Humanitarian history in a complex world

Briefing papers
May 2014
Eleanor Davey
Despite widespread agreement that knowledge of past experience is essential to present and future decision-making, the humanitarian sector has largely failed to reflect on its history to inform current challenges and debates.

This HPG Policy Brief explores how an understanding of humanitarian history can strengthen critical analysis by challenging assumptions and helping to think through complexity.

Key messages:

  • Engagement with history can bring valuable skills, resources and insights to humanitarian practice and policy.
  • Historical perspectives can help analysis of the complex situations and processes that shape humanitarian action.
  • Learning from the past requires the investment of time and resources, but working in crises does not prevent it.
Read the research