It is with both admiration and humility that we look back upon this year and celebrate the vision, innovation and commitment of our faculty, staff, and collaborators in the pursuit of developing better strategies for assisting communities in crisis. 2014 - 15 signified a year of tremendous challenges in the humanitarian sector and tremendous accomplishments of our team.
2015 is an important milestone for HHI as we celebrate our 10-year anniversary. Building upon a nascent program in humanitarian crisis and human rights developed at Harvard University in 1999, the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative was formally established in 2005 as a university-wide academic and research interfaculty initiative. By 2012, HHI would launch the Humanitarian Academy at Harvard as the first multi-disciplinary humanitarian education program in a major university. Looking back over this past decade and the important work that has laid the foundation for our programs today, HHI researchers continue to engage in the questions of greatest relevance to the sector: How can we better understand the needs of communities affected by war and natural disasters? What lessons have been learned from the past and how can we learn better from each other? What evidence do we have of how well programs have worked and can this information be applied to making crisis planning and management better going forward? What is the role of technology and what is society’s ethical obligation in the application of technology in crisis contexts? How can we, as academics, contribute to developing the next generation of leaders in this field? The programs described in the pages that follow attempt to address these questions and provide a window into the future of humanitarian innovation.
This poll is the fourth 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.
In October 2014, the European Interagency Security Forum (EISF) launched a knowledge hub on communications technology and security risk management. The first publication of this project brought together 17 authors who analyzed in 11 articles how communications technology is changing the operational environment, the ways in which communications technology is creating new opportunities for humanitarian agencies to respond to emergencies, and the impact that new programs have on how we manage security.
The most recent contribution to the project comes from the Signal Program on Human Security and Technology at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. In their article, al Achkar, Card and Raymond explore what constitutes ‘humanitarian communications space’, and the challenges to agreeing a common definition of ‘humanitarian communication’ and its protection under international law.
What challenges are inherent for humanitarian practitioners when operating in a context of transition from protracted conflict to peace? This paper examines this question, focusing on Colombia as a case study. As a result of the decades long conflict in Colombia, as well as natural disasters, a host of serious humanitarian concerns persist in the country. The ongoing peace process between the government and the largest anti-government armed group in the country—the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC—while certainly a welcome development, yields an environment not only of protracted conflict but also of protracted transition. This paper discusses four particular issue areas relevant to operating in this context: grappling with the politics of denialism; the gap between the political negotiation agenda and the humanitarian issues facing the country; interactions between humanitarian actors and national transitional justice measures; and building linkages between humanitarian organizations and actors operating in other fields, such as development and peacebuilding.
During armed conflict in East and Central Africa civilian dwellings are intentionally targeted and razed. These traditional civilian dwellings are known as tukuls which are primarily mud and thatch huts.
The intentional destruction of these dwellings, given their prevalence in these regions, is often one of the only available indicators of the intentional targeting of civilians observable in satellite imagery.
This field has lacked accepted methodologies for performing this type of analysis. This guide is the first to focus on tukuls because they are a uniquely valuable metric for both documenting attacks on civilians during armed conflicts and assessing potential mass displacement that can result from these incidents.
This guide is the second in a series of Satellite Imagery Interpretation Guides. Future satellite imagery interpretation guides from the Signal Program may focus on other, related phenomena and structures present in similar operational contexts.
This poll is the third of 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.
The goal of this paper is to identify and address current gaps, challenges and opportunities that face the humanitarian sector as it seeks to apply traditional humanitarian principles to the increasingly central role information communication technologies (ICTs) play in 21st Century humanitarian operations. While much has been written about the roles ICTs may play in support of humanitarian action, there is an absence of literature addressing how core humanitarian principles should guide, limit, and shape the use of these technologies in practice.
Humanitarian professionals working in complex environments face increasing threats and attacks that endanger their lives, violate international humanitarian law, and jeopardize the consistent and effective delivery of emergency relief to populations in need. In light of these issues, this paper explores challenges and opportunities related to the predominant organizational approaches to the protection of aid workers in complex and insecure environments, and highlights often overlooked disparities in the risks faced by different groups of humanitarian professionals based on their status as national or international staff, gender, and organizational affiliation. It argues that insufficient attention has thus far been paid to the significance of these disparities and their implications for operational security and effectiveness. Furthermore, it highlights significant fragmentation and gaps in the protection of aid workers under international law and the culture of impunity prevailing for perpetrators of such attacks. It then examines the recent trends in humanitarian security management — namely, acceptance, protection, and deterrence. Finally, it offers reflections for the humanitarian community on improving the state of knowledge, practice and law with regard to the protection of humanitarian professionals.
