The COVID-19 pandemic created vast new needs and has exacerbated those already in existence.  The devastation wrought by the COVID-19 crisis is significant, growing, and is likely to have a lasting impact.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic early 2020, we have dedicated considerable time and resources for research and exchange work to understand what the crisis means for the humanitarian sector – now and beyond the pandemic.
We organised virtual roundtables and livestreamed panel discussions, wrote several blogs to inform about COVID-19 impact in a non-technical fashion, and embarked on a research project looking ‘Beyond the Pandemic’.

RESEARCH - Beyond the Pandemic

Timeline: August 2020 – April 2021

Carried out in real-time in 2020-2021, the Beyond the Pandemic project aimed to capture evidence of the impact from the COVID-19 pandemic on the humanitarian community. By ‘taking the temperature of the situation, the research explored the ‘burning questions’ humanitarian actors found themselves confronted with and looked into ways in which the sector may need to adapt to this new reality.

Based on insights from the global level as well as four country case-studies, the research concluded that the pandemic acted as a stress test for the humanitarian sector. It accelerated change by forcing humanitarian actors to rapidly adapt and transform their approaches. In the same way that the financial crash of 2008 exposed the vulnerabilities of financial institutions, so the pandemic starkly exposed modes of working in humanitarian operations that are wildly ineffective.


Build back (b)righter (November blog)

By Ed Schenkenberg van Mierop.

The title of US President-elect Joe Biden’s transition website will not be lost on those working in the humanitarian and development spheres: ‘build back better’ has long been in circulation …

No crystal ball needed (May blog)

By Ed Schenkenberg van Mierop.

Sooner or later, governments, UN organisations, NGOs, and others will undertake after-action reviews and evaluations of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The message will be that they need to …

After COVID-19: Time to reset (March blog)

By Ed Schenkenberg van Mierop.

COVID-19 is sending shockwaves through our personal lives and the societies in which we live. No country, however developed, however resilient, will emerge unscathed. But the pandemic will also  …

COVID-19 & The Future Humanitarian Response – A Series of reflections

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, humanitarian organisations have focused their efforts on addressing and mitigating the impact of this mega-crisis. The scale of this crisis has overwhelmed existing public health capacities even in the most developed countries.

The devastation in parts of the world has sounded an alarm, warning against the impact of the pandemic on communities in some of the least developed countries, where the next wave of the virus will strike. The outbreak is likely to be catastrophic without, and perhaps even with, concerted action. The pandemic has profound immediate, medium- and long-term implications on the work humanitarian organisations.

With this in mind, HERE organised a series of reflections with four leading humanitarian thinkers and practitioners, discussing their immediate response and expectations for what this crisis means for their current ways of working and models for the future. The four video interviews were followed by a livestreamed debate – trying to figure out a way through this crisis together.

The live streamed panel debated:

  • how the unprecedented crisis is transforming the way humanitarian organisations work,
  • how the localised response creates opportunities and risk,
  • how the crisis may impacting humanitarian funding, and
  • how the humanitarian coordination architecture could help improving the complementarity among organisations.

The four panelists were:

Start Network is made up of more than fortyaid agencies across five continents, ranging from large international organisations to national NGOs. The aim of Start Network is to transform humanitarian action through innovation, fast funding, early action, and localisation.

‘Funding local responses while cooperating ata global scale’

Watch the full interview or read the summary note instead.

Based in Rome since 1992, INTERSOS, a humanitarian organisation on the frontline of emergencies, has brought assistance to victims of armed conflicts, natural disasters,and extreme exclusion with particular attention to the protection of the most vulnerable people.

‘Responding to the coronavirus at home and abroad’

Watch the full interview recorded or read the summary note instead.

Founded 1971 in Paris by a group of journalists and doctors, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an international, independent,medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, pandemics, natural disasters and exclusion from healthcare.

‘New ways of working for Médecins sans frontièries’

Watch the full interview or read the summary note instead.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) is a humanitarian network that brings together 192 National Societies and almost 14 million volunteers. The IFRC acts before, during,and after disasters and health emergencies to meet the needs and improve the lives of vulnerable people.

‘Being at the front line across the globe’ 

Watch the full interview recorded or read the summary note instead.

Exploring the impact of COVID-19 on AAP

In October, we convened a panel at the Global CHS Exchange, where we explored the impact of the pandemic on accountability to affected populations (AAP). It was a thought-provoking and inspiring discussion during which we interrogated whether our understanding of AAP is currently too limited. We questioned whether the conception of AAP should, in fact, be extended to a consideration of how aid agencies can avoid becoming instrumentalised in humanitarian contexts, risking complicity in the curtailment of communities’ fundamental rights.

Particpants: Dominic Crowley (Concern Worldwide) ; Mari Carmen Viñoles (Médecins sans Frontières) ; Samantha Melis (International Institute of Social Studies). Moderator: Ed Schenkenberg – HERE-Geneva.