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.
Since 2014, the war in the Donbas, fueled and sustained by local and regional political priorities, has inflicted a heavy burden of civilian death, injury, displacement, destruction, and lasting trauma. As the conflict continues, the people of Donbas are more isolated than ever from the rest of their country, subjected to discrimination and stigmatization by both the Ukrainian authorities and separatist leaders. Today, a confluence of factors continues to drive conflict in Eastern Ukraine. Triggered by the 2013 Euromaidan protests in Kyiv, the rupture between the post-Maidan Ukrainian government and local elites in the Donbas over aspirations of independence and self-determination highlighted the growing schism between those with Russian-oriented ambitions and those supporting the new Ukrainian regime. As clans, warlords, and oligarchs within Ukraine fight for political influence and financial gain, Russian influence continues to destabilize the Westward-leaning Ukrainian authorities in Kyiv, reinvigorating the enduring geopolitical rivalry between Russia and the West. Humanitarian operations in Eastern Ukraine are also under significant pressure by the separatist authorities. Agencies struggle to bridge the gap between critical needs and their response capacity, while being forced to rely almost exclusively on local organizations. In the process of humanitarian and access negotiations, agencies must guard against the instrumentalization of aid, the blurring of lines between political, military, and relief operations, and an ever-shrinking humanitarian space. What drives this protracted conflict? How have global politics and local agendas contributed to sustaining a “frozen” conflict at the expense of communities and in the interest of asserting nationalist independence at all costs? How have the hopes of local communities in the Donbas withered over time, as they navigate the dissonance in geopolitical rhetoric and their lived reality? What avenues exist for reconciliation and unity amidst this violent divisiveness? This report explores these questions and offers reflections based on more than 250 interviews undertaken during two field visits to Ukraine, in both government and separatist-controlled areas, and one visit to Russia, between November 2019 and January 2020. It also draws on an extensive desk analysis of relevant literature to complement the findings of these interviews and consultations.
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).
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.
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.
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.