Humanitarian Action

Humanitarian action is about saving lives and alleviating suffering caused by conflict and natural disasters. Over the past 150 years, a well-defined framework for international humanitarianism has emerged. International humanitarian and human rights law provide the legal basis for humanitarian responses, while standards, principles, and coordination platforms guide humanitarian practice. Over time, more and more donors, NGOs, and individuals have added their support alongside the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, UN agencies, and governments. This has expanded the size and reach of humanitarianism.

With climate change and increasing conflicts, the need for assistance continues to grow. At the same time, it has become more common for governments and armed groups to question the legitimacy of humanitarians, and to try to control who provides and receives aid. In addition, new humanitarian actors are challenging existing principles and reshuffling the “rules of the game.”

In short, humanitarianism today is in search of a new vision. We support this search by conducting research, evaluating humanitarian programs and approaches, and providing input for policy debates.

Funding & Clients

Our funders and clients include: The Danish Refugee Council (DRC), the European Commission Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (DG ECHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the German Federal Foreign Office (AA), the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA), the UK Department for International Development (DFID), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Monitoring aid in insecure environments

In contexts where humanitarian organizations and communities are exposed to high insecurity, it is extremely challenging not only to deliver assistance, but also to assess its reach and effectiveness. The Secure Access in Volatile Environments (SAVE) research program aimed to improve monitoring of aid in such contexts. As part of this program, we have analyzed different strategies for monitoring aid in collaboration with 18 partner aid organizations in Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia and South Sudan. We found that current monitoring systems prioritize accountability to donors rather than to the people receiving aid. Crisis-affected communities rightfully demand more direct communication and participation in programming; something that aid agencies still struggle to deliver.

Where access for own staff is limited, Third-Party Monitoring can provide a valuable layer of verification, but we argue it should not replace implementing organizations’ own monitoring.

Based on our review of hundreds of pilots and applications, we are convinced that technology has great potential to enhance monitoring, but that serious risks remain neglected. The SAVE toolkit on technologies for monitoring provides a menu of options and suggests how to avoid potential harm.

Overall, we argue for more targeted and strategic monitoring of aid in insecure contexts, to avoid creating unnecessary layers at agency, cluster, consortium, donor and country levels. A briefing note with a summary of all findings is available here, or visit SAVEresearch.net for more detailed findings.

Featured Publications

Report

Independent Grand Bargain Report

by Julia Steets, András Derzsi-Horváth, Lotte Ruppert
GPPi

Policy Paper

Cash Coordination in Humanitarian Contexts

by Julia Steets, Lotte Ruppert
GPPi

Report

Harmonizing Donor Reporting

by Erica Gaston
GPPi

Commentary

Western Populism Is a Fundamental Threat to the Humanitarian System

by András Derzsi-Horváth
The Guardian

Report

Technologies for Monitoring in Insecure Environments

by Rahel Dette, Julia Steets, Elias Sagmeister
SAVE

Report

The Use of Third-Party Monitoring in Insecure Contexts

by Elias Sagmeister, Julia Steets
SAVE

Report

Listening to Communities in Insecure Environments

by Lotte Ruppert, Elias Sagmeister, Julia Steets
SAVE

Commentary

Full Accountability to Affected People Cannot Possibly Be Bad – Or Can It?

by Lotte Ruppert, Andrea Binder
CHS Alliance

Commentary

We Need Less Paperwork and More Aid in Humanitarian Work

by Julia Steets, András Derzsi-Horváth
The Guardian

Report

Drivers and Inhibitors of Change in the Humanitarian System

by Julia Steets, Andrea Binder, András Derzsi-Horváth, Susanna Krüger, Lotte Ruppert
GPPi