In brief

Assertive states and a weakened multilateral system have meant that pressure on the space for principled humanitarian action has increased over the past 10 years. Whereas a decade ago the SOHS found that the major threat to principled action was association with militarised stabilisation agendas, recent concerns have centred on government-imposed restrictions. 

In the face of growing constraints, restrictions and attacks on aid, humanitarians found it ever harder to practice their ideals of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. And although they continued to pin their identity to these principles, aid workers often lacked the support, skills and will to make difficult judgement calls in complex operating environments.

Instead, agencies often defaulted to an ‘access at all costs’ imperative, accepting increasing compromises to their principles as the necessary price for operating in heavily controlled contexts including Syria and Ethiopia. Fear of expulsion had a chilling effect on the sector’s collective willingness to speak out about abuses of civilians and blocks on aid: the humanitarian voice became more and more muted, drawing criticism – including from Venezuelan and Burmese civil society – that neutrality was being used as a cover for silence. Disunity among agencies and competition for limited funds also undermined efforts to push back against politicised aid from donors. There were also, however, signs that some humanitarians were finding their voice by working in creative collaboration with human rights and other advocates, and balancing preserving presence with promoting protection.


The principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence mark humanitarian action out from other forms of support. They are also broad and shifting ideas (see Box N), with inherent tensions between them. Compromises are inevitable as humanitarian organisations try to find a middle ground between principles and pragmatism; as one expert noted, ‘It’s a tightrope as the principles often don’t sit easily with crisis realities and require trade-offs.’706

Previous editions of the SOHS have reported growing pressure on the space for principled action, with attacks on aid workers and aid politicisation on the rise, and declining support for the international legal regime. These trends have continued, and to some extent worsened, over the past four years – 45% of aid practitioners responding to our survey said that respect for humanitarian space had declined, and 24% said it had not changed. As noted in Chapter 4, humanitarian actors continued to be blocked, coerced and criminalised,707 and targeted attacks against them increased. Even before the war in Ukraine, deepening tensions and divisions between Western powers and China and Russia were playing out both in the conduct of hostilities and in the declining ability of the multilateral system to negotiate peaceful solutions and uphold international humanitarian law. There was some normative progress, including the agreement of UN Resolution 2417 on starvation in conflict and Resolution 2615, on humanitarian exemption to the Afghanistan sanctions regime, but otherwise, as one advocacy leader put it, ‘we’re in an absolute crisis of a fight for core norms’. Emboldened regimes also appeared to be learning from each other – copying tactics to constrain aid, including co-opting decolonisation and localisation narratives to close down humanitarian space. At the same time, social media played a new and direct role in the politicisation of aid efforts, and polarisation and misinformation fuelled perceptions that agencies were not acting in accordance with their principles. 

We’re in an absolute crisis of a fight for core norms.

Shifting interpretations and compromised space mean that tracking adherence to principles is difficult and evaluations rarely attempt to measure this. Yet it is possible to trace changes in policy and practice in two related spheres: the way humanitarians apply the principles in their own actions, and the extent to which they influence others to uphold international humanitarian law and maintain humanitarian space.

The focus of this chapter is on the humanitarian system’s ability to navigate threats to principled action – rather than providing an assessment of international respect for international norms. It looks at changes in humanitarian actors’ understanding of the principles, and how well these have been applied against three major tests – negotiating access, balancing advocacy and presence, and maintaining independence from donor interests. There are clear links to the findings on constraints to reaching affected populations, explored in Chapter 4; on performance in refugee and conflict settings, in ‘Focus on: Forced displacement’ and ‘Focus on: Active conflict’; and on the effectiveness of protection, explored in Chapter 6.

Box N: Humanitarian principles and the challenge of interpretation

The four humanitarian principles have their roots in Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and have been enshrined in UN resolutions and institutional commitments of donors and agencies. The principles are:

Humanity: Human suffering must be addressed wherever it is found. The purpose of humanitarian action is to protect life and health and ensure respect for human beings.

