Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

Rethinking Humanitarian Reform: Toward Demand-Driven Action
Focusing on affected populations first.
About the Project
The humanitarian system allocates its resources inefficiently, reaches too few people, and fails to provide what vulnerable populations say they need the most. Our project aims to understand the incentives behind the system and shift them to better prioritize the needs of affected populations

The world is currently facing the highest levels of forced displacement and humanitarian need. Yet the humanitarian system allocates its resources inefficiently, reaches too few people, and fails to provide what vulnerable populations say they need the most.

Despite modest progress as a result of three major reform efforts since 2005, each have fallen short of their aspirations. There is a lack of political will to tackle the power dynamics and skewed incentives that characterize the humanitarian system’s business model.

To achieve deeper reform, efforts need to be reoriented away from the priorities of aid agencies and donors – towards the needs of affected populations. To build on progress to date, this project aims to:

  • Transform understanding of power structures in the humanitarian system and the resources that reinforce these structures;

  • Support efforts to shift control of coordination, financing and governance models to be about those we serve, not those who serve; and

  • Develop recommendations which support aid agencies and donors to deliver more accountable and effective humanitarian action.

Our research will develop actionable and concrete policy options for moving the humanitarian system away from a fragmented, supply-driven model – toward a more coherent, demand-driven model that’s fit for the future. It will deliver a more ambitious vision targeting three aspects of the system.

  • Coordination: field delivery coordination models that put affected people first and strengthen frontline response.

  • Financing: alternative approaches to humanitarian financing that lower entry barriers for local and national actors.

  • Governance: humanitarian governance that prioritises efficiency and performance, and accountability to affected people.

Jeremy Konyndyk and Heba AlyTo learn about the future of crisis response, explore our limited podcast series with Heba Aly and Jeremy Konyndyk, Rethinking Humanitarianism. Listen now by searching for “The New Humanitarian” in your preferred podcast app (available on Spotify, Apple, Google, Stitcher, and YouTube). If you have feedback on the podcast, or want to send us contributions, email RHPodcast@thenewhumanitarian.org.

Blogs

  • Who Represents Whom? A Conversation on Decolonizing Humanitarian Governance
    by Patrick Saez et al.
    The Black Lives Matter movement, #AidToo, and the failure to support locally-led responses during COVID-19 have spotlighted power imbalances in the humanitarian sector. Whether...
  • Beyond the Grand Bargain: The Humanitarian Financing Model Needs More Radical...
    by Patrick Saez et al.
    The global scale of the pandemic has not only placed new constraints on the current humanitarian financing model. It has also revealed, once more, chronic difficulties to...
  • Demand-Driven Humanitarian Action in the Asia-Pacific: A Conversation with...
    by Merryn Lagaida et al.
    We’re facing a “make or break” moment to reset commitments to humanitarian reform. The Asia-Pacific region has proven itself a unique case with increasing national and...
  • Adapting Humanitarian Aid Coordination to an Area-Based Model Could Improve...
    by Rose Worden et al.
    COVID-19 is compounding humanitarian crises across the globe and exposing the current aid model as ill-adapted to support the frontline response. We have argued that applying an...
  • Turning the Grand Bargain Upside Down: Views from Indonesia
    by Rose Worden et al.
    Past humanitarian reform agendas have continually emphasised the need for humanitarian response to be locally owned. But for two decades, attempts to systematically elevate the...
  • Local Voices: Learning from an Inclusive Humanitarian Coordination Model in...
    by Patrick Saez et al.
    Coordination is essential to effective humanitarian action. As a recent policy paper argues, an area-based approach would better align humanitarian action around the needs of...
  • Rethinking Humanitarian Reform: A View from International Actors
    by Patrick Saez et al.
    The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted once again that the humanitarian business model is poorly suited to today’s world. Humanitarian action is most effective when it is...
  • Local Voices: Humanitarian Coordination in Iraq and How to Do It Differently
    by May Kayali et al.
    Coordination is essential to effective humanitarian action. But as a recent policy paper argues, the cluster system struggles with persistent weaknesses. To understand the...
  • Moving Funding to Frontline Workers Fast in the Time of COVID-19
    by Jens Laerke
    After the publication of “Humanitarian Financing Is Failing the COVID-19 Frontlines,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs asked for...
  • Humanitarian Financing Is Failing the COVID-19 Frontlines
    by Jeremy Konyndyk et al.
    Longstanding weaknesses in the humanitarian business model are undermining the COVID-19 response in fragile and conflict affected states. Extensive delays, poor mechanisms for...
  • Faced with COVID-19, the Humanitarian System Should Rethink its Business Model
    by Jeremy Konyndyk et al.
    This is a crisis of truly global scale and it will place enormous constraints on traditional humanitarian operations.
  • Three Key Ways to Modernize Humanitarian Finance
    by Patrick Saez
    Is the humanitarian system broke or broken? 
  • Power, Money, and Influence: Broadening the Dialogue on Humanitarian Action...
    by Rose Worden
    At the 74th UN General Assembly meetings, Jeremy Konyndyk and I held a high-level side event at the Rockefeller Foundation headquarters focused on a vital but inadequately...

