In brief

There was a major new focus on the age-old problem of disconnected aid trying to address people’s highly connected needs. The agreement of the DAC ‘triple nexus’ recommendation signalled a step-change in the system’s commitment to connect humanitarian, development and peacebuilding efforts. This catalysed renewed policy debate and positions, giving impetus to internal and inter-agency efforts to bridge ways of working. Several donors reviewed and improved the links between their teams and funding streams. At country level, new nexus working groups began to join up their analysis of short- and long-term needs and to develop ‘collective outcomes’ for communities facing crisis and risk. Initiatives were launched to create a cadre of staff able to build connections between approaches.  

Yet it was hard to know how much of a transformative effect this recent focus has had for the system, or for risk-affected people. The view from practitioners was not positive. Two-thirds of SOHS survey respondents felt that the system was doing a ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor’ job of connectedness, and nearly three-quarters rated progress in strengthening the nexus as ‘Poor’ or ‘Fair’. Although new nexus guidance was more specific than previous iterations of the ‘linking’ debate, humanitarian practitioners remained confused about what it meant for their work. Without clear monitoring frameworks, progress against high-level collective outcomes was hard to track or incentivise, and the nexus risked remaining an umbrella for existing or disparate programming. The emerging body of nexus evaluations tended to focus on process rather than results. And, under stress, the system reverted to type; connectedness in the COVID-19 response was patchy rather than strategic, and the swing back to humanitarian aid in Afghanistan highlighted how the ‘problem of problem states’ has yet to be solved.


It has long been understood that humanitarian aid is not the solution to humanitarian problems – that longer-term support is required to prevent and end crises, and to address ongoing needs. As one IDP in DRC told our researchers, ‘Aid cannot help us recover from the crisis, for us to recover we have to go back to our usual communities. We are only waiting for the government to restore lasting peace.’ A decade ago, the 2012 SOHS reported the ‘long acknowledged disconnect’ between emergency and development support which ‘has failed populations at risk'.769 Ten years on, a consistent theme from our research has been the humanitarian system’s role and efficacy in addressing chronic needs and vulnerabilities. For local actors and affected people, the distinctions between types of aid have often felt ‘artificial and counterproductive’.770 For humanitarians, taking on long-term responsibilities in the absence of concerted development investment to address long-term risks and vulnerabilities overstretches capacity and poses fundamental questions about what the system is for.  

Over the decades, the system’s response to this disconnect has taken different forms: from discussions on Linking Relief, Rehabilitation and Development (LRRD) to the more recent programmatic focus on resilience and the UN-led ‘new way of working’ described in the 2018 SOHS. What is new since the 2018 report is the framing of this question as a ‘nexus’ between humanitarian, development and peace approaches, which focuses at the level of system coordination as well as programme delivery. The question now is whether and how this latest iteration has resulted in significant and sustainable changes in how aid works to prevent and reduce crises. The view from practitioners was not positive: two-thirds of SOHS survey respondents felt that the system was doing a ‘Fair’ or ‘Poor’ job of connectedness771 and nearly three-quarters rated progress in strengthening the nexus as ‘Poor’ or ‘Fair’.772  

While organisations worked to turn high-level commitments into policies and pilots, external events ‘stress-tested’ the connections. Growing urgency around the climate crisis catalysed new partnerships;773 the COVID-19 pandemic demanded novel ways of understanding and responding to crises; and events in Ethiopia, Afghanistan and Myanmar prompted a regression from new ways of working to old models of humanitarian support. At the same time, the duration and caseload of protracted crises continued to grow, heightening the pressure on humanitarian response and on communities.  

This chapter focuses primarily on progress explicitly associated with the nexus agenda, rather than seeking to assess all links to longer-term processes, looking at this primarily from the humanitarian perspective. There are clear links to issues explored in other chapters, in particular questions of resourcing (Chapter 3); relevance to people’s priority needs (Chapter 5); and links to early action and anticipation (Chapter 6). Given the specific questions around how to apply nexus approaches in protracted refugee situations and in constrained conflict settings, there are also explicit links to ‘Focus on forced displacement’ and Chapter 11.

How have policies on the nexus changed?  