Impartiality: Humanitarian action must be carried out on the basis of need alone, making no distinctions by nationality, race, gender, religious belief, class or political opinion. 

Neutrality: Humanitarian actors must not take sides in hostilities or engage in controversies of a political, racial, religious or ideological nature. 

Independence: The autonomy of humanitarian objectives from any actors’ political, economic, military or other objectives.

These principles have been widely enshrined in the core missions of humanitarian organisations, but they are also continually contested and diversely interpreted. Humanity and impartiality are regarded by many as ‘first principles’ expressing the aims of humanitarian action – while neutrality and independence are often understood more as organising principles, important insofar as they support the aims and signal the legitimacy of humanitarian action. But even the ‘first principles’ allow a broad set of interpretations and imply difficult moral and political choices and trade-offs: a recent review of humanitarian organisations’ mandates revealed wide divergence in interpretations of humanity – between a narrow and expansive interpretation of ‘life-saving’708 – and, as one commentator put it, ‘the problem with humanity and impartiality as humanitarian principles is they simply tell you what’s good, not how to do it’.

Humanitarians continue to hold the principles at the heart of their identity, but also remain uncertain about what to do with them in practice. The principles are stated as guiding norms for most organisations, and the overwhelming majority of practitioners responding to our survey underscored the importance of humanitarian principles for their work709 – and yet there was limited practical support to put them into practice. There were clear exceptions such as the ICRC’s practical focus on applying the principles, and several agencies reported making active efforts to invest in training and support. Overall, however, a lack of clear policies, strategic direction and operational guidance resulted in a ‘generally poor understanding of humanitarian principles across the whole humanitarian community’,710 including among field staff and partners on the frontline of applying them in complex environments.711712

At the same time, the interpretation of the principles continued to be debated and revisited. Ten years ago, the SOHS documented how these debates were driven by preoccupations about humanitarians’ relationship to stabilisation efforts and engagement with military actors in UN integrated missions.713 Conversations around the nexus have reignited these concerns, as Chapter 12 examines, while discussions about race, decolonisation and localisation often circled back to questions of who owns the principles, and what they should be taken to mean. For some, this has meant a reckoning with the essence of the principles – as one commentator put it, ‘Black Lives Matter was very important. It finally outed the profound meaning of the principle of humanity and impartiality, which is respect for every human being impartially and equally regardless of social, racial, and cultural differences’.714 Others, however, argued that unrealistically purist ideals of neutrality have served to perpetuate the exclusion of local actors,715 as some warned that those same ideals were being appropriated by assertive states to delegitimise Western aid efforts.

Changes in the scale, spread and nature of crises – including COVID-19 and climate change – have also prompted calls for a fundamental rethink of the principles guiding needs-based assistance. New notions of solidarity have been posited, as well as questions of the ‘anthropocentricity’ of humanitarian principles in an age of ecological emergency.716 However, while humanitarian agencies were still struggling to translate the current set of principles into practical tools, training and skills, these debates felt even further from frontline application.

How well has the system negotiated principled access? 

The default position of many humanitarian agencies was to take the principle of ‘humanity’ to mean prioritising achieving ‘access at all costs’, partly driven by imperatives and incentives to maintain aid delivery even in the most challenging environments. Pursuing access was often in tension with immediate and long-term compromises, but evaluations of two major UN agencies’ work – one at the global and one at the country level – suggested that decisions were not backed up by organisational inclination or staff capacity to strategically weigh up the implications.717

Several evaluations highlighted host government conditions constraining assistance.718 In Syria, state control of the terms of humanitarian assistance has been a feature of the aid effort over the past decade, with the Syrian government ‘establishing the rules of the game’ from the outset.719 While the number of INGOs gaining permission to work in Syria has risen markedly since 2019, that permission is granted on the condition of tight oversight by the Assad regime.720 In Ethiopia, access to conflict-affected communities in Tigray remained highly compromised, and aid workers reported a high degree of government pressure on how needs were reported and aid was delivered. Commenting on global trends, one humanitarian leader diagnosed the humanitarian system as ‘suffering from Stockholm syndrome’, accepting increasing compromises as the price for permission to operate in heavily controlled contexts.

