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

Phuong Pham, Vandana Sharma, Rebecca Hémono, Jessica Jean-Francois, and Jennifer Scott. 5/2018. DEPP Evaluation Summative Phase Report.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.
Rob Grace. 9/2017. “The Humanitarian as Negotiator: Developing Capacity Across the Sector”.Abstract

This paper examines the dynamics at play in ongoing efforts to cultivate negotiation capacity among professionals working in the humanitarian sector. Based on extensive interviews conducted with humanitarian practitioners, this paper addresses three overarching issues. The first is humanitarian professionals' current understanding of humanitarian negotiation as a concept. On this issue, the paper examines the difficulties of defining humanitarian negotiation and the competing answers to the question of how to conceptually delineate humanitarian negotiation as an activity. The second is the types of negotiation capacity—cognitive, emotional, social, and cultural—that humanitarian practitioners deem to be relevant to their work. The third is the difficulties likely to be faced as capacity building efforts in this field continue to unfold. Overall, this paper aims to paint a portrait of the state of humanitarian negotiation capacity building, as well as what will be needed moving forward.

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Advanced Training Program Humanitarian Action on (ATHA). 10/2016. Protecting Humanitarian Action: Key Challenges and Lessons from the Field.Abstract

This paper presents an overview of key challenges and dilemmas faced in the protection of humanitarian action and aims to provide an initial overview of the legal, policy, and operational trends and issues identified by ATHA through its ongoing research and discussions with practitioners. On the basis of this analysis, this paper addresses three key areas. The first section highlights knowledge and questions regarding security incidents, trends, and causes of violence, including around causes and motives for attacks, and tensions between individual and collective responses. The next section then explores the role of the humanitarian principles, and the perceptions of humanitarian actors, in affecting their security in the field. Building on this, the final section examines the protection of humanitarian action under international law, and the impunity gap resulting from effective implementation or enforcement of the law. The purpose of this paper is to provide key background information and to serve as a starting point for dialogue and reflection on the protection of humanitarian action from attack. It is based on research and consultations with experts and humanitarian practitioners in the field.

Stephen Wilkinson and Rob Grace. 9/2016. Preliminary Report on the Role of Laws and Norms in Humanitarian Negotiations .Abstract
This report focuses on the role that laws and norms play in humanitarian negotiations. The report is based on an initial set of 35 interviews that conducted by the Advanced Training Program on Humanitarian Action (ATHA) with humanitarian professionals between May and August 2016. This document will sketch out ATHA’s preliminary findings and analysis. The report is divided into five sections. Section I offers information about the methodology of the interviews that constitute the core empirical foundation for this report’s findings. Section II focuses on the role of international laws and norms in humanitarian negotiations. Section III addresses other sources of laws and norms (e.g., national laws and Islamic Law) that humanitarian practitioners have integrated into their negotiations. Section IV examines the relationship between interests and legal norms in the practice of humanitarian negotiation. Section V offers concluding remarks.
Patrick Vinck and Phuong Pham. 1/2016. Peacebuilding and Reconstruction Polls: Eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Poll Report #5 .Abstract
This poll is the fifth in a series of polls that will be conducted to provide reliable data and analysis on peace, security, justice and reconstruction in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The project is a joint initiative of the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), in collaboration with MONUSCO Civil Affairs. HHI is responsible for the data collection, and independent analysis, and reporting of the results, in collaboration with partners at the Université Libre des Pays des Grands Lacs, Université Catholique de Bukavu, and Université de Bunia.
Federica du Pasquier. 11/2016. Gender Diversity Dynamics in Humanitarian Negotiations: The International Committee of the Red Cross as a Case Study on the Frontlines of Armed Conflicts.Abstract
Negotiations for access are crucial for the success of humanitarian operations. They also occur in contexts of armed conflict and violence that typically entrench gender identities. Building on the vast research showing that gender affects the conduct and outcome of negotiations, this paper explores gender dynamics in a humanitarian setting. After outlining its methodology and surveying the relevant literature, this paper sketches out the ways 21 practitioners at the International Committee of the Red Cross see gender dynamics affecting their work in the field. These interviews support previous findings on men and women’s diverging conceptions of gender’s impact and relevance, as well as on the cross-cultural consistency of gender dynamics in war. In a context where, unlike in many corporate settings, women’s work as humanitarian actors is congruent with prescriptive gender stereotypes, this study shows that they can be perceived as more legitimate because they are thought of as selfless caregivers and potential mothers. This paper ultimately argues that, rather than studying the impact of gender in isolation, further research should explore how the intersectionality of different diversity dimensions—such as gender, race/ethnicity, age, and religion—affect humanitarian negotiations. In terms of policy implications, this study makes the case for actively fostering diversity, including in terms of gender, within negotiating teams to ensure they are more flexible in adapting to different scenarios and more creative in dealing with complex problems.