Humanitarianism in the 21st Century

With much conflict taking place in our world, there are many whom are in desperate need of a helping hand to get them through such difficult times. Luckily, there are many willing to lend that helping hand by assisting in a numerous of ways whether that’s with monetary donations, shelter, food or even emotional and mental support. We typically refer to those that lend this helping hand as humanitarians… individuals that are defined as someone whom is looking to promote human welfare in the world; with welfare being defined as one’s health, happiness and fortunes. What I would like to discuss is, like with most systems and processes, technology has altered many of the ways in how we conduct business in the 21st century and I believe that humanitarianism is no exception. Many have found ways to incorporate technology to make the work of humanitarianism not only easier but also to reach out to a wider range of individuals that are in need of support. I would like to argue about the implications of technology use in humanitarianism work, to see if it is appropriate for those in the field to incorporate certain types and forms of technology with their work.

I start our conversation by first discussing some of the few ways that Humanitarians are currently using technology with their work. One of the most common methods is use of social media platforms and other communication applications to connect with those that may be on the other side of the globe from them. On one side of this argument, social media has allowed humanitarians to connect with those from afar right from the comfort of their own homes but it raises the question on if we still consider this humanitarian work. As one could argue, that past work of humanitarianism involved a form of human contact that is significantly lost when your only form of communication is via the Internet. One is not able to gauge human emotion or sense human energy from another over the Internet and so how could one truly gauge the authenticity of the interaction online without these connections? Furthermore this idea can also be seen in reverse, as humanitarians may be able to extend their reach and connect to more people than they ever may have been to prior. Yet, the cost is that the connections made are often repetitive and not emotionally relevant of what a migrant, refugee, or other distressed individual may be experiencing.

Yet, although there are some hinders to humanitarianism due to the use of technology we should also take the time to recognize the benefits that technology brings to the field. One of these advancements are the easy and almost instantaneous ability to transfer money to anyone in the world. As those that are migrating from persecution or war from their home countries; studies have found that money can be one of the best resources one can be provided during this time. As food, water, clothing and shelter are the most sought out items for refugees and migrants and applications such as Western Union, Square Cash, Facebook, etc. can completely change someone’s situation in just a matter of seconds. Also, technology has played a major role in authenticating identity of refugees, where this is typically critical for those crossing over, as identity needs to be verified for agencies such as the U.N.H.C.R. to provide certain services that migrants are seeking. This same technology can also aid humanitarians in verifying that those they are connecting with online are who they say they are and that the story or information they provide is valid; thus possibly increasing their chances of receiving additional forms of aid.

Overall, the discussion between humanitarian work and technology incorporation is a very difficult subject. As we can see that there are many benefits to technology adaption in the field but we also find that there are setbacks as well. Again, this post wasn’t meant to necessarily sway anyone a particular way but to bring forward new information on what is lost if individuals continue to adopt technology incorporation with their humanitarian work, which it seems that more people will continue to do. Let’s just remember here… that human is written within the word humanitarianism and that’s something we should never forget!