Publications

  • Financing the Global Humanitarian Public Good: Opportunities for Change
    by Rose Worden et al.
    On July 7, CGD convened a private, online, high-level roundtable of 15 major humanitarian donors, multilateral agencies, and NGO leaders under the Chatham House Rule to discuss...
  • Financing the Humanitarian Public Good: Towards a More Effective Humanitarian...
    by Patrick Saez et al.
    The international humanitarian system provides a global public service but is financed on a voluntary basis. The way official donor funding is mobilised and allocated is...
  • Inclusive Coordination: Building an Area-Based Humanitarian Coordination Model
    by Jeremy Konyndyk et al.
    Area-based approaches treat needs holistically within a defined community or geography; provide aid that is explicitly multisector and multidisciplinary; and design and...
  • People-Driven Response: Power and Participation in Humanitarian Action
    by Jeremy Konyndyk et al.
    To produce real systemic change, the aid system must move beyond technical and rhetorical approaches to accountability and begin reshaping the power and incentive structures...
  • Five Takeaways on the Future of Humanitarian Reform
    by Jeremy Konyndyk
    The world’s humanitarian aid architecture is growing outdated. Relief programs are most effective when they are integrated, locally owned, and demand driven. But humanitarian...
  • The Dos and Don’ts of USG Humanitarian Reorganization
    by Jeremy Konyndyk
    The proposed FY 2020 budget changes would be the most significant overhaul of USG humanitarian structures in decades. The proposal in its current form is unlikely to get much...
  • Joint Humanitarian Operations: How to Bring US Humanitarian Assistance into...
    by Jeremy Konyndyk
    The US has long sought enhanced coherence, quality, and efficiency from its UN and NGO partners; it is time that the US government place these same demands upon...
  • Fit for the Future: Envisioning New Approaches to Humanitarian Response
    by Jeremy Konyndyk
    For more than a decade, reform efforts have attempted to put crisis-affected people at the center of humanitarian response, and make the system more cohesive and responsive....
  • Rethinking the Humanitarian Business Model
    by Jeremy Konyndyk
    Disrupting the traditional humanitarian business model holds risks that must be managed carefully. If this disruption proceeds in an ad hoc manner, it could harm humanitarian...

Media Mentions

Events

  • Who Represents Whom?
    The Black Lives Matter movement, #AidToo and the failure to support locally-led responses during Covid-19 have shone a...
  • Locally-led Humanitarian Action
    Engaging Local/National Actors (L/NAs) is critical to the success of every humanitarian action but local expertise and...
  • Rethinking Reform: Demand-driven Humanitarian Action in the Asia Pacific
    Past humanitarian reform agendas have emphasised the need for emergency responses to be locally owned. But more than one year...
  • Area-Based Humanitarian Coordination: A More Inclusive Model?
    Coordination is essential to effective humanitarian action. But the humanitarian cluster coordination system has struggled with...
  • Power, Money, and Influence: Tackling the Imbalances at the Heart of Humanitarian Response
    Humanitarian relief must involve, and be accountable to, the crisis-affected people it serves. Versions of this principle can...

