Dignity in displacement: from rhetoric to reality

April 2017 to March 2019

Dignity is a key concept in humanitarian action. It is referred to frequently as an outcome in humanitarian documents across all programmes and sectors, and featured in the United Nations Secretary-General’s Report for the World Humanitarian Summit which stated that ‘preserving the humanity and dignity of affected people in all circumstances must drive our individual and collective action’.

However, there is a dearth of literature analysing whether humanitarian interventions really do uphold and further – or indeed detract from – the dignity of crisis-affected people in displacement. Despite international norms and agreements, there are various cases where displaced people’s dignity has clearly been undermined, from the housing of refugees in camps to the conditions faced by refugees arriving in Europe.

This project aims to investigate if, and in what ways, dignity has historically been promoted in responses to displacement. It will explore how responses have differed between international and local responders, and showcase different examples of the ways dignity has been achieved or not in displacement contexts to draw out key lessons from both. 

To do this, this project considers the following questions:

  • How has the concept of dignity been understood within the humanitarian sector?
  • How far, and in what ways, have international responses to displacement promoted dignity during programme implementation?
  • How far, and in what ways, have locally-led responses to displacement promoted dignity during programme implementation?
  • What are the implications of the findings of this study for programme design and implementation?

For more information about the project, see the HPG Integrated Programme 2017-19 proposal.


Dignity and humanitarian action in displacement

Research reports and studies | March 2019 | Irina Mosel and Kerrie Holloway
This paper explores dignity in humanitarian response, using evidence from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Colombia, Lebanon, the Philippines and South Sudan.

Dignity and displaced Syrians in Lebanon

Working and discussion papers | November 2018 | Francesca Grandi, Kholoud Mansour and Kerrie Holloway
This case study aims better understand what Syrians mean by their own dignity and how they understand it in terms of their displacement to Lebanon.

Dignity and the displaced Rohingya in Bangladesh

Working and discussion papers | August 2018 | Kerrie Holloway and Lilianne Fan
This case study explores how Rohingya refugees perceive dignity and whether they believe the humanitarian response in Bangladesh is upholding their dignity