Constructive deconstruction: making sense of the international humanitarian system

Working and discussion papers
July 2016

The shortcomings of the humanitarian sector are well-rehearsed. The extent to which the same problems in critical areas of humanitarian performance are highlighted again and again leads one to ask why, despite the almost ritualistic self-criticism within the sector and repeated attempts at reform over the years, the basic configuration and incentive structures of the sector remain unchanged.

This HPG Working Paper is intended as a first step in a longer-term project that aims to analyse the global humanitarian sector and, in particular, its suitability to meet the demands of current and future crises. Based on a wide-ranging literature review, the study identifies theoretical and analytical frameworks for understanding the blockages in the sector that impede effective response, and for pointing to potential ways to improve effectiveness in the future.