Managing the humanitarian micro-space: The practices of relief access in Syria

Lisa Dorith Kool, Jan Pospisil, Roanne van Voorst

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5 Citations (Scopus)
73 Downloads (Pure)


The delivery of humanitarian aid remains one of the main challenges in contemporary armed conflict. The legal, political and physical construction of a sustained and respected humanitarian space, in which such aid delivery can occur, is a fragile operation. Humanitarian spaces increasingly appear fragmented and localised. They are re-negotiated continuously, either as part of subnational and local truces and peace or cooperation agreements or through ad hoc bargaining between humanitarians and armed actors. Based on a comparison of how relief efforts are negotiated in Syria, this article argues that humanitarian space is not shrinking, as is commonly assumed, but rather is being reconfigured into humanitarian micro-spaces. Such micro-spaces are fluid, dynamic and overlapping arenas of relief, constantly challenged, and morphed by different actors. Working in humanitarian micro-spaces requires continuous political involvement and decision-making, which presents a substantial challenge for humanitarian organisations.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1489-1506
Number of pages18
JournalThird World Quarterly
Issue number7
Early online date29 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in [Third World Quarterly]. [Kool, LD, Pospisil, J & van Voorst, R 2021, 'Managing the humanitarian micro-space: The practices of relief access in Syria', Third World Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 7, pp. 1489-1506].

It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)


  • humanitarian intervention
  • disaster management
  • Conflict and reconstruction
  • Conflict resolution
  • peacebuidling

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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