Self-Initiated Projects

Our research is primarily at the policy and strategic level: how can humanitarian action be made more effective?

HERE-Geneva has conducted, or is in the process of conducting, the following self-initiated projects:

The Role of Mandates | 2016 – 2020

The role of mandates in humanitarian priority setting for international non-governmental organisations in situations of armed conflict The biggest gaps in humanitarian response exist in situations of armed conflict and political violence. Delivery of humanitarian response in these situations can be highly politicised, is often hindered by insecurity or restrictions on access and is hampered by insufficient operational capacities on the ground.

Against such challenging background, this study aims to provide evidence on organisational decision-making process and how they impact effective aid delivery on the ground. The Study is carried out from a neutral perspective, and it does therefore not intend to answer the normative question of which type of ‘mandate’ is best, but rather to clarify what differences there are between organisations in terms of how they set priorities and come to strategic choices, and what the advantages and disadvantages of different ‘mandates’ are.

In doing so, the research has two main goals:
1. to enable humanitarian organisations (and other stakeholders) to understand the implications of different priority settings and strategic choices for their capacity to work in armed conflict, and
2. to shed light on how differences in priority setting and strategic choices between organisations can be successfully combined to foster effective humanitarian action on the ground, in situations of armed conflict.

This analysis will benefit operational organisations as well as donors, as it will improve the understanding of the different approaches and their implications and suggest ways forward on how to build on such differences for a more effective humanitarian system. Nine organisations representing both multi and single mandate organisations are participating in the study.

HERE Mandates Study Ethiopia Report 2019

HERE Mandates Study Myanmar Report 2019

HERE Mandates Study CAR Report 2019

HERE Mandates Study Mali Report 2018 | version française

HERE Mandates Study Concept Note

HERE Mandates Study Literature Review

Tools for Reality-grounded Action, Commitments, and Knowledge (TRACK) | 2020

Part of HERE’s mission is to facilitate a reality check on the relationship between policy and humanitarian practice. Late 2016, HERE undertook a Feasibility Study looking into the possibility of reviving the Humanitarian Response Index (HRI). Between 2007 and 2011 the HRI assessed donor performance using the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship as benchmarks, and ranked the donors on the basis of these assessments.

While the Feasibility Study found that the HRI had had a clear purpose until its suspension in 2012, it concluded that it would not be a worthwhile exercise to revive it as such in today’s environment, and given HERE’s positioning and capacities. The study did, however, highlight the many commitments that have been made over the years towards better and more effective humanitarian action. Yet, the humanitarian community has witnessed less-than-expected results. Supposedly, the commitments signed at the World Humanitarian Summit and through the Grand Bargain are meant to address (most of) the gaps in humanitarian responses. However, the quality of those commitments remains to be tested. It is not clear whether there is indeed a link between these specific commitments and effective humanitarian action, or filling the gaps in humanitarian responses, especially those seen in armed conflicts.

In order to become better equipped to understand the linkages between donor governments’ and the humanitarian community’s commitments, and effective humanitarian action addressing gaps on the ground, HERE is embarking upon a piece of research that is built on three distinct yet interlinked components. Together, the three components provide for tools that can be used to ensure that humanitarian action, and commitments are in fact addressing the issues they set out to address, and that knowledge is grounded in reality:

TRACK 1 | Mapping the gaps in situations of armed conflict
TRACK 2 | Deconstructing broad commitments
TRACK 3 | Testing assumptions on commitments

Priorities and Commitments in Humanitarian Action | 2015 – 2016

In recent years, the humanitarian agenda has become extremely broad with the addition of many different priorities. As a result, there is confusion and misunderstanding on what humanitarian action encompasses and tries to achieve. In response to these issues, HERE-Geneva has over 2015 and in early 2016 engaged a project looking at humanitarian priorities. The focus has been on humanitarian action in armed conflict and the gaps in response found there.

