Humanitarian Strategies

HHI's research on Humanitarian Strategies investigates how to advance the humanitarian field, focusing on the critical areas of negotiation, leadership, education, and evaluation. Explore the individual programs below to learn more about this work. 

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Humanitarian Strategies

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Strategies in Policy Analysis and Negotiation

Fosters innovative responses to current challenges to humanitarian protection by capturing new approaches and insights of practitioners through informal, professional exchange

Education in Crisis*

Advances the science of education in conflict through innovative, collaborative and multidisciplinary research

Evaluation and Implementation Science

Develops assessment strategies to address the needs of individuals, families, and populations affected by war, conflict, and natural disaster

Transitional Justice

Provides evidence that will make existing transitional justice instruments more effective and explores alternative approaches to transitional justice

Related Publications

Patrick Vinck, Phuong Pham, Kenedy Bungu, Juliet Bedford, and Eric Nilles. 3/2019. “Institutional trust and misinformation in the response to the 2018–19 Ebola outbreak in North Kivu, DR Congo: a population-based survey.” The Lancet Infectious Diseases, 19, 5, Pp. 529-536. Read PublicationAbstract
The current outbreak of Ebola in eastern DR Congo, beginning in 2018, emerged in a complex and violent political and security environment. Community-level prevention and outbreak control measures appear to be dependent on public trust in relevant authorities and information, but little scholarship has explored these issues. We aimed to investigate the role of trust and misinformation on individual preventive behaviours during an outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD).
Emmanuel Tronc, Rob Grace, and Anaïde Nahikian. 6/2019. “Realities and Myths of the “Triple Nexus”: Local Perspectives on Peacebuilding, Development, and Humanitarian Action in Mali”.Abstract


Despite decades of development programming for a country once upheld as a “model democracy” in Africa, Mali remains a country destabilized by extreme poverty; escalating violence and instability; and diminishing prospects for Malians’ futures in education, livelihoods, and stability. Even in light of an ongoing international presence and intervention in the country, and millions of dollars raised and spent each year on humanitarian programming, the persistent degradation of governance, livelihoods, and security continues.

What drives this state of affairs? How have international and regional actors contributed to sustaining a stagnating state at the expense of civilian populations and in the interest of preventing transnational Sahelian turmoil from expanding into the Maghreb and beyond to
European borders? What are the expectations and aspirations of local communities as they navigate the interconnected influences of extremist groups, government actors, and international military forces?

This paper examines these questions and offers reflections on various dynamics of the international response and the perceptions of local communities in this context. In particular, this analysis assesses the viability of the “triple nexus” concept, which aims—in protracted
and complex crises such as Mali—to forge an operational and policy alignment between international peacebuilding, development, and humanitarian efforts. The paper is based on a desk analysis of relevant literature, as well as over 130 interviews and consultations
undertaken with a variety of stakeholders, including government and non-state armed group representatives, civil society members, activists, journalists, humanitarians, analysts, diplomats, entrepreneurs, beneficiaries, displaced people, and students. The interviews were conducted in Mali, particularly in Bamako and in Central Mali, as well as abroad, between December 2018 and March 2019. The paper proceeds in four parts. Part I examines the key elements driving instability in this context. Part II focuses on international responses. Part III discusses the implications for the “triple nexus.” Part IV offers concluding remarks.


Emmanuel Tronc and Anaïde Nahikian. 12/2018. Fragile Future: The human cost of conflict in Afghanistan. Read PublicationAbstract
This context analysis examines the humanitarian, political, societal, and economic dimensions that make the protracted conflict in Afghanistan intractable and precarious for civilian populations. The report is based on field visits to numerous regions in Afghanistan in July 2018 — which included interviews and consultations with a variety of actors, including political stakeholders, humanitarian agencies, and populations affected by conflict — as well as a review of recent and relevant literature. The purpose of this analysis is to (1) provide a current assessment of the conflict, drawing from field interviews and an in- depth assemblage of various reports and resources, (2) examine the interconnected and interdependent interests fueling the conflict, and (3) suggest that if these dynamics persist in the way they have for decades, recent elections and peace talks will represent yet another setback for Afghan communities and a peaceful future for the country.
Emmanuel Tronc, Rob Grace, and Anaïde Nahikian. 11/2018. Humanitarian Access Obstruction in Somalia: Externally Imposed and Self-Inflicted Dimensions . Read PublicationAbstract

Access obstruction in conflict settings has emerged as a critical operational and policy concern across the humanitarian sector, but there remains a dearth of analysis regarding the ways in which humanitarian organizations perpetuate self-inflicted access obstacles. Drawing on qualitative interviews conducted with local and international actors negotiating frontline humanitarian access in Somalia, this paper will examine the ways in which this context elucidates this phenomenon. Toward this end, this paper examines two dimensions of humanitarian access obstruction in this context. The first set of dynamics consists of externally imposed obstacles that stem from governmental actors, Al-Shabaab, access "gatekeepers" motivated by financial gain, and the insecure nature of the environment. The second set of dynamics consists of self-inflicted dimensions of access obstruction that emanate from decisions that international humanitarian organizations (IHOs) have made at the strategic or policy level. These issues include the physical "bunkerization" of IHOs, programmatic shortcomings, the discounting of local humanitarian actors' agency, and the ways that IHOs exhibit programmatic partiality in response to donors' interests and counterterrorism legislation. Through examining these issues, this paper highlights fact that, although the discourse on humanitarian access obstruction tends to emphasize difficulties arising from externally imposed obstacles, it is also important to interrogate the value and methods of humanitarian programming itself.

Phuong Pham, Vandana Sharma, Rebecca Hémono, Jessica Jean-Francois, and Jennifer Scott. 5/2018. DEPP Evaluation Summative Phase Report Annexes.Abstract

This report provides the summative results from the three-year external impact evaluation of the Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) conducted by a team at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI). The DEPP was a £40 million programme funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) that aimed to strengthen skills and capacity and improve the quality and speed of humanitarian response in countries that are at risk of natural disasters or emergencies.

This document provides the annexes of the report.