Aid under fire: people, principles and practices of humanitarian aid in Angola


Humanitarian aid prides itself for delivering principled aid that is needs-based, neutral and independent. These principles, defined by the Red Cross and subscribed to by 300 agencies around the world, are meant to forge the trust needed to get access to people in need while protecting the safety of the aid workers. However, numerous other actors too provide aid or otherwise intervene in conflict situations. This is particularly clear in the country of Angola that has known conflict since 1961. Different external actors have intervened in the country for a diversity of motivations. The question is what difference it has made whether aid was provided by principled humanitarians or by other parties? How do humanitarians secure their status as neutral organisations and is their aid really more need-based?
Research into these questions is highly relevant to current discussions on humanitarian aid. After having ministered to the survival of countless people in every major crisis since Henri Dunant founded the Red Cross in 1859, humanitarian aid itself has recently come under fire. Rapid changes in the field of intervention, devastating evaluations, the multiplication of humanitarian actors, and the eroding legitimacy of aid have thrown the sector in a crisis of identity (what is humanitarianism today?) and a crisis of legitimacy (who are trustworthy humanitarians?).
The research focuses on the humanitarian complex through studying everyday practices of policy and decision making and by following programmes at the interfaces of intervention. The core of the research consists of two PhD projects that focus on the impact of aid on both livelihoods and rural institutions in Angola, and a multi-sited ethnography on the understanding, motivations and practices of major international stakeholders in the Angola conflict.


Book or monography

  • D. J. M. Hilhorst(2013): Disaster, Conflict and Society in Crisis pp. 284 , London and New York


  • Beoogd: proefschrift 2
  • Beoogd: proefschrift 1
  • H. van Dijkhorst(2011): Rural realities between crisis and normality , Wageningen  December 6, 2011
  • M. Marcelino Serrano(2012): Strengthening institutions or institutionalising weaknesses  January 30, 2012

Chapter in book

  • U. Fernando(2006): pp. 145 - 163
  • (2007):
  • M. Helmer(2007):
  • T. Tvedt, P. Opoku-Mensah, D.J.M. Hilhorst, D. Lewis(2007): Reconceptualising NGOs and their roles in development pp. 297 - 325 , Aalborg
  • D.J.M. Hilhorst, P. Hoebink(2007): The Netherlands yearbook on international cooperation pp. 45 - 54 , Assen
  • (2007):
  • D.J.M. Hilhorst(2008):
  • D.J.M. Hilhorst(2008): Brokering a revolution pp. 188 - 232 , Manilla, Philippines
  • D.J.M. Hilhorst, S.J.H. Rietjens, M.T.I.B. Bollen(2008): Managing civil-military cooperation pp. 111 - 121 , Surrey
  • M. Marcelino Serrano(2009): pp. 63 - 76
  • H. van Dijkhorst, D. J. M. Hilhorst(2013): Disaster, Conflict and Society in Crisis pp. 241 - 257 , lon
  • D. J. M. Hilhorst, D. J. M. Hilhorst, G. Andriessen, L. Kemkens, L. Weijers(2013): Disaster, Conflict and Society in Crisis pp. 258 - 274 , London and New York
  • M. Serrano, D. J. M. Hilhorst(2013): Disaster, Conflict and Society in Crisis pp. 149 - 166 , London and New York
  • D. J. M. Hilhorst, D. J. M. Hilhorst(2013): Disaster, conflict and society in crisis. pp. 1 - 15 , London and New York

Scientific article

  • H. van Dijkshorst, D. Hilhorst(2006): Reviewing the World Development and Change pp. 1435 - 1443
  • D. Hilhorst, M. Helmer(2006): Climate change and natural disasters Disasters pp. 1
  • D.J.M. Hilhorst, U. Fernando(2006): Everyday practices of humanitarian aid Development in practice pp. 292 - 302
  • U. Fernando, D. Hilhorst(2006): Everyday practices of humanitarian aid: Tsunami response in Sri Lanka Development in Practice pp. 292 - 302
  • D.J.M. Hilhorst(2007): Overleven of samenleven? Realiteiten van humanitaire hulp en wederopbous Vrede en veiligheid: tijdschrift voor Internationale vraagstukken pp. 141 - 160
  • D.J.M. Hilhorst(2007): Saveing Lives or saving societies? Realities of relief and reconstruction
  • D.J.M. Hilhorst(2007): Overleven of samenleven? Realiteiten van humanitaire hulp en wederopbouw Vrede en Veiligheid: tijdschrift voor internationale vraagstukken pp. 141 - 160
  • D.J.M. Hilhorst(2007): Overleven of samenleven? Vrede en Veiligheid: tijdschrift voor internationale vraagstukken pp. 141 - 160
  • B. Jansen, D.J.M. Hilhorst(2010): Humanitarian space as arena Development and Change pp. 1117 - 1139
  • I. Christoplos, D.J.M. Hilhorst, G. van der Haar(2010): Reconstruction 'from below' Third World Quarterly pp. 1107 - 1124
  • J. Herman, D. Dijkzeul, D.J.M. Hilhorst(2010): Social Dynamics of Humanitarian Action Disasters pp. S127 - S129
  • D.J.M. Hilhorst, M.M. Serrano(2010): The humanitarian arena in Angola 1975-2008 Disasters pp. S 183 - S 201

Professional publication

  • D. Hilhorst(2004): Indigenous Identity, Conflict and Conflict Resolution

Publications for the general public

  • (2009): International Conference book and report launch: Southern Africa: Civil society, politics, development and donor strategies
  • D. Hilhorst(2009): General Secretary of International Humanitarian Studies Assocation
  • D. Hilhorst(2009): Chair World Conference of Humanitarian Studies
  • H.K. van Dijkhorst(2011): Rural Realities between Crisis and Normality


Project number


Main applicant

Prof. dr. ir. D.J.M. Hilhorst

Affiliated with

Erasmus Universiteit Rotterdam, International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), International Relations and Development Programme

Team members

Dr. H.K. van Dijkhorst, Prof. dr. ir. D.J.M. Hilhorst, Dr. M. Marcelino Serrano


15/02/2006 to 05/09/2011