Business–humanitarian partnerships: processes of normative legitimation


There has been a surge of business–humanitarian partnerships (BHPs) in the contemporary era of globalization and rebalancing of power between states and non-state actors. The rationale of BHPs rests both on ethical and effectiveness principles. The article therefore argues for a broad normative approach drawing on three general sources of legitimacy: procedures, relative effectiveness, and the fit of new partnership governance with moral standards that pertain to the relevant policy arena. We focus on the partnership initiatives of UNICEF and the International Movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent with the aim of assessing how their normative legitimation has been pursued. Our study reveals that while humanitarian agencies have adopted clear principles and procedures to safeguard the normative integrity and procedural legitimacy of partnerships with for-profit entities, the agencies find it much more difficult to assess and credibly communicate the outcome and comparative worth of such collaboration.