The objective of this project was to provide purpose and direction to the increasingly broad agenda of humanitarian action, formulating key messages on the goal of humanitarian action, existing commitments under international law, and benchmarks for performance. Three sets of issues have been examined in detail:


1. Shared values and principles that underpin humanitarian action;
2. protection of people affected by armed conflict and the gaps in compliance with international humanitarian law; and
3. the lack of leadership and accountability for performance (resulting in substandard humanitarian performance) The project, which concluded with the launch of the Final Report in May 2016, also looked at commitments against which actors can be held accountable.

HERE Humanitarian Priorities – Final Report – 19 May 2016

Report on Working Meeting held on 3 February 2016, Geneva. Accountability: Moving from Rhetoric to Reality

Report on the Working Meeting held on 13 October 2015, Geneva. The Universality and Application of Values and Principles Underpinning Humanitarian Action.

Report on the Working Meeting held on 15 June 2015, Geneva. Setting Priorities to Protect Civilians in Armed Conflict.

Addressing the Humanitarian Donor Accountability Gap? Feasibility Study for an HRI 2.0 | 2016

Between 2007 to 2011, the Humanitarian Response Index (HRI) provided an independent review of donor governments’ performance against the Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) principles, offering a public measure of humanitarian donor accountability, and a common reference for debate on donors’ humanitarian effectiveness.

The Humanitarian Exchange and Research Centre (HERE) has engaged in a project to examine the feasibility of reviving the HRI. Carried out between October and December 2016, the Feasibility Study has involved a desk-review and semi-structured interviews with key stakeholders, and it has focused on three main areas of investigation, namely a review of the current humanitarian accountability environment, an analysis of the original strengths and weaknesses of the HRI, and suggestions for a future business model.

While the idea behind the original HRI may still hold its validity – namely that of an independent donor watch-dog – there are a number of challenges in the operationalisation of this idea that mean that it is currently not a viable option for HERE.

The mapping exercise of the current accountability environment does highlight a few possible options that could be explored as alternatives to a revision of the HRI, with the same ultimate goal of influencing the humanitarian system’s performance. In particular, in light of HERE’s own mission and comparative strengths, it is suggested to evaluate donor performance from angle that would also take into account broader systemic challenges to good humanitarian donorship.

Annext 1 | Comparative overview of regulatory frameworks for humanitarian donorship

Annex 2: Signatories to the Grand Bargain, the GHD Principles, and the European Consensus

Annex 3: Evolution of the HRI 2007-2011

Annex 4: Comparative mapping of existing monitoring mechanisms

Annex 5: Current context review

Annex 6: Flowchart – HRI 2.0 objectives and options

Annex 7: Table of options – a comparison

On the Right Track? | 2016

HERE-Geneva’s contribution to the World Humanitarian Summit

The first ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) offered an opportunity to improve humanitarian action, build a stronger sector, forge better links between humanitarian response and development aid; and more crucially to address the political failures that generate and sustain so much crisis.

The Summit offered an equal risk for hollow commitments, for agreements and proposals that rally our hopes yet fail to confront the
longstanding obstacles to their realisation.

For more effective humanitarian action to happen, the sector must revisit its foundations. Over the last year, HERE has aimed to provide purpose and direction to the increasingly broad agenda of humanitarian action. The reflections in this paper are grounded in desk research, interviews with
former high level humanitarian officials, and a set of expert working meetings. In a detailed analysis of the three priority areas of principles, protection, and accountability, two conditions have stood out as paramount for more effective humanitarian action.

On the right track? Reasserting the priorities of humanitarian action.

Addressing the Perennial Problems of Disaster Response | 2015

Better cooperation between international and local actors, especially the government, can make responses to the humanitarian consequences of natural disasters more effective. This study looks at ways how the relationships and cooperation can be improved.

It presents a number of elements that are by no means new topics for discussion, but tries to shed light on them in a way that calls for more honest and frank dialogue among international actors, and especially between these actors and the governments of disaster-affected countries.

The Jigsaw of the International Humanitarian Response System – January 2015

Background Study for the Disaster Response Dialogue Conference in Manila, Philippines – March 2015