From the Rule of Law to the Rule of Code? Predictive Data Analytics and the Changing Contours of UN Humanitarian Response
21 Pages Posted: 2 Jun 2021
Date Written: May 4, 2021
The field of humanitarian aid is undergoing a revolution, but international lawyers have not realized it yet. Thanks to the deployment of predictive data analytics, UN agencies and other humanitarian actors are increasingly able to forecast where and when a crisis will strike, who it will affect, and what needs it will create. These developments enable new forms of anticipatory humanitarian response, which promise to increase efficacy in the mitigation of disasters. However, international lawyers have so far been strikingly silent about the normative implications of this emergent ‘rule of code’. Seeking to fill this gap, this article assesses the impact of data-driven humanitarian response on the contours and practice of international law in its social context. Are predictive data truly capable of portraying neutral factual truths, thus removing the need to make responsible choices about humanitarian aid allocation? Will lawyers be relegated to a subservient position vis-à-vis the legions of digital experts who are swelling the ranks of humanitarian agencies? And, more generally, what does it take to think and do international law in the age of big crisis data?
Keywords: Data Analytics, Humanitarian Response, United Nations, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, International Law, Expert Networks
JEL Classification: K33, I31, H84
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation