Core areas of expertise

With a view to influencing policy, fuelling debate, and identifying solutions for rebooting the humanitarian system, we carry out applied, mixed-methods research and analysis, engage in dialogue with operational humanitarian actors, and feed the humanitarian community with independent reports, policy papers, and studies. We use our expertise in the following contemporary humanitarian themes, continuously reinforcing it through new projects:
 
The goals and priorities of humanitarian action
In recent years, the humanitarian agenda has become extremely broad as many different priorities have been added to it. As a result, there is confusion and misunderstanding on what humanitarian action encompasses and tries to achieve. One of HERE’s core aims is to reassert the goals of humanitarian action, and it has developed specific research expertise in this area through a number of core activities. Through its Humanitarian Priorities project, it has looked in-depth at humanitarian principles, protection, and accountability, engaging in dialogue with experts in the field, and producing a series of reports. The outcome of the project led to the formulation in the report ‘On the Right Track?’, of HERE’s vision for how the humanitarian community can be made better equipped to work in today’s crises, particularly in situations of armed conflict.
 
Organisational mandates, and the so-called ‘humanitarian-development divide’
While the humanitarian sector has grown exponentially over the past 10 to 15 years, its capacity to operate in armed conflict remains limited. In order to better understand the gaps in operational responses in armed conflict, HERE is working with nine humanitarian international NGOs to examine the implications of their different mandates in terms of how they set priorities and come to strategic choices in responding to humanitarian needs. The study intends to enable humanitarian organisations and other stakeholders to better understand the implications of organisational mandates for work in armed conflict. It also responds to recent calls for the humanitarian community to transcend the so-called humanitarian/development divide – not by pushing for convergence of humanitarian and development activities, but by providing an opportunity to better serve affected populations by capitalising on complementarity. Through the elaboration of this ambitious project, the HERE team has not only gained insight into the institutional set-up, activities, and values of a variety of humanitarian organisations, but it has also developed research tools that allows for a methodologically sound comparative analysis of these factors.
 
The humanitarian localisation agenda
One trend coming out of the World Humanitarian Summit is the promotion of ‘localisation’ of humanitarian response. The HERE team has built on previous professional experiences to create specific expertise on this theme. Two separate commissioned pieces of work that take an in-depth look at localisation in practice deserve specific mention. The first, carried out in partnership with the British Red Cross, focused on “Local Leadership and Response Capacity in the Syria Conflict: The Syrian Arab Red Crescent and International Partners”. In close consultation with SARC, HERE reviewed the results of the efforts of the Movement and other actors in strengthening the humanitarian role and work of SARC. The second piece of work has been commissioned by Médecins sans Frontières (Operational Centre Barcelona) and it focuses on the localisation of aid in conflict settings. Through this commissioned piece in particular, HERE has not only developed a working model for investigating a particular organisation’s relationship to, and understanding of, localisation, but it has also built up a significant internal database with regard to current literature on the topic and collected the views of a number of senior representatives from NGOs, including CAFOD, DanChurchAid, the new NEAR network, and, of course, MSF. In the context of these projects, HERE has also closely followed the Grand Bargain discussions on localisation and is in regular touch with those Geneva-based actors that are working on the localisation marker and the definition of “as directly as possible”.
 
Humanitarian financing and the humanitarian donor accountability gap
Since the late 1990s, strengthening accountability, especially to crisis-affected populations, has been a major objective in humanitarian policy and practice. Donor governments’ performance in relation to their obligations and commitments vis à vis international humanitarian rules and policies remains without sufficient scrutiny. The Humanitarian Response Index (HRI) was published annually between 2007 and 2011, and served as a public document providing an independent review of donor governments’ performance, but its publication was suspended in 2012 due to a lack of funding. HERE is building on its team’s in-depth knowledge of humanitarian financing policy processes, and previous involvement in the development of the HRI to explore the feasibility of developing a revamped index, addressing the humanitarian donor accountability gap.