Humanitarian technologies of trust


What is trust, and how is it established in humanitarian operations? Why do humanitarians consider trust a vital resource in their work? Building on the International Committee of the Red Cross’ response to urban violence and the anthropological literature that conceives trust both as a modern social virtue and a technology of power, I examine the ways in which trust is enacted and practiced in humanitarian settings. While the organisation's legalistic logic has traditionally led to a conceptualisation of trust as the end result of a ‘moral contract’ rooted in the Geneva Conventions and operationalised through ‘confidential dialogue’ and face-to-face interactions, more recent concerns for accountability have surprisingly led to the establishment of technocratic procedures where trustworthiness is achieved through the emptying out of social relations.