One humanitarian leader diagnosed the humanitarian system as ‘suffering from Stockholm syndrome’, accepting increasing compromises as the price for permission to operate in heavily controlled contexts.

There has also been vocal criticism of the aid effort in Myanmar. In the aftermath of the military coup, local civil society vigorously challenged the neutrality of the international humanitarian effort, accusing agencies of working too closely with the military junta in order to preserve humanitarian access. Dependent on military authorisation, many felt that the aid effort was co-opted and diverted towards the interests of the junta, and thus undermined civil society organisations. The response of the UN system was branded ‘woefully inadequate’721 in its failure to take a stronger stance and enable local organisations to lead,722 with one local activist noting that ‘an insistence on working through the Myanmar military junta – justified by a fetishised notion of humanitarian neutrality – obscures the undeniably political nature of humanitarian aid’.723

With estimates that half of current conflicts involve more than two parties, negotiating access with multiple state and non-state actors has remained a daily challenge which the humanitarian system has struggled to meet. Negotiating with non-state actors presents difficulties of navigating nebulous hierarchies, weak chains of command, shifting structures and dynamic allegiances. As such, ‘reaching an understanding with one commander doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve reached an understanding with the others’.724 In interviews in DRC and Yemen, aid workers described delicate and difficult negotiations to secure access in complex and dynamic situations where it was often hard to know who was in control, and where there was a high financial, security and reputational price to pay for operating in certain areas. Aid workers were often unclear what the right course of action looked like: in Yemen, one aid worker noted the ‘fees’ that their agency had to pay to multiple belligerents, including exchanging medical supplies for protection and access.

Despite the importance of common positions in complex high-risk negotiations, organisations continued to adopt divergent approaches to managing threats and negotiating access. A study on aid organisations’ negotiating tactics with the Taliban prior to the 2021 takeover noted the importance of improving information-sharing and coordinated positions among aid actors.725 But in Syria, aid officials reported how UN agencies and NGOs have succumbed to the Syrian government’s successful ‘divide and conquer’ strategy, while local frontline responders are intimidated into silence.726

Recognising the reduction in humanitarian space and the challenges that the international community faces in negotiating humanitarian access in many settings, in 2021 the Emergency Relief Coordinator announced the establishment of a new unit in OCHA to support ‘smarter access’ approaches. This aims to strengthen humanitarian engagement and provide opportunities to leverage relationships to facilitate humanitarian access.

How are agencies balancing advocacy and presence?

Recurrent tensions between speaking out about abuses and staying to deliver aid came to the fore again in the past four years. This was a common theme in countries with strong government control, where agencies had to choose whether to pay the price for taking a public stand against violations of human rights and humanitarian law. As one INGO leader put it: ‘Our ability to save lives is determined by our presence on the ground and that is in the hands of the host government. So many times, the cost of our presence is our silence.’

In Bangladesh, as bureaucratic impediments and government regulations slowed and narrowed the parameters of response, senior aid workers described ‘treading a tightrope between advocating for the rights and protections of refugees and working in partnership with the government to deliver the response.’ In Ethiopia, MSF was suspended for three months following statements on attacks on healthcare facilities in Tigray and the NRC for over five months, accused by the government of ‘spreading misinformation’. Both organisations have faced suspensions elsewhere because of their public statements, including in Iraq, Burkina Faso and Cameroon. 

These tactics appear to have had the intended ‘chilling effect’ on a humanitarian system that has long been accused of risk-aversion and access-fixation. As one humanitarian leader put it: ‘They specialise in scaring us and we specialise in being scared.’ In Ethiopia, suspended NGOs found themselves an isolated minority. Others told how they chose not to take a public position which would have been at odds with the views of their national staff and would have put both staff and operations in danger. In Myanmar, however, local staff members of international agencies described their discomfort at the emphasis that their organisations were placing on neutrality, with one UN staff member telling a journalist that ‘asking us to remain neutral is not the way. Of course, it’s easy to remain neutral when the act of injustice doesn’t affect you’.727 In Venezuela, interviewees felt that international agencies were using neutrality as a cover for not speaking out about human rights abuses and the surveillance, intimidation and arrest of local aid workers. Local human rights and humanitarian workers have been arrested, including five staff from a UN agency’s local partner. Local NGOs expressed frustration with the reluctance of international organisations to speak up on their behalf. 

