The worst is yet to come. Populism is trumping international solidarity. Nothing less than fundamental reforms can turn the tide: framing humanitarian crises as threats to national security, consolidating the separate humanitarian fiefdoms of the UN system, reorienting the so-called humanitarian values toward human rights, taxing all UN member states for their share to meet the UN's global humanitarian appeals, and linking the humanitarian response efforts to development. It is not just about saving lives, but about giving people their lives back.
Dirk Salomons is the director of the Humanitarian Policy Track at the School of International Public Affairs, Columbia University. In his research as well as in teaching, Salomons focuses on the interaction between policy and management in humanitarian operations. He has a particular interest in the transition from relief to recovery in countries coming out of conflict.
Prior to joining the SIPA faculty in 2002, Salomons served since 1997 as managing partner of the Praxis Group, Ltd., an international management consulting firm based in the USA and Switzerland, where he continued, ultimately in an advisory role, until the end of 2012. Salomons is also a non-resident fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, working mainly on post-conflict stabilization issues.
From 1970 until 1997, Salomons served in a wide range of management, peace building, and policy advisory functions in several organizations of the United Nations system, including FAO, UNDP, UNAIDS, UNOPS, and the UN Secretariat. During these years, he led the Policy Division of the UN’s International Civil Service Commission, presided over the UN’s Joint Appeals Board, monitored elections in Nicaragua, sorted out problems in UNDP field offices, fought to improve the status of women in the UN system, and even represented procurement staff in a major effort to frame them in the so-called “Skylink” affair, with millions of dollars in air support services at stake. His most cherished assignment was that of executive director for the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Mozambique, from 1992 to 1993.
As a consultant, subsequently, Salomons advised on the restructuring of UNCTAD and of UNFPA, the management of humanitarian mine action in Kosovo and Iraq, the use of “clusters” in the coordination of humanitarian action, funding mechanisms for post-conflict recovery, and broader issues of management in international organizations. Fieldwork for these evaluations and policy studies was largely done in Chad, Sudan, the DR Congo, and West Africa, as well as in the Middle East (Gaza, Jordan) and on the island of Mindanao.
Salomons, a national of the Netherlands, started his career as a literary critic for the Algemeen Handelsblad, and as a translator of Thomas Mann, while working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He received a “kandidaats” degree from the University of Amsterdam in 1964, and subsequently obtained his “doctoraal”, in Germanic languages, also at the University of Amsterdam, in 1967.
“Charity or Charade: The Tragedy of Humanitarianism”, Journal of International Affairs, Summer 2017, Vol. 70, No.2
Le manuel de gestion pour les missions de terrain onusiennes”, with Alice Hecht and Till Papenfuss, International Peace Institute, New York, 2014
“The Perils of Dunantism: Towards Rights-based Humanitarianism”, in: Andrej Zwitter, Christopher Lamont, Hans-Joachim Heintze, Joost Herman (eds), Humanitarian Action: Global, Regional and Domestic Responses to Local Challenges, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2015
“Good Intentions to Naught: Revisiting the Pathology of Human Resources Management at the United Nations”, in: Dijkzeul, Dennis and Beigbeder, Yves (eds), Rethinking International Organizations: Pathology and Promise, New York, Berghahn Books, 2014
From Relief to Resilience: An Evaluation of UNFPA’s Response to Tropical Storm Sendong, Philippines, 2012”, with Melba Manapol and Antti Hautaniemi, UNFPA, New York, 2013
“Financiering van humanitaire hulp als politieke dwangbuis” (Financing of humanitarian aid as political straightjacket) in: Dijkzeul, Dennis and Herman, Joost (eds), Humanitaire Ruimte: tussen Onpartijdigheid en Politiek [Humanitarian Space: Caught between Politics and Impartiality], Academia Press, Ghent, 2010
”On the far side of conflict: the UN Peacebuilding Commission as an optical illusion”, in Danchin, Peter and Fischer, Horst (eds), United Nations Reform and Collective Security, Cambridge University Press, 2009
“Clusters or Clutter: Structuring Humanitarian Space in Chad” (with Dennis Dijkzeul), in Paul Hoebink (ed) The Netherlands Yearbook on International Cooperation, Van Gorcum Publishers, Assen, 2009
Cluster Approach Evaluation Report, with Adele Harmer, Katherine Haver and Abby Stoddard, Humanitarian Policies Group, Overseas Development Institute, London, 2007 (commissioned by the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee)
Common Funds for Humanitarian Action in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Monitoring and Evaluation Study, Center on International Cooperation, New York University, 2007, in collaboration with The Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute, UK