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10 ways to make humanitarian efforts complement development

By Anna Scott
Source:  Global Development Professionals Network

From consulting local decision makers to using early recovery strategies, experts offer their advice on how groups should co-ordinate best following a crisis

Maria Kiani, senior quality and accountability adviser, Hap International, Geneva, Switzerland. @hapint

Humanitarian and development groups should co-ordinate more:There is a disconnect between decision makers for development and humanitarian groups. For example, development organisations and even local partners rarely sit, or aren't necessarily active, in OCHA cluster meetings, a forum where humanitarian aid is co-ordinated. UNDP and early recovery work only kick in when emergency is officially declared to be over.

Labelling different crisis 'stages' is reductionist and unhelpful: The categorised phases of 'relief', 'recovery' and 'development' do not necessarily reflect realities on the ground. While the humanitarian sector moves from one phase of its response to another, the realities and needs of the affected communities shift and change far more rapidly.

Volker Hauck, head of programme, European Center for Development Policy Management, Maastricht, The Netherlands. @ECDPM

Putting the right people in place will bridge the humanitarian/development divide: In humanitarian crises, the urgency often requires having people on the ground with a military background, because they know how to set up relief systems with very little means within a very short time. While they are useful, not many have a wider cultural perspective and very few involve local leaders, both of which are important to help transition into long-term development. Conflicts are often associated with situations of low development, reinforcing the risks of doing things wrong when providing assistance from the outside.

Sandra Aviles, senior officer of humanitarian affairs and programme development, FAO, Geneva, Switzerland. @FAOnews

Funding can make or break project co-ordination: The way funding is put towards crises can affect whether humanitarian relief and development work can happen simultaneously. Funders should support hybrid missions and adopt a twin approach to financing in order to address acute humanitarian needs and root causes of crises, and facilitate longer term development.

Anthony Zwi, professor of global health and development, UNSW Australia, Sydney, Australia. @HEARDatUNSW

Humanitarian and development work can overlap: Humanitarian and development work blend into one another and may continue to overlap for some time, especially in different parts of affected countries. The aim should be that development processes and practitioners become more important while humanitarian interventions, actors and organisations become less necessary, but both may be operating in parallel for some time where both needs are present.

In development planning, context is key: Development activities typically aim to support civil society, institutions and the state, but doing so in situations where the state is part of the problem creates much more complexity. The context and role of the range of actors operating in those environments needs to be understood and context-appropriate responses developed.


The new deal for engagement with fragile states and the G7+ was established by 17 post-conflict and fragile countries, seeking to shape how the international community can best assist their nation-building objectives.

André Heller Pérache, head of programmes unit, MSF UK, London, UK. @MSF_uk

Neutrality is key in conflict situations: In some humanitarian crises, like natural disasters, development groups and state actors should certainly work together for long-term benefits. But in conflict situations, development groups must keep a safe distance from the state to avoid compromising the neutrality required for humanitarian work. Above all, aid efforts must not be seen as being partisan in the eyes of people needing assistance.

Alexander Carnwath, senior humanitarian policy and advocacy officer, Christian Aid, London, UK. @christian_aid

Embed recovery strategies as early as possible: A long term perspective should be there from the very start of a humanitarian programme. For example, in a food crisis, don't just supply pastoralist communities with food to meet immediate needs—employ them in cash for work programmes, help them to restore water facilities or give them livestock feed to help protect their assets. We should strive for a more integrated approach to humanitarian work than a programme that simply grinds remorselessly through its cycles.

Ignacia Ossul, executive director, Techo, London, UK. @ignaciaossul

Governments shouldn't depend on NGOs for humanitarian responses: NGOs and civil society can play a crucial role in immediate response to humanitarian crises. But this shouldn't mean that state delegates their responsibilities to NGOs. Where states have a weak government, NGOs should help to promote and build capacities, without taking their role.

subjects Global Partnership | Multilateral Aid | Emergencies, Crises, Conflicts and Disasters | Development | Humanitarian Aid

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