Affirmative otherness in a humanitarian NGO: Implications for accountability as responsiveness

Susan O'Leary, Tami Dinh, Seraina Frueh

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This study critically reflects on the concept of ’accountability as responsiveness’ by investigating the coresponsiveness of the other within accountability relationships. The research focuses on the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and recent ’localisation’ agendas in the humanitarian sector, which prioritise supporting and empowering local response efforts in crisis-affected areas. Drawing on an affirmative view of the other (Braidotti, 2006a, 2011a, 2013b, 2019, 2021), the study examines how this is manifested in specific
participatory accountability practices. Two such practices within the ICRC, namely ’threats and risk assessments’ and ’mapping the journey of the affected person,’ are explored to demonstrate their role in the epistemic endeavour of understanding the other in a grounded, embodied, and affirmative manner. It is observed that these practices are designed to elicit specific levels and types of co-responsivity from the other. Furthermore, the study reveals how the intention to know the other in a situated and affirmative sense materialised across three main modes of knowing: the transformative experience of ’becoming’ an affected person, the coping mechanisms employed, and the navigation of humanitarian crises. These findings contribute to the literature on accountability as responsiveness by providing specific insights and alternative understandings of responsiveness in accountability relationships. Additionally, the study proposes that accountability practices of this kind can generate specific types of knowledge and facilitate empowerment.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101495
JournalAccounting, Organizations and Society
Early online date29 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 29 Jul 2023

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