Challenging environments: Danger, resilience and the aid industry.


Despite the widespread perception of danger, the aid industry continues to expand within challenging political environments. As a way of reducing risk, this expansion has been accompanied by the ‘bunkerization’ of international aid workers. While this development is largely viewed by the industry as an unfortunate response to a decline in external security, a more holistic approach is used here to explain the consequent paradox of liberal interventionism: an expansion that is simultaneously a remoteness of international aid workers from the societies in which they operate. The demise of modernist legal, moral and political constraints, together with a decline in the political patronage that aid agencies enjoy, has been important in shaping the new risk terrain. At the same time, these changes embody a profound change in the way contingency is approached. Earlier modernist forms of protection have been replaced by postmodernist calls for resilience and the acceptance of risk as an opportunity for enterprise and reinvention. Within the aid industry, however, field- security training represents a countervailing attempt to govern aid workers through anxiety. Resilience, in the form of ‘care of the self’ techniques, becomes a therapeutic response to the fears induced in this way. Viewed from this perspective, apart from reducing risk, the bunker has important therapeutic functions in a world that aid workers no longer understand or feel safe in.


Duffield, M. Challenging environments: Danger, resilience and the aid industry. Security Dialogue (2012) 43 (5) 475-492. [DOI: 10.1177/0967010612457975]

Challenging environments: Danger, resilience and the aid industry.

Published 1 January 2012