The 'humanitarian frontline', development and relief, and religion

This paper examines the emergence of a humanitarian frontline in several operational contexts. Over the last fifteen years and since 2001 in particular, the international aid sector has been confronted with a climate of polarization. With the traditional aid and donor landscape dominated by Western or Western-aligned parties who are sometimes involved in armed conflict too, aid organizations face the impact of the supposed or real instrumentalization of development and relief in a wider security and geopolitical control agenda. At the same time, Western or Western-associated secular development models that are often promoted by traditional aid have either encountered their limits or failure in several parts of the global periphery. The expanded space for religion due to globalization and the social changes that it causes have also expanded the space for faith-based development and relief actors, especially in operational situations that have a large cultural and ideological dimension. This paper focuses on the Islamic world and Islamic faith-based aid, but several factors and trends discussed in it bear relevance for Christian faith-based aid in majority Christian parts of the global periphery too.