Remote Response: International Humanitarianism and Nepal’s 2015 Earthquakes
This paper will focus on analysing the responses of UN agencies and international NGOs to the 2015 Nepal earthquakes. This will include discussion of how international relief was carried out, the ways in which aid programmes drew on new humanitarian practices and how international responses intersected with and legitimised Nepal Government responses. The paper argues that in order to understand the failures of the earthquake response we need to understand how humanitarian action has been changing into a deeper ‘remoteness’ that stresses technological innovation, self-resiliency and, in the context of disaster response, ‘owner-driven’ reconstruction. In addition, the paper argues that these new forms of humanitarianism were particularly vulnerable to old forms of manipulation and capture by a resilient Nepali state, intent on returning to development-as-usual. By discussing needs assessments, the housing reconstruction programme, and the use of cash transfers, the paper shows how both international humanitarian and national government responses together produced failure. The paper concludes by stressing the need for greater critical engagement with international humanitarian organisations in Nepal and the reconstruction agenda as a necessary part of ‘doing something’ after the 2015 earthquakes.