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Viewing humanitarian project closure through the lens of an ethics of the temporary

Lisa Eckenwiler (Department of Philosophy, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia, USA)
Matthew R. Hunt (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation, McGill University, Montréal, Canada)
Jan Joy Louise G. Crismo (Center for Disaster Preparedness, Batangas City, Philippines)
Elyse Conde (1111.11 Foundation, Manila, Philippines)
Shelley-Rose Hyppolite (Faculte de Medecine de l'Universite Laval, Québec, Canada) (Centre Integre Universitaire de Sante et de Service Sociaux, Québec City, Canada)
Mayfourth Luneta (Center for Disaster Preparedness, Batangas City, Philippines)
Isabel Munoz-Beaulieu (Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Rehabilitation, McGill University, Montréal, Canada)
Handreen Mohammed Saeed (Public Health and Preventative Medicine, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)
Lisa Schwartz (Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Canada)

Disaster Prevention and Management

ISSN: 0965-3562

Article publication date: 9 May 2023

Issue publication date: 12 July 2023




In this paper, the authors propose a new lens to examine international humanitarian organizations' responsibilities in the context of project closure, what authors call “an ethics of the temporary”. The authors offer this as an orienting ethical ideal to facilitate the moral imagination of humanitarian planners, practitioners and stakeholders.


The authors drew on recent philosophical work on responsibilities for global justice to analyze an ethical concern inherent to humanitarian practice, the proper scope of responsibility in the context of closure of humanitarian projects.


The ethics of the temporary includes four elements: situating humanitarian action temporally with attention to the past and how it shapes a current crisis and crisis response, focusing attention on anticipating and seeking to mitigate potential harm, promoting sustainability and greater equity going forward and emphasizing inclusive, collaborative approaches. The authors propose a set of questions that can foster discussion and reflection about the scope of humanitarian responsibilities at project closure.

Practical implications

Although the authors' work is primarily conceptual, it has many practical implications for humanitarian policy and practice. It can support critical reflection and offers a process for considering the scope of responsibility at project closure and decisions around how to close a given intervention in a manner that avoids causing harm and advances equity.


Very little work has been done on ethical closure of humanitarian projects. Most literature offers critiques. This essay contributes a new approach to closure, the ethical ideal and practice of an ethics of the temporary.



Lisa Eckenwiler and Matthew R. Hunt are joint first authors.

This work was supported in part through funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.


Eckenwiler, L., Hunt, M.R., Crismo, J.J.L.G., Conde, E., Hyppolite, S.-R., Luneta, M., Munoz-Beaulieu, I., Mohammed Saeed, H. and Schwartz, L. (2023), "Viewing humanitarian project closure through the lens of an ethics of the temporary", Disaster Prevention and Management, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp. 311-322.



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