Ethnography of the "humanitarian bureaucracy" of the Early Warning Department in Ethiopia
Paper short abstract:
The presentation describes the combined practices of governmental and humanitarian agents to assess food aid needs in Ethiopia. In a historical continuity of extroversion of aid by the State, it shows how practical norms overhaul humanitarian standards according to informal rules of local bureaucracy.
Paper long abstract:
The presentation refers to an ethnography of the bureaucratic practices of calculation of international food aid in Ethiopia. It is based on empirical surveys conducted between 2002 and 2004 on ethiopian teams responsible for assessing food security. Composed of staff of the Early Warning Department and humanitarian organizations, the teams co-produce practical norms that lead to a mixed "bureaucratic-humanitarian" register. Structured by an institutional routine, they must bring data consistent with the requirements of international donors. The figures are empirically produced and iteratively negociated at each hierarchical level. All in all, the humanitarian standards are melted into the informal register of the functionning of the bureaucracy, that is partially merged with the ruling party and underpinned by the issue of control of humanitarian aid. First, we remind how, in a context of chronic food crises, the Ethiopian State remains dependent on international aid while having a strong capital of negociation with international donors. Then, by placing us in the historical continuity of the formation of the modern Ethiopian State, we explain how the strategies of extroversion of external aid include a "mise en scène" of technical standards. Finally, we detail the routine and practical norms of the exercice of the teams confined in a bureaucratic space : the centrality of the written report and numbers, the empiricism of assessment methods and formatting of « adequate » figure, and, the tactics of negotiation and adjustement of the data with the internal hierarchy and the " kadres" of the ruling party.
The anthropology of public services and bureaucracies