On the Right Track? Reasserting the Priorities of Humanitarian Action

Over 2016, HERE aimed to provide purpose and direction to the increasingly broad agenda of humanitarian action. The reflections in this paper are grounded in desk research, interviews with former high level humanitarian officials, and a set of expert working meetings. In a detailed analysis of the three priority areas of principles, protection, and accountability, two conditions have stood out as paramount for more effective humanitarian action. First, respect for the law and previous policy commitments. Second, principled, accountable delivery of humanitarian assistance and protection. The primary target – ending and preventing crisis in the first place – is largely beyond the control of sole humanitarians. The secondary target, one manageable within the sector, is mounting a better response to it. The question is not whether or not ‘the system’ is broken, but how it is broken, and how it can better improve the lives of people in today’s crises, particularly in situations of armed conflict where the most urgent needs are found.

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HERE’s mission is to contribute to improving the quality and effectiveness of humanitarian action from a principled perspective. Engaged in a continued dialogue with humanitarian partners, HERE produces commissioned reviews and self-initiated studies, and aims to foster meaningful exchange in the humanitarian community.

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