Increasing Diversity and Inclusion in Humanitarian Action

This research intends to assess diversity and inclusion priorities for humanitarian organizations, including perceptions related to increasing inclusion, institutional mechanisms for accountability, and funding and resources allocated to increasing dialogue and awareness.

Diversity and Inclusion

The Harvard Humanitarian Initiative is committed to improving the lives of the world’s most vulnerable populations by assuring they have access to quality humanitarian aid. We seek to identify those at greatest risk of exploitation and assure their basic human right to safety, health and dignity. As HHI approaches its 15th year, we have decided to use this opportunity to look at issues of bias, both at home and abroad. In our own organization, we have further prioritized our understanding of, and commitment to diversity and inclusion; in our community, as a part of Harvard, we have collaborated with Enroot  to support their mission.

Nearly two years ago, the World Humanitarian Summit consultation process documented the widespread call for a “new way of working” that would help bring diverse actors together across mandates, sectors and institutional boundaries to achieve collective outcomes for people affected by crises. We have all been seeking ways to address what some call the need to decolonize aid, to increase capacity and elevate the voices of affected communities. In our research we are increasing our understanding and awareness of these important issues by serving as a convener for safe discussions about how to improve the humanitarian sector’s approach to working with - and for - diverse communities.

Here at home, our news is full of stories about racial inequities, disparity in pay and blatant situations of bias, both implicit and explicit. HHI has been questioning its research role in relation to these issues based on the broad desire to create these new ways of working. We believe its past time to re-assess our commitment to diversity and inclusion and to engage our collaborators, partners and colleagues in assessing their organizations as well.

As the humanitarian arm of Harvard, HHI has a wide reach and global and local responsibility. Acknowledging this, we will model inclusive behavior for our students and colleagues and promote an agenda of diversity and non-discrimination with our donors, sponsors, and beneficiaries.