Markets in crises: the implications for humanitarian action

Research reports and studies
August 2017

In almost all societies today, including those in crisis, markets are a key determinant of household livelihoods and resilience. Market outcomes are a significant determinant of livelihood outcomes, and so understanding how crises affect markets and market relations is critical. However, humanitarian actors are thinking about markets mainly because of their instrumental use to aid, rather than as institutions critical to crisis-affected populations in and of themselves. 

This report collates findings across three case studies on what actually happens to the institutions around markets during and after crises, including the floods in Pakistan in 2010, conflict in northern Mali from 2012 and acute conflict in South Sudan in 2014. It also explores how humanitarian policies and interventions can be best used to maximise the potential of markets to support the household resilience of people living in situations of crises. 

The studies showed that there were often unintended and far-reaching consequences from the way in which aid was delivered, because the potential impact on markets of how aid was organised had not been adequately considered. Although the increasing engagemetn of humanitarian agencies with market analysis is an extremely positive development, the aid sector needs to make radical changes in how it incorporates market awareness into its planning, and how it thinks about the private sector and its role in crises.