Over the past four years, humanitarian action has been challenged and stress-tested in both new and familiar ways. Fundamental questions are resurfacing about what the humanitarian system is for, what its place is in the wider social fabric, and how well it is performing. The findings in this 2022 edition of The State of the Humanitarian System (SOHS) report have been organised around these core questions, with three fundamental ones framing the report: What is the system? What is it achieving? How is it working?

As we spoke to aid recipients and aid practitioners during our 18-month research period, we heard a clear demand to examine the state of the humanitarian system against the central expectations that people have of it – not only against the criteria and technical areas by which it tends to measure itself. Based on this feedback, we have adopted a different structure for this report – one that allows us to broaden the issues explored and the framework we use to explore them. 

The 12 chapters in this edition of the SOHS each present evidence in order to answer a key question about the state of the system. The report begins with an overview of the changing global context between 2018 and 2021 and is interspersed with six ‘focus on’ sections, five of which examine the system’s performance against a specific global challenge and one that highlights wider networks of support for people affected by crisis. In the conclusion we look back at the system's progress over the five editions of the SOHS, and look ahead at its fitness for the future.

While adapting the framing for this 2022 SOHS, we have maintained the rigorous research methods and analytical framework used in previous editions. This allows us to track changes in the system over the past 15 years.1 Our methodology – and how we have continued to upgrade it – are set out in the introduction and the annex. In the conclusion, we also summarise progress over time against the DAC criteria.  

Readers of this report come from many different professional, personal, organisational and geographic backgrounds and will be looking for information on a broad range of important, cross-cutting issues. Many of these –– for example, locally led action – will have their own dedicated chapter, but they may also be discussed elsewhere in the report. To help you find the information you need, we have developed a quick user guide that highlights key topics. It is not a comprehensive index of all topic areas and their individual mentions, rather it signposts to substantive discussions on select issues. Key findings from across the report can also be found in the separate executive summary.

With each edition, the SOHS report evolves thanks to the engagement of people across the system – from crisis-affected populations to practitioners and policymakers. In the heat of cascading crises and urgent response, it can often be difficult to step back and take the long view. We hope that the 2022 edition of the SOHS gives you both the evidence and the opportunity to reflect on the state of the system now and how it has changed over the past 15 years, enabling informed action as the system seeks to address future challenges.

Topics and where to find them

Crisis and threats

Topics                                 Where to find them
Climate change
Food security and famine
Protracted crises

Organisation, culture and values

Topics                                 Where to find them
Diversity, equality and inclusion
Humanitarian principles

Resources and modalities

Topics                                 Where to find them
Anticipatory / early action 
Cash programming 
Humanitarian financing 
Needs and needs assessment 
Technology and innovation 


Topics                                 Where to find them
Early recovery 
Food and nutrition 

Relationships and partnerships

Topics Where to find them

peace nexus

crisis response

Risks and impediments

Topics Where to find them
Aid diversion 
Aid worker security 

Accountability and inclusion

Topics Where to find them

Communication, feedback
and accountability 

Gender and sex

Sexual exploitation
and abuse (SEA) 


2007 was the beginning of the first SOHS study period covered in the 2010 pilot report.