upside to the outbreak is an improvement in pollution levels and air quality and due to collapse in industry and air traffic, while some report a renaissance of neighbourhood socialization due to the decline of ‘predatory tourism’. It will be important to investigate to what extent this is combined with demands to decrease international migration, or particular types of international migration.

3. The third observation points to the likelihood of a global recession or at least the prospect of increasing unemployment and significant reprioritisations in domestic budgets in the Global North. This dovetails with continued inaction on refugee and migrant protection by many higher income Global East governments. Globally, it is notable that individual states have announced considerable expansion of temporary welfare measures yet so far international collaboration has been scant, as have been considerations for the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on international solidarity.