This country-level reticence reflected a decline in vocal solidarity on the global stage. The war in Ukraine has since prompted a step-change but, during the study period, high-level advocacy for respect of international norms appeared to be at a low point – especially compared to the optimistic multilateralism that enabled the adoption of the ‘responsibility to protect’ principle less than two decades previous. Calls for global ceasefires and unimpeded humanitarian access, made by the UN Secretary-General and the EU High Representative at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, went unheeded. The UN Security Council remained gridlocked, the Human Rights Council was perceived to be ineffective and the appetite for taking collective positions on high-stakes geopolitical issues was limited. 

Analysts also noted an erosion of global consensus on the importance of international humanitarian law in setting limits to war, which means that ‘the humanitarian community really has to step on the gas pedal, to promote these norms.’728 One global study of protection advocacy identified a trend of international actors reducing engagement with conflict parties or third-party states on protection issues, a gradual diminution of the international humanitarian voice over the past 10 years in an age of silence.729 There were nascent signs of increased leadership on protection advocacy at the end of 2021 and the Ukraine conflict accelerated that trend, in this instance at least, but it remained to be seen what this would mean for humanitarian advocacy elsewhere.

Advocacy efforts were also hamstrung by fragmentation within and between aid agencies. Differences on positions, tactics and degrees of engagement remained rife within the humanitarian system, and several sources suggest that, at the UN level, advocacy tended to be reliant on the appetite and tenacity of individuals, rather than a coherent approach. Ten years ago, the Internal Review Panel found a systemic failure of the UN system to meet responsibilities to protect people and respond to serious violations in Sri Lanka, prompting the Secretary-General’s Human Rights Up Front initiative.730 However, a recent report found that, when UN country leadership does seek to advocate on international humanitarian law and protection issues, they must contend with a lack of political and technical support within a ‘still-fragmented’ UN system.731 This was echoed in our interviews: a former senior UN official lamented: ‘If the UN doesn’t have the courage in particular to stand up on issues, then who will do it? I believe this is a problem of leadership that we’ve seen deteriorate in the last few years.’ In Venezuela, advocacy efforts ‘fell apart’, according to one campaigner, ‘because you had humanitarians nervous and split in whether they thought there was a problem or not and a country team led by a development-focused person, inexperienced in confronting governments’.732

Connections and collaborations between international, national and local organisations were also marked by misalignments in power, priorities and policies. According to one study, this undermined collective advocacy on refugee protection in Turkey, where internationals were often seen to relate to local and national actors in an extractive or tokenistic way.733 Similarly, in 2018 in Myanmar, Kachin organisations felt ignored by international humanitarian actors who solicited their analysis to inform advocacy efforts, but failed to credit them for this or explain how it was used, in part due to persistent assumptions around the lack of neutrality of local actors.734

In the face of these shortcomings, there were new efforts by humanitarian agencies to join forces with experienced advocates from other sectors. Protection advocates noted a new creative pragmatism around working with human rights actors to minimise operational risks while maximising the impact of their advocacy.735 For example in Gaziantep, Turkey, a Human Rights Reference Group brought together national and international humanitarian and human rights actors working on the situation in Syria to identify and address protection gaps, including through advocacy. While in many cases, humanitarian agencies chose to participate under the radar in order not to jeopardise their country operations, in other lower-risk contexts they were emboldened to add their voice publicly to advocate towards international governments – including the ultimately successful campaign to end US arms sales to Yemen.736

Are humanitarians maintaining independence from donor politics?