The nexus has become one of the dominant topics of policy discussion in the humanitarian system over the past four years. The 2019 OECD DAC Recommendation on the Humanitarian–Development–Peace (HDP) Nexus marked the moment where the term graduated from short-hand jargon to an official framework. With the ambition to ‘reduce overall vulnerability and the number of unmet needs, strengthen risk management capacities and address root causes’, the Recommendation also introduced the peace pillar, making it a ‘triple nexus’. Its adherents – the DAC group of donors and seven UN agencies774 – signed up to a broad definition of the purpose and elements of the triple nexus, which was then elaborated in a key messages document jointly produced by the IASC and the UN sustainable development group.775  

In practical terms, the aim is ‘strengthening collaboration, coherence and complementarity’, with an emphasis on simultaneous implementation and drawing on the comparative advantage of each of the three pillars. It is also clear that the way that this is applied has to be context-specific: in other words, ‘nexus programming is about focusing on context and being able to use the right tool in the right place at the right time’.776 The Recommendation looks at four broad areas of action: joint analysis and collective outcomes (a joint vision for populations expressed in a set of ‘smart’ three-to-five-year results);777 coordination and leadership; joined-up programming; and appropriate financing. 

For humanitarian practitioners, this policy progress appears to have generated as many questions as it has resolved. Staff at all levels reported finding the policy debate abstract, and being unclear about what the nexus means, both in theory and in practice. They were unsure how nexus language maps onto other existing models for thinking about connections between emergency and longer-term approaches – including the resilience and protracted crisis approaches that many organisations have already developed. The introduction of the peace pillar appears to have exacerbated the confusion, and despite efforts at clarification,778 it remains a source of contention.  

Although many organisations had signalled their alignment to the humanitarian–development–peace nexus, most lacked a specific policy on what it means for them. This gap was keenly felt at the country and programme level, where staff repeatedly reported finding the debate too academic, HQ-centric and top-down. There was widespread understanding that approaches had to be context-specific, but without practical guidance on how to apply the nexus, including how to navigate the inevitable tensions around degrees of coordination between development and peace actors in complex settings, approaches were ad hoc and dependent on the experience, commitment and relationships of in-country leadership.  

This created particular concerns around humanitarian principles: high-level policy779 acknowledges the importance of protecting principled humanitarian aid, but organisational guidance was often internally inconsistent, unclear and not practically oriented.780 In the wider debate, sceptics saw the nexus as threatening to subsume needs-based humanitarianism into a state-led development agenda, while champions saw the nexus as an opportunity to more fully realise the principle of humanity.781 These polarised positions were unhelpful for practitioners – without contextually grounded dialogue humanitarian and development communities continued ‘to talk past each other’,782 with development actors not grasping the importance of impartiality for pro-poor resource allocation, and humanitarians understating the trade-offs around principles in most fragile settings.

Box O: Humanitarian principles and the nexus

Experience of developing nexus approaches in DRC and Mali shows how context determines the relationship to humanitarian principles – and how well tensions can be addressed. While both countries face complex crises, and in both stabilisation forces are present as part of a UN-integrated mission, due to the political dynamics of the crisis and the international response principles were a defining barrier to progressing the nexus in Mali, whereas in DRC they were largely absent from discussion.  

Mali is experiencing multifaceted political and security crises, with threats from jihadist groups and rising communal violence, as well as the effects of climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic. Development gains have been reversed, many development actors have withdrawn from the north, and humanitarians are delivering long-term basic services as well as emergency aid. Since the military coup in 2012, there have been multiple international military interventions, including French-led operations, supported by G5 Sahel Forces, EU missions to train the army and police, and the UN stabilisation mission, MINUSMA. Overall, there are an estimated 15,000 or more foreign military and police personnel in the country, but as one analyst described it, there is ‘a sense that Mali is an “African Afghanistan”, with foreign forces stuck in a conflict they can’t win’. 783  

Preserving humanitarian space and principles is extremely sensitive in this context, and the space for impartial, independent and neutral humanitarian action is minimal. MINUSMA is mandated to support the Malian government, which is a party to the conflict, and EU strategic engagement in the Sahel is partly informed by migration management and counter-terrorism priorities. Popular opposition to foreign interventions is growing, and attacks on aid workers are common. Humanitarians face tough compromises around access to communities outside state control – having to choose between remote management, with its inherent transfer of risk, negotiating access with jihadists or relying on military security and escorts.  

