Do no harm: A taxonomy of the challenges of humanitarian experimentation

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This article aims to acknowledge and articulate the notion of “humanitarian
experimentation”. Whether through innovation or uncertain contexts, managing
risk is a core component of the humanitarian initiative – but all risk is not created
equal. There is a stark ethical and practical difference between managing risk and
introducing it, which is mitigated in other fields through experimentation and
regulation. This article identifies and historically contextualizes the concept of
humanitarian experimentation, which is increasingly prescient, as a range of
humanitarian subfields embark on projects of digitization and privatization. This
trend is illustrated here through three contemporary examples of humanitarian
innovations (biometrics, data modelling, cargo drones), with references to critical
questions about adherence to the humanitarian “do no harm” imperative. This
article outlines a broad taxonomy of harms, intended to serve as the starting point
for a more comprehensive conversation about humanitarian action and the ethics
of experimentation.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Review of the Red Cross
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Oct 2017

ID: 184873414