Dirk Salomons is a special lecturer and senior staff associate at the School of International Public Affairs, Columbia University. In his research as well as in teaching, Salomons focuses on the interaction between policy and management in humanitarian operations. He has a particular interest in the transition from relief to recovery in countries coming out of conflict.

Prior to joining the SIPA faculty in 2002, Salomons served since 1997 as managing partner of the Praxis Group, Ltd., an international management consulting firm based in the USA and Switzerland, where he continued, ultimately in an advisory role, until the end of 2012. Salomons is also a non-resident fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, working mainly on post-conflict stabilization issues.

From 1970 until 1997, Salomons served in a wide range of management, peace building, and policy advisory functions in several organizations of the United Nations system, including FAO, UNDP, UNAIDS, UNOPS, and the UN Secretariat. During these years, he led the Policy Division of the UN’s International Civil Service Commission, presided over the UN’s Joint Appeals Board, monitored elections in Nicaragua, sorted out problems in UNDP field offices, fought to improve the status of women in the UN system, and even represented procurement staff in a major effort to frame them in the so-called “Skylink” affair, with millions of dollars in air support services at stake. His most cherished assignment was that of executive director for the United Nations peacekeeping operation in Mozambique, from 1992 to 1993.  

As a consultant, subsequently, Salomons advised on the restructuring of UNCTAD and of UNFPA, the management of humanitarian mine action in Kosovo and Iraq, the use of “clusters” in the coordination of humanitarian action, funding mechanisms for post-conflict recovery, and broader issues of management in international organizations. Fieldwork for these evaluations and policy studies was largely done in Chad, Sudan, the DR Congo, and West Africa, as well as in the Middle East (Gaza, Jordan) and on the island of Mindanao.

Salomons, a national of the Netherlands, started his career as a literary critic for the Algemeen Handelsblad, and as a translator of Thomas Mann, while working for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  He received a “kandidaats” degree from the University of Amsterdam in 1964, and subsequently obtained his “doctoraal”, in Germanic languages, also at the University of Amsterdam, in 1967.


Recent publications:

“Charity or Charade: The Tragedy of Humanitarianism”, Journal of International Affairs, Summer 2017, Vol. 70, No.2

Le manuel de gestion pour les missions de terrain onusiennes”, with Alice Hecht and Till Papenfuss, International Peace Institute, New York, 2014

“The Perils of Dunantism: Towards Rights-based Humanitarianism”, in: Andrej Zwitter, Christopher Lamont, Hans-Joachim Heintze, Joost Herman (eds), Humanitarian Action: Global, Regional and Domestic Responses to Local Challenges, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2015

 “Good Intentions to Naught: Revisiting the Pathology of Human Resources Management at the United Nations”, in: Dijkzeul, Dennis and Beigbeder, Yves (eds), Rethinking International Organizations: Pathology and Promise, New York, Berghahn Books, 2014

From Relief to Resilience: An Evaluation of UNFPA’s Response to Tropical Storm Sendong, Philippines, 2012”, with Melba Manapol and Antti Hautaniemi, UNFPA, New York, 2013

“Financiering van humanitaire hulp als politieke dwangbuis” (Financing of humanitarian aid as political straightjacket) in: Dijkzeul, Dennis and Herman, Joost (eds), Humanitaire Ruimte: tussen Onpartijdigheid en Politiek [Humanitarian Space: Caught between Politics and Impartiality], Academia Press, Ghent, 2010

”On the far side of conflict: the UN Peacebuilding Commission as an optical illusion”, in Danchin, Peter and Fischer, Horst (eds), United Nations Reform and Collective Security, Cambridge University Press, 2009

“Clusters or Clutter: Structuring Humanitarian Space in Chad” (with Dennis Dijkzeul), in Paul Hoebink (ed) The Netherlands Yearbook on International Cooperation, Van Gorcum Publishers, Assen, 2009

Cluster Approach Evaluation Report, with Adele Harmer, Katherine Haver and Abby Stoddard, Humanitarian Policies Group, Overseas Development Institute, London, 2007 (commissioned by the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee)

Common Funds for Humanitarian Action in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, Monitoring and Evaluation Study, Center on International Cooperation, New York University, 2007, in collaboration with The Humanitarian Policy Group, Overseas Development Institute, UK

Research & Publications

June 2017|Journal of International Affairs|Dirk Salomons

The worst is yet to come. Populism is trumping international solidarity. Nothing less than fundamental reforms can turn the tide: framing humanitarian crises as threats to national security, consolidating the separate humanitarian fiefdoms of the UN system, reorienting the so-called humanitarian values toward human rights, taxing all UN member states for their share to meet the UN's global humanitarian appeals, and linking the humanitarian response efforts to development. It is not just about saving lives, but about giving people their lives back.