A nexus approach in Mali was under development from 2017 and a task force was created, led by MINUSMA’s stabilisation unit, with co-leadership by France and subsequently by the EU, which got as far as identifying a pilot area, Mopti, before work stalled. Officially, in 2019 Mali adopted a double nexus approach, but there are widespread differences of opinion about whether and how the peace pillar of the triple nexus can be realised in this militarised and securitised setting. There has been significant concern from NGOs that the nexus agenda is being politically instrumentalised by donors, UN agencies and the Malian government. In 2019, the Mali NGO Forum publicly cautioned against the securitisation of the nexus agenda and warned that accepting funding from MINUSMA or the EU Trust Fund for Africa was contrary to humanitarian principles. However, there was no consensus among NGO members. One NGO representative suggested that the nexus was being used as justification to skew funding away from a needs basis and towards donors’ strategic priorities and state-held zones – ‘Donors used to ask, “What are you doing to meet needs?” Now the question is, “What are you doing about the nexus?”’ At the same time, a donor representative noted that funds can be protected for humanitarian purposes, but that unified NGO advocacy is necessary to ensure that ‘red lines’ for principled humanitarian aid are respected. The result was an effective impasse in coordination to develop a nexus approach. 

In DRC, by contrast, the nexus approach was progressing relatively smoothly with a high degree of trust between stakeholders, and concerns around humanitarian principles were not a feature of discussions. The peaceful and democratic handover of power to the new government in 2021 opened an opportunity for renewed development investments and cooperation which many donors seized. A well-functioning nexus task team was leading the development of pilots in Kasai and Tanganyika provinces, and coordination between donors, UN agencies and NGOs was inclusive and constructive. There was a shared understanding that the nexus approach means joined-up coordination, not enforced joint working. The difference with Mali can be partly attributed to the differences in the context and the politics of international and national intervention – in the two pilot areas in DRC the state is not regarded as an active party to the conflict, and the first pilot areas were those where the UN stabilisation mission, MONUSCO, was in the process of withdrawing. DRC is also less of a geopolitical priority for donors. While this brings challenges around mobilising funding, it also reduces concerns about politicisation. 

NGO actors had initially expressed concerns around what the triple nexus would mean for principled humanitarian action in DRC, arguing that peace should be ‘small p’ – referring to peacebuilding rather than peacekeeping – and there should be ‘no guns in the nexus’. Principles nonetheless remain an active concern for humanitarian actors in their daily work, particularly in eastern provinces, with issues around negotiating access and accepting military escorts. As nexus approaches roll out in more insecure areas including Tanganyika and eventually to the Kivus, where MONUSCO engages in interventions against armed groups, task team members acknowledged that principles may become more of a live issue.

Are institutions changing to enable better connections?

Connections within donors  

Donors’ inability to join up their internal analysis, strategy and funding mechanisms was regularly cited in evaluations and internal reviews as a barrier to connecting humanitarian and development efforts.784 Siloed decision-making and limited strategic coordination thwarted grantees’ attempts to programme across the humanitarian–development divide.785 In three of the four largest humanitarian donors,786 humanitarian and development aid budgets are managed by different ministries or divisions, and subject to different planning cycles, contracting rules and coordination arrangements. This institutional separation can serve to protect principled humanitarian aid from other foreign policy objectives,787 but measures are still required to ensure internal communication and coordination with other aid investments. 

Several donors did take initiatives to better connect their humanitarian, development and peace approaches. Some sought to do this without structural changes, for example through internal processes at HQ and enhanced devolution to country teams, while others went further. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) chose to undertake a major restructuring process, joining together its previously separate humanitarian aid and development cooperation departments to create geographical nexus teams from September 2022. Sweden chose to maintain a structural separation in order to preserve principled humanitarian assistance, and instead instituted a working group, built up cross-team engagement and invested in support for regional and country nexus collaboration.788 Other donors put in place country-specific mechanisms to enable their systems to better work together: the EU’s €20 million Nexus Response Mechanism for the Rohingya crisis involved joint design by different directorates789 to address protracted displacement. 

