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What motivates humanitarian actors?

We meet Jeevika Vivekananthan and Dr Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings who both work at the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership at Deakin University.
My name is Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings. I’m a lecturer in Humanitarian Studies and the Associate Director of Research at the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership. And I’m originally from the US. Vanakam. My name is Jeevika Vivekananthan. Mostly known as Jeevi by family, friends, and colleagues. I was born in Chavakachcheri, which is a little suburb in northern Sri Lanka. I migrated to Australia in 2014, and I live on the land of [INAUDIBLE] people of Kulin Nation. And I acknowledge their sovereignty was never ceded. I was born and grew up in a war and conflict environment for nearly 26 years, so I have this lived experience. When I migrated to Australia, interestingly, or should I say ironically, I wanted to learn about development humanitarianism professionally.
So the journey from an insider within humanitarian setting to a student at another academy, in development and Humanitarian Studies, to a researcher, the journey made me realise division between the humanitarian ideals and humanitarian realities, the system, and the people, and I think that’s what made me personally committing to seek for humanitarian alternatives, different perspectives, and voices inside and outside of the humanitarian system.

In this step, we’ll meet Jeevika Vivekananthan and Dr Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings who both work at the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership at Deakin University.

Jeevi and Nazanin begin their conversation with a discussion about humanitarian principles and why the humanitarian system needs to be reformed.

Jeevi then shares her experience growing up during the period of civil conflict in Sri Lanka, and then describes her motivations for studying humanitarianism.

Her commitment to studying and researching humanitarianism originates from her recognition that there is a disconnect between theory and practice in how the humanitarian system runs.

The question of motivations is an important one for all who wish to be involved in the humanitarian sector.

Humanitarians do their work for a variety of reasons that range from a sincere altruistic desire to help others to more self-focused reasons including financial benefit, a desire for travel or adventure, to impress others and to feel important or needed.

Often there is a combination of motives – some of which we are probably scarcely aware of ourselves.

It is important to remember that good intentions are never enough. The purpose of humanitarianism is not to meet the needs or desires of the aid worker but to provide life-saving assistance to those experiencing disaster.

This is rather well expressed in this poem by Admiral Ncube, a Zimbabwean aid worker, disenchanted by the ‘aid industry’ he has observed.

Your task

Watch the video for an introduction by Jeevi and Nazanin and read the poem by Admiral Ncube.

After doing so, take some time to reflect.

What are your motivations for learning about humanitarianism or doing humanitarian work? Are some of these in conflict with each other?

Post your response in the comments.

This article is from the free online

Introduction to Humanitarian Aid

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