Although most international donors claim that they are guided by humanitarian principles, ‘attempts to politicize and undermine the independence of aid are as old as humanitarian action itself’.737 Humanitarian funding is often informed by and entwined with foreign policy and domestic objectives, including asserting soft power, countering terrorism and limiting migration. In the 20 years since September 11 and the war on terror, these influences have taken on a new scale, purpose and complexity.738 As one interviewee put it, ‘Politicisation of aid is well entrenched even with the most mainstream donors.’ Global realignments in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine are bound to shift and deepen this politicisation. 

For humanitarian agencies, the challenge remained how to maintain their principled independence from donors’ political agendas. The widening gap between funding and needs and the continued reliance on a small number of institutional funders (see Chapter 3) made it difficult for humanitarian organisations to assert their independence, especially given the high levels of earmarked funding.739 Médecins Sans Frontières, and to an extent World Vision International, are unusual in their ability to survive and operate on fundraising from the general public, as Chapter 2 shows; other NGOs and UN agencies are largely dependent on a handful of governments’ foreign aid allocations.

The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator noted that this should not mean that humanitarian agencies should be in thrall to their funders: ‘Donors are giving a massive amount of money and along with this comes their political views. We shouldn’t be surprised at this, but we should be able to disagree with them.’740 Yet agencies do not routinely or systematically push back against politicised aid – for example, an evaluation of UNICEF’s work in complex emergencies found a ‘lack of clarity in determining when to accept conditions and when to reject them’.741 In the face of heightened competition for funding, agencies found it hard to speak with one voice to contest or negotiate the terms or positions of institutional donors. In the case of counter-terrorism measures, which circumscribed where and how aid could be spent, agencies tended to err on the side of caution and compliance. In Afghanistan, prior to the Taliban takeover, many agencies had become deeply dependent on significant amounts of humanitarian funding from the US and UK. This funding came with counter-terrorism conditions, raising questions about whether the agencies that accepted it could truly describe themselves as neutral and independent. Following the Taliban takeover in 2021, agencies sought to ‘carve out’ humanitarian exemptions in international sanctions and to assert their principles, somewhere in the space between negotiating access with the new leadership in Kabul and negotiating funding with donors whose support to Afghanistan was conditional on, for example, agencies not paying tax or utility bills to the Taliban authorities.

Donors are giving a massive amount of money and along with this comes their political views. We shouldn’t be surprised at this, but we should be able to disagree with them.

In Yemen, controversy has continued to surround the acceptance of large volumes of funding from Saudi Arabia and the UAE,742 given their active engagement in the conflict. Between 2016 and 2020, Gulf donors provided nearly a third of funds to the UN-coordinated response in Yemen, which often filtered through the system from UN agencies to other organisations which would not take the money directly. According to aid workers in the country, Saudi money came with requirements about which regions, commodities and modalities it could be spent on and strict monitoring conditions, including access to beneficiary lists. In 2021, a new and somewhat opaque Yemen Famine Relief Fund was established, prompting speculation about where the funds were coming from and the degree of involvement of Gulf donors. The humanitarian community was not united in its response; some agencies sent in proposals while others firmly opted out, leading one senior aid official to tell journalists, ‘This is just proof that if enough money is at play there is no wisdom left, just the fear of missing out.’743

Migration management agendas also compromised the independence of humanitarian action. This continues the concerns humanitarian agencies raised in the last edition of the SOHS: that they are becoming ‘more involved in attempts by states to control flows of refugees and migrants’. As the Focus on: Forced Displacement explores, the imperative to limit onward movement of displaced people to donor countries remained a high priority for many Western governments. Some donors’ funding allocations, including to Turkey and Libya, were associated with containment objectives, while elsewhere would-be migrants were prioritised for funding over other groups who may have been in greater need.744 The IFRC has described how accepting funds from one EU Trust Fund compromises agencies’ independence and neutrality, as it provides funds to NGOs and UN agencies to improve the detention conditions in Libya – the very same conditions that are a consequence of EU migration management efforts.745 According to one study: ‘The political realities in Europe and the adoption of an objectives-driven approach to crisis management mean that it is decreasingly realistic to apply the principles to the full range of EU funded relief operations.’746


 C. Bennet, M. Foley, and S. Pantuliano, ‘Time to Let Go: Remaking Humanitarian Action for the Modern Era’ (London: HPG/ODI, 2016). cited in I. Friesen, P. Veron, and V. Mazarra, ‘EU Humanitarian Aid: Caught between Nexus and Independence’ (European Think Tanks Group (ETTG), 2020).


W. Avis., ‘Joint Operating Principles among Humanitarian Actors to Improve Access’ (Brighton: K4D, 2018).


M. Montemurro and K. Wendt, ‘The Limits of Labels. HERE “Mandates Study” Mali Report’ (Geneva: HERE, 2018).


According to the survey of aid workers for this edition of the SOHS, humanity and impartiality were felt to be the most important: 85% and 78% positively rated their importance, compared to 70% for neutrality and 66% for independence.


R. Grace, ‘Humanitarian Negotiation with Parties to Armed Conflict: The Role of Laws and Principles in the Discourse’, SSRN Electronic Journal, 2020.


The 2012 edition of the SOHS concluded that humanitarians had let themselves become too close to the stabilisation agenda, and ‘many humanitarian organisations have willingly compromised a principled approach in their own conduct through close alignment with political and military activities and actors’ ALNAP, The State of the Humanitarian System 2012 (London: ALNAP, 2012), 12.


Key informant interview for ALNAP’s 2021 general meeting.


S. Healy, ‘Neutrality: Principle or Tool?’, Humanitarian Practice Network (HPN), 2021.


One academic has proposed a new set: equity, diversity, solidarity and compassion. M. Clarke and B. W. Parris, Vale the Humanitarian Principles: New Principles for a New Environment”, The Humanitarian Leader, p. Working Paper 001, Aug 2019.; Another has suggested that climate change imperatives should prompt a reframing of the ‘anthroprocentric‘ notion of impartiality. H. Slim, ‘What’s Wrong with Impartiality’, The New Humanitarian, 2021.


Sida and Schenkenberg, Rohingya Response Evaluations; Danida, ‘Evaluation of the Regional Development and Protection Programme in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq 2014-2017’ (Copenhagen: Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 2018); Murray, Response to the Refugee Crisis in Turkey; Lister, Ethiopia: An Evaluation; A. Koclejda, G. Roux-Fouillet, and N. Carlevaro, ‘NRC Afghanistan Shelter Evaluation Report’ (Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), 2019)


Hall, Rescuing Aid in Syria The number of INGOs granted registration rose from 24 in 2019 to 41 by 2021.


D. Lilly, ‘The UN’s Response to the Human Rights Crisis after the Coup in Myanmar: Destined to Fail?’ (New York: International Peace Institute, 2021).


E. Fishbein, ‘Choosing Sides: Five Local Takes on Aid Neutrality in Myanmar’, The New Humanitarian, 2021.


K. Ohmar, ‘There’s Nothing Neutral about Engaging with Myanmar’s Military’, The New Humanitarian, 2021.


R. Barber. and Y. Zegenhagen, ‘Humanitarian Access and International Law: A Symposium for Humanitarian Practitioners, Researchers, Trainers and Policy-Makers: Summary Report.’ (Burwood/Melbourne: Centre for Humanitarian Leadership and Australian Red Cross, 2019).


L. Kelly, ‘Lessons Learnt from Humanitarian Negotiations with the Taliban, 1996- 2001’ (Brighton: K4D Helpdesk, 2021).


Fishbein, ‘Choosing Sides: Five Local Takes on Aid Neutrality in Myanmar’.


Key informant Interview for ALNAP 2021 meeting


Mark Bowden and Victoria Metcalfe-Hough, Humanitarian Diplomacy and Protection Advocacy in An Age of Caution (London: HPG/ODI, 2020).


 IASC, ‘Human Rights Up Front: An Overview’ (Geneva: IASC, 2015).


Key informant interview with senior campaigner.


