Global Humanitarian Policy Forum

2012 Global Humanitarian Policy Forum
13-14 December, New York

On 13 and 14 December 2012, OCHA's Policy Analysis and Innovation Section organized the first Global Humanitarian Policy Forum in New York. The Forum built upon OCHA’s 2011 Research and Policy Conference. It also linked into the outcomes from two regional workshops OCHA hosted in 2012, one for Southern and Eastern Africa, in South Africa and one for the Middle East and North Africa in Egypt.

The Forum included participation from 70 participants, representing more than twenty countries. OCHA’s objectives were to hear from national, new and unconventional voices, including people outside of the humanitarian policy sector; and to develop a clearer understanding of the main policy and research gaps and how to work together to address them.

During the conference the following priority themes were identified:

1. Reconceiving the humanitarian system

As informal and ‘non-traditional’ humanitarian actors (e.g. militaries, private sector, diaspora community networks, new forms of local NGO) take on increasingly important and innovative roles, it is necessary to re-examine just what the future "humanitarian system" will comprise.

2. Scope of humanitarianism

The humanitarian sector is under constant pressure to expand the scope of activities it undertakes. Overlaps with other sectors (e.g. development) increase, and there are questions about whether to address preparedness and root causes of need.

3. Risk-taking and accountability

There is a well-recognised tension in the humanitarian sector between risk-aversion and risk-taking, especially in relationships with institutional donors. Humanitarians could learn from other industries where failures must be recorded and learnt from due to consumer pressure and risk to public life.

4. Proximity vs. remoteness

Increased risk to aid worker security has led to various physical constraints in achieving a direct and regular interface with the local community in some contexts, while technological advances have helped widen the number of connected people, but created a simultaneous sense of disconnectedness.

5. Partnership vs. transactional relationships

The ever-growing number of ‘partnerships’ in the sector is currently not being paralleled by a deepening spirit of collaboration. Funding, reporting and relationships run on the basis of a project timeline, rather than sustainable objectives, which ultimately lead to siloes, duplication of effort and ‘transactional’ relationships.

Next Steps

This Humanitarian Policy Forum was intended as a first step towards helping OCHA promote a more coordinated humanitarian policy agenda. Towards this end, the Forum culminated in an exercise to list concrete proposals and initiative that would support action on the identified areas of analysis. 


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