Institutional Amnesia and Humanitarian Disaster Management


  • Dr Alastair Stark University of Queensland, Australia



Institutional amnesia, disaster management, lessons learnt, humanitarian crises


Institutional amnesia is a serious concern for those who plan for, respond to and recover from humanitarian crises. Yet little effort has been made to understand its effects in disaster management generally and humanitarian agencies specifically. Consequently, we have no idea how to reform in ways which can deal with the issue of memory-loss. This paper addresses these concerns by defining institutional amnesia in conceptual and empirical terms, establishing its causes in the humanitarian policy space, ascertaining its effects within and across disasters and, most importantly, setting out a series of recommendations that can help humanitarian agencies address their own amnesia. The central argument is that institutional memory-loss is robbing individuals, organisations and networks of their lesson-learning gains. This is the single biggest reason why memory-loss must be acknowledged and treated as matter of some urgency.


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Author Biography

  • Dr Alastair Stark, University of Queensland, Australia

    School of Political Science and International Studies, University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia.


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How to Cite

“Institutional Amnesia and Humanitarian Disaster Management” (2020) The Humanitarian Leader, p. Working Paper 005, Feb 2020. doi:10.21153/thl2020volno0art1022.