Blogs

  • Who Represents Whom? A Conversation on Decolonizing Humanitarian Governance
    by Patrick Saez et al.
    The Black Lives Matter movement, #AidToo, and the failure to support locally-led responses during COVID-19 have spotlighted power imbalances in the humanitarian sector. Whether...
  • Beyond the Grand Bargain: The Humanitarian Financing Model Needs More Radical...
    by Patrick Saez et al.
    The global scale of the pandemic has not only placed new constraints on the current humanitarian financing model. It has also revealed, once more, chronic difficulties to...
  • Demand-Driven Humanitarian Action in the Asia-Pacific: A Conversation with...
    by Merryn Lagaida et al.
    We’re facing a “make or break” moment to reset commitments to humanitarian reform. The Asia-Pacific region has proven itself a unique case with increasing national and...
  • Adapting Humanitarian Aid Coordination to an Area-Based Model Could Improve...
    by Rose Worden et al.
    COVID-19 is compounding humanitarian crises across the globe and exposing the current aid model as ill-adapted to support the frontline response. We have argued that applying an...
  • Turning the Grand Bargain Upside Down: Views from Indonesia
    by Rose Worden et al.
    Past humanitarian reform agendas have continually emphasised the need for humanitarian response to be locally owned. But for two decades, attempts to systematically elevate the...
  • Local Voices: Learning from an Inclusive Humanitarian Coordination Model in...
    by Patrick Saez et al.
    Coordination is essential to effective humanitarian action. As a recent policy paper argues, an area-based approach would better align humanitarian action around the needs of...
  • Rethinking Humanitarian Reform: A View from International Actors
    by Patrick Saez et al.
    The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted once again that the humanitarian business model is poorly suited to today’s world. Humanitarian action is most effective when it is...
  • Local Voices: Humanitarian Coordination in Iraq and How to Do It Differently
    by May Kayali et al.
    Coordination is essential to effective humanitarian action. But as a recent policy paper argues, the cluster system struggles with persistent weaknesses. To understand the...
  • Moving Funding to Frontline Workers Fast in the Time of COVID-19
    by Jens Laerke
    After the publication of “Humanitarian Financing Is Failing the COVID-19 Frontlines,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs asked for...
  • Humanitarian Financing Is Failing the COVID-19 Frontlines
    by Jeremy Konyndyk et al.
    Longstanding weaknesses in the humanitarian business model are undermining the COVID-19 response in fragile and conflict affected states. Extensive delays, poor mechanisms for...
  • Faced with COVID-19, the Humanitarian System Should Rethink its Business Model
    by Jeremy Konyndyk et al.
    This is a crisis of truly global scale and it will place enormous constraints on traditional humanitarian operations.
  • Three Key Ways to Modernize Humanitarian Finance
    by Patrick Saez
    Is the humanitarian system broke or broken? 
  • Power, Money, and Influence: Broadening the Dialogue on Humanitarian Action...
    by Rose Worden
    At the 74th UN General Assembly meetings, Jeremy Konyndyk and I held a high-level side event at the Rockefeller Foundation headquarters focused on a vital but inadequately...

