Vulnerable Populations


HHI's Program on Vulnerable Populations conducts research and capacity building in countries experiencing complex emergencies and serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The program focuses on the use of empirical and mixed research methods to give voice to survivors of mass violence and disasters. HHI works to ensure that the needs of survivors are recognized and acted on by governments, UN agencies, and nongovernmental organizations, and that they help improve the capacity of local organizations to collect and analyze data about vulnerable populations. The program works closely with HHI's Program on Evaluation and Implementation Science to adopt and promote rigorous, reliable, and scientifically accurate assessment practices.  The program’s aims are also closely aligned with HHI’s Women in War Program and the Program on Urbanization and Emergencies.
The work of the Vulnerable Populations Program is presented on two interactive websites:
  •, an indicator-based information platform providing data on peace, justice and reconstruction in DRC, Cambodia, Liberia, Uganda and the Central African Republic. Peacebuildingdata is the largest dataset on individuals’ views about peace and justice, and results from extensive population survey work in challenging context.
  •, an integrated suite of applications for handheld digital data collection hosted at HHI and designed to improve the speed and accuracy of data collection, and streamline data cleaning, analysis and reporting in any emergency or conflict context.


HHI reseachers Phuong Pham and Patrick Vinck created KoBo Suite, which consists of several software tools and streamlined methods to help practitioners implement rapid digital data collection projects. Together, these tools allow any practitioner to design and implement a research instrument for digital data collection, to conduct research in the field, and to then aggregate the collected data into a database. KoBo is based on the Open Data Kit, and has been widely tested in extreme conditions for ease of use and reliability.

Kobo Toolbox

KoBo Suite was created by a team of experienced researchers now based at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative who were confronted by the challenges of collecting data in a secure fashion, increasing the quality of survey data, and making results available rapidly after data collection.  Pham and Vinck first piloted this method of handheld digital data collection in 2007 in northern Uganda. The effort gave its name to the project: KoBo means "transfer" in Acholi, one of the local languages. The development of KoBoToolbox was uniquely driven by field-based needs and challenges. KoBoToolbox continues to receive support from its amazing partners. The development of KoBoToolbox and its use in the field has been made possible by grants from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.




Below are the most recently published reports from the Vulnerable Populations Program while it was hosted at UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center. For the full list of the program's publications, please go here.

11 - talking peace

War and Peace 2014

Contributers: Patrick Vinck and Phuong Pham

Peace and Conflict is a biennial publication that provides cutting-edge data and analysis concerning domestic and international conflicts and corresponding peacebuilding activities. Regular features of the book include chapters that forecast the future risks of political and social instability, as well as report trends and patterns in conflict, democratization, and terrorism. The special theme of the 2014 edition is the trend toward focusing on the micro level in the study of conflict and peacebuilding. Chapters addressing this theme examine the finely grained relationships observed below the level of nation-states, with attention to key topics such as ethnicity, climate, foreign aid, sexual violence, mass atrocities, and humanitarian and reconstruction responses. Peace and Conflict is a large-format, full-color resource with numerous graphs, tables, maps, and appendices dedicated to the visual and summary presentation of information. Crisp narratives are highlighted with pull-quote extracts emphasizing major findings.

11 - talking peace

Talking Peace: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes about Security, Dispute Resolution, and Post-Conflict Reconstruction in Liberia

By Patrick Vinck, Phuong Pham, and Tino Kreutzer

Liberia has made progress in peacebuilding and reconstruction in the aftermath of a 14-year long civil war, but the country continues to face challenges in overcoming the results of a legacy of violence. This study, undertaken in November and December 2010, provides insight into Liberians’ current priorities for peacebuilding, their perceptions of post-conflict security, and existing dispute and dispute resolution mechanisms.  The findings suggest that while Liberians are generally positive about the country’s prospects for peace and security, the fears and inequalities perpetuated by years of civil strife continue to reverberate throughout the country. This study provides recommendations to address the existing problems of gaping socioeconomic disparities, limited access to information, a weakened security sector, and the diminished quality of current dispute resolution systems. It also supports inter-ethnic national dialogue on truth, reconciliation, and the underlying causes of the war.

10 - transitioning to peace

Transitioning to Peace: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Social Reconstruction and Justice in Northern Uganda

By Patrick Vinck and Phuong Pham

Since the withdrawal of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRC) from Northern Uganda in 2005, the region has been on the slow path to recovery after a long period of danger and destruction. This study presents Ugandans’ views of peace, justice, and post-conflict reconstruction after twenty years of conflicts that ravaged the country. Based on its findings of violence, access to information consumption, and perception of ex-combatants, this study makes the following recommendations to the Ugandan government and the international community: (1) continue to promote reconstruction and development, (2) develop a relevant and realistic reparations program, (3) support national dialogue on the causes and consequences of the conflict, (4) strengthen regional security, (5) build local leadership capacity, (6) develop a responsive criminal justice and police system, (7) reevaluate the International Criminal Court (ICC)’s outreach strategy, and (8) ensure free and fair presidential elections.

9 - so we will never forget

So We Will Never Forget: A Population-Based Survey on Attitudes About Social Reconstruction and the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

By Phuong Pham, Patrick Vinck, Mychelle Balthazard, Sokhom Hean, Eric Stover

30 years after the end of the Khmer Rouge Regime in Cambodia, citizens of the country continue to see themselves as victims of the regime and desire some form of reparations. Nonetheless, citizens wish that the country prioritize problems that Cambodians face in their everyday lives rather than concentrate on punishing crimes committed by the Khmer Rouge. This study presents the views and experiences of Cambodians regarding exposure to violence, overall priorities, and the national criminal justice system. Additionally, the study reveals that citizens desire more knowledge of the regime, feel hatred toward the Khmer Rouge, and demand accountability. Furthermore, the study calls for changes in the structure and governance of the Extraordinary Chambers of the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) so that Cambodians’ faith in their criminal justice system may be restored.



Patrick Vinck, PhD
Director of the Vulnerable Populations Program, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative

Phuong Pham, PhD
Director of the Program on Evaluation and Implementation Science, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative