The Humanitarian and Development Nexus


The world today continues to face extremely serious crises, with 20 million people at risk of famine in North East Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen. More than 65 million people have been forcibly displaced by conflict, violence, and human rights violations, in addition to those displaced due to natural disasters, including as a consequence of climate change. This has resulted in over 130 million people relying on humanitarian assistance. The humanitarian system alone cannot address needs of such magnitude and diversity, especially as crises will often reverse development progress, in particular when these crises become protracted.

In the context of fragile states, disasters, conflict, and other acute vulnerabilities, meaningful and sustainable impactrequires complementary action by humanitarian and development actors. We believe that there are important, systemic changes that can be made in international assistance efforts to meet and lessen the need for aid while also complementing local development efforts.

Today’s reality is that development and humanitarian assistance are often required concurrently, especially in complex and protracted crises. And while they need to be complementary, humanitarian and development efforts should not be confused with one other. When states are explicitly excluding portions of their population, or are responsible for the harm befalling them, principled humanitarian action must be supported. Yet where possible, development actors must also engage early and in a sustained way with humanitarian actors to bridge the humanitarian and development nexus so that crises are more likely to end sooner and are less likely to repeat themselves.

Operationalizing the Humanitarian and Development Divide

Operationalising the humanitarian-development nexus requires a common vision and cultural changes in organisations resulting in new approaches in policies and legal frameworks to systematically foster complementarity, synergies and cooperation between humanitarian, development and other relevant actors. The overarching aim is to promote, at the earliest opportunity, coherent ways of working that are more effective and efficient in analysing the factors of fragility, vulnerability and conflict, as well as the local/national capacities to address risks and vulnerabilities, and in developing prevention measures, enhancing response, supporting early recovery and stabilisation, addressing needs, building self-reliance and reducing risks.

impactfulAID recognises

The goal of international development is to improve the social and economic circumstances of the world’s poorest, most vulnerable people in a sustainable manner. The primary objective of humanitarian action is to save lives, alleviate suffering, and maintain human dignity with programming that adheres to the guiding principles of humanitarian action: humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence.

  • Supports the outcomes of the World Humanitarian Summit and underlines the need to strengthen resilience by better linking humanitarian assistance and development cooperation to anticipate, prepare for and respond to crises and disasters, man-made or natural.
  • Development cooperation and humanitarian assistance should be designed and delivered in amore complementary manner to respond earlier and more effectively to the dynamics of fragility, poverty and vulnerability.
  • It is vital to systematically mainstream a gender perspective throughout the entire humanitarian-development nexus. In particular, the role of women as actors of change, including in humanitarian action, development assistance, peace building and security, mediation, reconciliation and reconstruction, conflict and crisis prevention as well as their heightened vulnerability in crises should be fully recognised.
  • Development interventions in fragile and conflict-affected situations should bear in mind the “do no harm approach” and the need to adopt a more context-specific and flexible planning approach, recognising the high risk of failure and the need to quickly adapt to changing situations.
  • Recognizes the importance of strengthening democratic national and local ownership, governments’ leadership and governance capabilities, as well as of building risk sensitive systems, including social protection systems, to improve transparency and accountability, and governments’ capacity to reduce violence, build inclusive societies, improve service delivery, social justice and economic opportunities to people and communities affected by crises.