Publications

  • Financing the Global Humanitarian Public Good: Opportunities for Change
    by Rose Worden et al.
    On July 7, CGD convened a private, online, high-level roundtable of 15 major humanitarian donors, multilateral agencies, and NGO leaders under the Chatham House Rule to discuss...
  • Financing the Humanitarian Public Good: Towards a More Effective Humanitarian...
    by Patrick Saez et al.
    The international humanitarian system provides a global public service but is financed on a voluntary basis. The way official donor funding is mobilised and allocated is...
  • Inclusive Coordination: Building an Area-Based Humanitarian Coordination Model
    by Jeremy Konyndyk et al.
    Area-based approaches treat needs holistically within a defined community or geography; provide aid that is explicitly multisector and multidisciplinary; and design and...
  • People-Driven Response: Power and Participation in Humanitarian Action
    by Jeremy Konyndyk et al.
    To produce real systemic change, the aid system must move beyond technical and rhetorical approaches to accountability and begin reshaping the power and incentive structures...
  • Five Takeaways on the Future of Humanitarian Reform
    by Jeremy Konyndyk
    The world’s humanitarian aid architecture is growing outdated. Relief programs are most effective when they are integrated, locally owned, and demand driven. But humanitarian...
  • The Dos and Don’ts of USG Humanitarian Reorganization
    by Jeremy Konyndyk
    The proposed FY 2020 budget changes would be the most significant overhaul of USG humanitarian structures in decades. The proposal in its current form is unlikely to get much...
  • Joint Humanitarian Operations: How to Bring US Humanitarian Assistance into...
    by Jeremy Konyndyk
    The US has long sought enhanced coherence, quality, and efficiency from its UN and NGO partners; it is time that the US government place these same demands upon...
  • Fit for the Future: Envisioning New Approaches to Humanitarian Response
    by Jeremy Konyndyk
    For more than a decade, reform efforts have attempted to put crisis-affected people at the center of humanitarian response, and make the system more cohesive and responsive....
  • Rethinking the Humanitarian Business Model
    by Jeremy Konyndyk
    Disrupting the traditional humanitarian business model holds risks that must be managed carefully. If this disruption proceeds in an ad hoc manner, it could harm humanitarian...

Media Mentions

Events

Who Represents Whom?
The Black Lives Matter movement, #AidToo and the failure to support locally-led responses during Covid-19 have shone a spotlight on power imbalances in the humanitarian sector....
Locally-led Humanitarian Action
Engaging Local/National Actors (L/NAs) is critical to the success of every humanitarian action but local expertise and leadership are often overlooked. L/NAs are often the first...
Rethinking Reform: Demand-driven Humanitarian Action in the Asia Pacific
Past humanitarian reform agendas have emphasised the need for emergency responses to be locally owned. But more than one year on from the outbreak of COVID-19, humanitarians...
Area-Based Humanitarian Coordination: A More Inclusive Model?
Coordination is essential to effective humanitarian action. But the humanitarian cluster coordination system has struggled with persistent weaknesses. It is dominated by...
Power, Money, and Influence: Tackling the Imbalances at the Heart of Humanitarian Response
Humanitarian relief must involve, and be accountable to, the crisis-affected people it serves. Versions of this principle can be found in most foundational humanitarian...

Contact

For more information, contact rworden@cgdev.org

Contact

For more information, contact rworden@cgdev.org

Experts

Jeremy Konyndyk
Jeremy Konyndyk was a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. His research focused on humanitarian response, USAID policy reform, and global...
Patrick Saez
Patrick Saez is a senior policy fellow on secondment from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office where he serves as a Senior Humanitarian Adviser....
Rose Worden
Rose Worden is a research associate for the Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy program, supporting Jeremy Konyndyk and Patrick Saez’s work on...

Experts

  • Jeremy Konyndyk
    Jeremy Konyndyk was a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. His research focused on humanitarian response, USAID policy reform, and global...
  • Patrick Saez
    Patrick Saez is a senior policy fellow on secondment from the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office where he serves as a Senior Humanitarian Adviser....
  • Rose Worden
    Rose Worden is a research associate for the Migration, Displacement, and Humanitarian Policy program, supporting Jeremy Konyndyk and Patrick Saez’s work on...

Acknowledgments

CGD would like to acknowledge the generous support and engagement of the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT).