HPG Integrated Programme 2019–2021: inclusivity and invisibility in humanitarian action

April 2019 to March 2021

‘Leaving no one behind’ has become a core development priority since the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. While the idea of addressing suffering and need wherever it exists is enshrined in humanitarian principles of humanity and impartiality, genuinely needs-based assistance and protection to those suffering from the effects of conflict and disasters has eluded the humanitarian sector for decades.

We are still either failing to see or choosing to neglect specific categories of need, or simply cannot adapt our ways of thinking and working to accommodate differentiated needs and vulnerabilities. As a result, people, even whole communities, are undercounted and underserved, and their needs misunderstood or overlooked.

In this Integrated Programme, we critically analyse the ability of the humanitarian sector to deliver on its stated commitment to impartiality. We focus on the key obstacles to – and enablers of – a more inclusive aid system, analysing why certain groups or individuals are excluded from assistance; exploring the relationships between changing gender norms and assistance and vulnerability in displacement; exploring the emerging impacts of new technology in improving or undermining the system’s ability to address those furthest behind; and assessing historical and contemporary practices of humanitarian advocacy and protection on behalf of those most at risk in conflict.

Falling through the cracks: inclusion and exclusion in humanitarian action

The first project examines the contextual and systemic factors dictating how ‘vulnerability’ is constructed and operationalised in humanitarian assistance, why certain categories of vulnerability are consistently privileged over others and why humanitarian agencies operating in emergencies find it difficult to both understand how needs differ across groups and identities, and to incorporate those differences into their programming.

How gender roles change in displacement

The second project will explore how gender norms shift in situations of displacement and the implications of these changes for humanitarian work, including what gender-aware emergency interventions should look like.

The humanitarian ‘digital divide’: understanding the impact of technology on crisis response

Building on previous HPG research on humanitarian reform and ongoing work on digital technology, data, blockchain, cash transfers and financing, our third project assesses the impact of new technology-driven models of humanitarian action on inclusion and coverage.

Advocating for humanity: opportunities for improving protection outcomes in conflict

The final project proposed here looks at current practice in protection advocacy, and examines the role and evolution of humanitarian organisations’ engagement with parties to conflicts and other groups with responsibility for protecting civilians caught up in violence and war. The central proposition is that humanitarian organisations are often not strategic in their approach to protection advocacy, may lack the appropriate skills or resources and may be deprioritising such work in their operations.