POLITICS, HUMANITARIANISM AND
Save the Children’s centenary conference – London School of Economics, 8th & 9th April 2019
Save the Children is one of the oldest of the world’s major humanitarian NGOs. It has a uniquely rich archive, and its compelling history is a rare and precious asset. Save the Children also has access to decades of experience and expertise in the form of current and former aid workers. Yet, despite this, within the organisation relatively little is known of Save the Children’s past.
Anniversaries are a good moment to take stock: to analyse and reflect on the values and politics that led to the founding of a movement, on the extent to which they have changed over time in response to both external and internal factors, and on what this tells us about the movement’s potential future role.
In recent years a growing community of historians has been researching and writing about the history of Save the Children and the humanitarian sector more generally. This conference brought these scholars together with past and present Save the Children staff, as well as others who have witnessed the organisation’s relief operations. In this way it allowed the organisation’s past to be more accessible to the present generation, and safeguarded for the future.
By means of panels examining key moments in Save the Children’s history, and workshops exploring key themes that cut across the different periods, the conference aimed not only to celebrate the organisation’s successes, but also to look critically at its shortcomings. Our approach rested on the assumption that understanding history is as much about looking forward as looking back.