Negotiations are crucial for the overall success of humanitarian operations, yet these endeavors are inherently challenging. Given both the importance of humanitarian negotiations and the gravity of the difficulties faced, what is the capacity of the humanitarian sector to carry forward lessons learned from past negotiations? This paper addresses this question. Specifically, this paper examines the field of humanitarian negotiation as a unique professional domain that has encountered common challenges across different geographic contexts. The overall issue at hand is that, although negotiators in different settings have encountered similar dilemmas and obstacles, the field of humanitarian negotiation has been slow to develop a body of research analyzing common issues faced, produce policy guidance that grapples in an in depth manner with the practical difficulties of humanitarian negotiations, and build professional networks both within individual organizations and across the sector so that negotiators can share best practices with one another.
This poll is the second of 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.
Satellite Imagery Interpretation Guide: Displaced Population Camps is intended to help address the absence of public and standardized training resources for those seeking to use high resolution satellite imagery in support of refugee/IDP assistance operations. Students, general audiences, and volunteers studying and analyzing satellite imagery of displaced population camps may find this training resource beneficial.
The guide provides case studies of displaced population camps in East Africa and the Middle East. Dimensions, colors, shapes, and, when possible, unique identifying features of objects, including civilian shelters and humanitarian agency infrastructure, visible in high resolution imagery of the camps are identified. Objects are organized according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs humanitarian cluster system and three other categories unique to this guide. Imagery provided by Google's Skybox Imaging for the creation of this guide can be explored online by following the directions included inside the report.
The HPCR Advanced Practitioner's Handbook on Commissions of Inquiry was drafted by the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) in collaboration with the HPCR Group of Professionals on Monitoring, Reporting, and Fact-finding, a team of high-level experts set up by HPCR. The Handbook aims to complement existing policy literature by addressing the more challenging methodological dilemmas facing the domain of monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding (MRF). Specifically, the Handbook focuses on mandate interpretation, establishing facts and applying the law, protecting witnesses and victims, public communication, and report drafting. The methodological considerations that the Handbook details are based on a comprehensive assessment — conducted by HPCR in collaboration with the Group of Professionals — of fifteen MRF missions implemented over the course of the past decade.
This poll is the first of 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.
Opportunities for youth can be severely limited among many communities in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region that are disrupted by conflict or impoverishment. Recent political and economic factors, as well as a rapidly growing youth population, have greatly increased the vulnerability of at-risk youth in the MENA region. This HHI study utilized a multi-method approach -- including systematic reviews of the peer-reviewed and gray literatures, stakeholder analyses, and in-region discussions with youth and stakeholders -- to identify the current needs, activities, stakeholders, and opportunities related to at-risk youth in the MENA region. It is our hope that this initial report and its recommendations will be a starting point of discussion and collaboration as we develop a cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional Middle East Youth in Crisis Project based at the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative.
Remote sensing can provide unique, sometimes otherwise unavailable, information about human rights violations occurring in non-permissive environments, over large geographic areas, and across long and multiple timeframes. The evidentiary potential of RS analysis currently appears not to be fully exploited by international criminal justice mechanisms. The purpose of this paper is (A) to illustrate the nature of RS analysis and its evidentiary potential and limitations, (B) to identify the key, repeating factors across regional and cultural contexts and types of crimes that influence its limited use in court, and (C) to explore steps and strategies for overcoming the challenges.
The mandate interpretation process is crucial to the implementation of fact-finding missions geared toward investigating alleged violations of international law, including human rights, international criminal law, and international humanitarian law. However, many disagreements exist about how fact-finding practitioners should weigh different factors in their mandate interpretation processes. This article—based in part on extensive interviews conducted by the author with fact-finding practitioners—examines areas of methodological agreement and disagreement, trends of professional decision making, and normative perceptions that practitioners hold about best practices regarding the interpretation of fact-finding mandates. Overall, the article aims to highlight points of convergence and divergence between past professional experiences and to illuminate the benefits and risks of different methodological choices.
Over the past few decades, governments have established various international criminal courts and tribunals (ICCTs), including several ad hoc entities — such as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) — as well as a permanent body in the form of the International Criminal Court (ICC). Additionally, international actors have also established a wide array of non-judicial monitoring, reporting, and fact-finding (MRF) missions, such as commissions of inquiry, monitoring components of peace operations, and special rapporteurs. This working paper discusses opportunities and challenges for achieving a greater degree of interoperability between international judicial and non-judicial accountability efforts.
This article documents the development and initial use case of the GRID (Ground Reporting through Imagery Delivery) methodology by the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative (HHI). GRID was created to support corroboration of witness testimony of mass atrocity related-events using satellite imagery analysis. A repeating analytic limitation of employing imagery for this purpose is that differences in the geographic knowledge of a witness and an imagery analyst can limit or impede corroboration.