Why Historians Can Be Valuable Members of the Humanitarian Family

ICRC in Geneva

Cédric Cotter
Law and Policy researcher, ICRC

Cross-posted from Humanitarianism & Human Rights

When I was a young student in history and philosophy at the University of Geneva, I had never thought that one day I may work for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Yet it happened. While I was preparing my Masters thesis, the protection division at the ICRC was looking for a young historian to carry out a research in their archives. I got hired for a one-year traineeship contract, which was extended by two shorter terms within the relations with the arms carriers unit and at the archives division. This experience was a turning point in my career. As a consequence, I decided to write my PhD dissertation on the history of the ICRC, which was part of a research project dedicated to Switzerland during the First World War. I analyzed the interactions between humanitarian action and neutrality at that time.

In July 2015, during my research, I got the chance to participate in the very first Global Humanitarian Research Academy. This academy played a very positive role for me, as it was an occasion to meet other researchers working on the history of humanitarian action. Our various talks and debates made me think about other practices and ways of studying the past of humanitarian organizations. We shared different perspectives, some close and some more distant from mine, however all of them very interesting and challenging. It also gave me the opportunity to posit my hypotheses and research results to more advanced scholars. They gave good advice that I then used during the writing process of my dissertation. Meeting others PhD students was useful in terms of networking, of course. Beyond that, the excellent atmosphere created during the academy allowed us to maintain amicable contacts, as well. Still today, I regularly exchange with my fellows. At the end, this experience was really rewarding. Continue reading “Why Historians Can Be Valuable Members of the Humanitarian Family”