Exposing Power and Privilige in Times of Crisis, 26-30 October 2020

When we titled the 2019 Humanitarian Congress Berlin – A Perfect Storm – we did not expect that The Perfect Storm was in fact still ahead of us. Early in 2020, we took the difficult decision that we would not be able to run the HCB as planned due to the global Covid19 outbreak. Therefore, we took a bold step and launched our first-ever virtual event, which took place over the course of the last week in October (26/10-30/10). The programme revolved around the theme “Exposing Power & Privilege in Times of Crisis”. The congress addressed power imbalances in the humanitarian sector and the impact of social inequalities on the global response to crises. One of the key issues discussed was racism and white privilege in the humanitarian sector, and how the sector can take steps towards decolonizing humanitarianism.

The Humanitarian Congress Berlin had the support of leading organizations, including Oxfam and Greenpeace, who served as official partners. The congress also joined forces with The New Humanitarian, as an official Media Partner. The New Humanitarian puts quality, independent journalism at the service of the millions of people affected by humanitarian crises around the world. They report from the heart of conflicts and disasters to inform prevention and response. The virtual event was a great success, providing a platform for critical discussions and debates that were much needed in 2020, as humanitarian actors were facing multiple challenges in responding to the global Covid19 outbreak in addition to balancing the response to pre-existing humanitarian crises.

Furthermore, we addressed emerging issues such as the fight against the spread of misinformation and the private sector’s profiteering on drugs, tests, and vaccines used for the Covid19 pandemic. We also discussed how the current pandemic has redefined vulnerability, and we talked about issues such as gender-based violence. In addition, we followed up the conversation from the previous event and discussed the humanitarian consequences of climate change. This included sessions on preparing for a 1-4 degree world, the role of the climate crisis in relation to urbanisation and of course, how address a health and a climate crisis simultaneously. These discussions were of great importance, given the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters worldwide, as well as the long-term effects of climate change.

The HCB continues to be a vital forum for the humanitarian sector, bringing together experts from around the world. You can find the complete programme below. We have also selected some highlights for you. Furthermore, all recordings are available on our Youtube channel.

The illustration was created by Eva Feuchter.


Many of the issues that we seek to address in humanitarian aid and development are closely linked to colonial history. Yet, the structure of our sector replicates colonial structures.”

Lauren Reese, International development and peacebuilding specialist, DAI center for secure and stable state

“Stay safe, stay at home – And we knew that home is not neccessarily safe for many women. And so we thought, well it’s obvious that women’s voices weren’t considered and women’s perspectives weren’t taken on board in this kind of messaging.”

Lina Abirafeh, Executive Director, The Arab Institute for Women

“Quando nós, os povos indígenas no Brasil, somos atingidos de alguma maneira, […] não atinge só nós, mas influencia o clima do mundo” // “If we, the indigenous communties in Brazil, are affected in some way, […] it affects not only us, but influences the global climate.”

Sônia Guajajara, Activist
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