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Complex Humanitarian Crises in Uncertain Times: The Challenge for the European Union Humanitarian Aid Policy

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Humanitarian crises have become increasingly complex in their management as they are characterized by high uncertainty in their origin, nature, and geographical diffusion, thus representing ambiguous threats to the national and international security environment. Setting up precautionary or coordinated policies with other states to manage such crises has become increasingly crucial, yet challenging. This paper contributes to the debate about the complexity of state intervention in humanitarian crises by examining the institutional framework of European Union (EU) humanitarian aid policy. EU member states can either decide to intervene independently from or in collaboration with the EU. This article argues that two characteristics of crises influence the likelihood of intervention within the EU framework as opposed to unilateral action: the diffusion and urgency of the crisis. Diffusion concerns the tendency of a crisis to become widespread over national boundaries, while urgency puts temporal pressure on the structures of crisis response. Using a quantitative approach, the article's findings corroborate its hypotheses by showing a higher inclination of EU member states to delegate to the EU when the crisis is widespread and requires an urgent intervention. Partial delegation is preferred when the crisis is urgent, yet circumscribed.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2017

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  • The St Antony's International Review (STAIR) is the only peer-reviewed journal of international affairs at the University of Oxford. Set up by graduate students of St Antony's College in 2005, the Review has carved out a distinctive niche as a cross-disciplinary outlet for research on the most pressing contemporary global issues, providing a forum in which emerging scholars can publish their work alongside established academics and policymakers. Past contributors include Robert O. Keohane, James N. Rosenau, and Alfred Stepan.
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