October 2012|The Netherlands Yearbook on International Cooperation, Van Gorcum Publishers|Dirk Salomons, Dennis Dijkzeul

This article examines the concept of humanitarian space and provides an empirical example of the concept, describing the humanitarian activities in Chad and in particular how they are coordinated through the cluster approach. In short, the article asks whether the cluster approach has increased and structured the humanitarian space in Chad. For the Netherlands, this question has special relevance as, in the summer of 2008, 73 Dutch marines were deployed to Chad as part of the EUFOR mission.

Moreover, with Darfur and the Central African Republic next door, the extent of humanitarian space in Chad influences and is in turn influenced by the humanitarian crises in these two countries. This article begins by examining what humanitarian space actually means. It then provides a brief background of the context and evolution of the cluster approach, followed by a concise overview of the humanitarian crisis in Chad. Next, it summarizes the main results of an evaluation of the cluster approach conducted by one of the authors in Chad in August 2007. Subsequently, it discusses the future of the approach. The article ends with conclusions on the impact of the cluster approach on humanitarian space in Chad

October 2009|United Nations Reform and Collective Security, Cambridge University Press|Dirk Salomons, Peter G. Danchin, Horst Fischer

In 2004, the Report of the Secretary-General's High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change emphasised the linkages between economic development, security and human rights, and the imperative in the twenty-first century of collective action and cooperation between States. In a world deeply divided by differences of power, wealth, culture and ideology, central questions today in international law and organisation are whether reaffirmation of the concept of collective security and a workable consensus on the means of its realisation are possible. In addressing these questions, this book considers the three key documents in the recent UN reform process: the High-Level Panel report, the Secretary-General's In Larger Freedom report and the 2005 World Summit Outcome document. The chapters examine the responsibilities, commitments, strategies and institutions necessary for collective security to function both in practice and as a normative ideal in international law and relations between state and non-state actors alike.

October 2009|Northwestern University Conference on Human Rights|Dirk Salomons

Backing Out of a Dead End Street: Humanitarian Exit Strategies

October 2008|Humanitarian Space: Humanitarian Action Caught between Politics and Impartiality, BOOM Publishers|Dirk Salomons
October 2008|United Nations Reform and the New Collective Security|Dirk Salomons
October 2007|Center on International Cooperation, New York University|Dirk Salomons, Abby Stoddard, Katherine Haver, Adele Harmer

This briefing paper describes the present state of humanitarian funding—focusing on the global picture, key trends and recognized shortcomings. While it includes discussion of new financing mechanisms, such as the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and Common Humanitarian Funds, these are not the primary focus of the paper. Combined these tools account for perhaps 10 percent of official humanitarian aid. This paper, by contrast, is concerned with the totality of humanitarian financing, and how the many different instruments and mechanisms used to disburse these funds interact with each other.

The paper raises a number of questions that are designed to assist the humanitarian community in identifying changes which will take the humanitarian funding system closer to its assumed goal: an ability to fund identified global humanitarian needs in an equitable, timely and efficient manner. 

October 2007|Overseas Development Institute (commissioned by the UN Inter-Agency Standing Committee)|Dirk Salomons, Adele Harmer, Katherine Haver , Abby Stoddard, Humanitarian Policies Group

The cluster approach was introduced as a means to strengthen predictability, response capacity, coordination and accountability by strengthening partnerships in key sectors of humanitarian response, and by formalising the lead role of particular agencies/organisations in each of these sectors. At the time of writing, the approach has been applied in eight chronic humanitarian crises and six sudden-onset emergencies. The Inter-agency Standing Committee (IASC), which initiated the cluster approach in December 2005, and commissioned this evaluation to determine whether, two years later, the approach has led to any measurable improvements in the capacity, coverage and predictability of humanitarian response.