A. Meral et al., ‘Refugee Advocacy in Turkey From Local to Global. HPG Working Paper’ (London: HPG/ODI, 2021).


ODI, ‘Humanitarian Action in 2021: Tensions, Trade-Offs and Dilemmas’, ODI, 2021.


According to some aid workers interviewed, this controversy extended to the UK because of its arms supplies to Saudi Arabia.


B. Parker and A. Slemrod, ‘The Biggest Yemen Donor Nobody Has Heard Of’, The New Humanitarian, 2021.


The Danish Refugee Council faced criticism around its contract to provide inputs to the Danish government’s Country of Origin Information reports, which were used by the Danish Immigration Service as grounds to revoke the residency permits of Syrian refugees. See C. Alfred and B. Holst, ‘How Denmark’s Hard Line on Syrian Refugees Is an Aid Group’s Ethical Dilemma’, The New Humanitarian, 2022.


A.F. Atger, ‘EU Migration Strategy: Compromising Principled Humanitarian Action. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies’, 2019.


Friesen, Veron, and Mazarra, ‘EU Humanitarian Aid: Caught between Nexus and Independence’.


This is an increase from the start of the study period – in 2018, there were 24 HRPs for conflict affected countries, and 4 RRPs.


 OCHA, ‘Syria Humanitarian Fund 2020 Annual Report’ (Syria: OCHA, 2020).


This includes the categories of one-sided violence by the state, state-based violence, and non-state violence. In 2010 there were a total of 82 such conflicts. See data here: Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), n.d.


According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, state-based armed conflict is defined as involving use of armed force between two parties, of which at least one is the government of a state, results in at least 25 battle-related deaths in one calendar year. War indicates the scale of this – reaching at least 1000 battle related deaths in a calendar year. Pettersson et al., ‘Organized violence 1989–2020, with a special emphasis on Syria, (UCDP: 2021). However there is no single definition – for examples, the Heidelberg Institute uses different definitions with different figures see HIIK, ‘Disputes Non-Violent Crises Violent Crises Limited Wars ’ (Heidelberg, Germany: Heidelberg Institute for International Conflict Research (HIIK), 2021).


ALNAP, ‘The State of the Humanitarian System.’, ALNAP Study (London: ALNAP., 2015).


 Data provided by Development Initiatives


OCHA and UN Foundation, Charles Petrie Speaking at the 2021 Global Humanitarian Policy Forum. From Checkpoints to High Politics: Humanitarian Access Negotiations in Action (online, 2021).


M. Turnbull, L. Moriniere, and A.T. De la Poterie, ‘Start Fund: Evaluation of Crisis Anticipation’ (Start Network, 2020).


M. Griffiths, ‘Rethinking Humanitarianism: An Interview with the UN’s Humanitarian Chief Podcast’, The New Humanitarian, 2022.


WFP and World Bank cited in Cited in FAO, DI and NRC, ‘Development Actors at the Nexus: Lessons from Crises in Bangladesh, Cameroon and Somalia’ (Rome/Bristol/Oslo: FAO, DI and NRC, 2021).


Griffiths, ‘Rethinking Humanitarianism: An Interview with the UN’s Humanitarian Chief Podcast’.


IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix, ‘Ethiopia Emergency Site Assessment 7 (1-26 June 2021)’ (IOM Displacement Tracking Matrix, June 2021).


OCHA, ‘Ethiopia - Northern Ethiopia Humanitarian Update Situation Report’ (Ethiopia: OCHA, December 2021).


EHRC and OHCHR, ‘Tigray Conflict: Joint UN Human Rights Office-Ethiopian Human Rights Commission Investigation Report’ (Geneva: Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC)/Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 2021).


Key informant interview Ethiopia


Key informant interview Ethiopia


According to OCHA FTS, data downloaded June 2022


USAID, ‘Tigray Crisis Fact Sheet’ (Ethiopia: USAID, O4 2021).


Key informant interview Ethiopia


OCHA, ‘Northern Ethiopia Humanitarian Update. Situation Report’ (Ethiopia: OCHA, 2022).