These examples were far from the norm and many donors lacked the institutional tools necessary to routinely make strategic connections. According to an OECD survey, while many were able to make adjustments and alignments, over half (55%) of DAC donor member respondents did not think (or were not sure) that their organisation was able to avoid fragmented, siloed or inappropriately short-term funding.790 Practitioners responding to our survey also pointed to incompatible planning and funding cycles as being at the heart of the problem – the prevailing model of short-term funding was by far the largest barrier they saw to realising the nexus, with 27% identifying it as the main challenge to bridging divisions. Humanitarian aid tends to be earmarked at a short-term project level, while development funding tends to be locked into multi-year host government priorities and cumbersome to shift. Failure to tackle this can result in simply trying to ‘do development in humanitarian time-frames’,791 potentially ending in failure and harm.792 Despite decades of discussion,793 donors still struggled to find ways of shifting to ‘doing development differently’ in fragile contexts. The extreme events in Afghanistan and Ethiopia in 2020 and 2021 were a stark reminder of this. In Afghanistan, after 20 years of development investment, the system regressed to being largely reliant on humanitarian funding channels to support basic services. Life-saving support and basic human needs were brought together under a UN Transitional Engagement Framework, while the international system discussed the future of the aid architecture.794  

Globally, the volume of aid was as much of a barrier to the nexus as its quality; struggling with immediate shortfalls, agencies often had little space to make long-term connections.795 Although strategic, nexus-oriented investments should ease the strain on overstretched humanitarian funds in protracted settings, pressures on overall aid budgets also meant that many agencies saw it as a zero-sum game; even before the economic fall-out of COVID-19, there were fears on both the humanitarian and development sides that a nexus approach could divert funds away from their core business. In South Sudan and Mali, agencies reported that the extremely underfunded HRPs were under pressure to understate needs, while there seemed little prospect of additional longer-term donor investments. In Cameroon, agencies observed how funding scarcity also entrenches competition and territoriality and disincentivises participation in collaborative processes.796 

Inter-agency coordination  

Donors’ internal divisions reflected larger divides in the overarching aid architecture, making system-level progress difficult. On the one side, humanitarian aid is highly coordinated and sector-siloed through the cluster system. On the other, development action is largely bilateral, with most aid bypassing the UN-led system, with coordination – under national development plans – taking place at the strategic, but not operational, level. Most humanitarian aid (80%) went through multilateral bodies, while most development aid (77%) was channelled bilaterally.797 Analysts have argued that a nexus approach focused on making links between ill-fitting parallel administrations, without reforming the aid architecture and its built-in disincentives to collective action, would simply add an extra layer of meetings and structures to an already over-complicated system.798  

Others were more pragmatic, understanding that change needed to start with bringing the right stakeholders together. At country level, new coordination structures emerged to create inter-agency connections with a view to developing joint analysis and collective plans. By the end of 2021 at least 10 countries799 had some form of nexus coordination structure involving UN leadership in some stage of evolution. These included the well-established multi-agency task team in DRC and the task force in Cameroon, which was already planning its phase-out in order to hand over control to municipal teams. 

While these emerging in-country coordination structures were successful in beginning to connect stakeholders and develop a common agenda, there was also criticism that they were UN-centric and not always sufficiently inclusive, especially of local and national civil society.800 Although some countries made conscious efforts to involve national and local NGOs in their discussions and reviews, they often felt peripherally involved and minimally informed.801 As shown in Chapter 9, lack of access to funding including for overheads is one of many barriers to inclusion for national and local organisations, and some feared that collective outcomes approaches may encourage a focus on ‘grand projects’ to the detriment of smaller, more accessible grants. 

There were also different levels of engagement of government representatives in these country coordination structures – and even within the study period this proved changeable in several countries. In Burkina Faso, the government which had co-led the nexus task force was ousted in the 2021 coup, in Ethiopia partnership with the government on durable solutions became strained as a result of the conflict in Tigray, whereas in DRC the democratic election of the new government in 2021 offered the opportunity to address prior absence of state engagement. In theory, development effectiveness places country ownership at the centre, while humanitarian action asserts its distance. In reality, this divide has proven far from clear-cut, especially as humanitarians engaged more with state institutions on protracted displacement and disaster risk. New IASC nexus guidance made the distinction between context types – and thus the space for coordination with state bodies – according to the willingness and capacity of state authorities.802 But, as events in Ethiopia and Burkina Faso showed, this space is precarious and, as one commentator put it, ‘the problem of problem states hasn’t been solved’.803  

Leadership and staff capacity  

Given the challenges of connecting such diverse and divergent actors, effective nexus leadership was essential to making progress, ensuring accountability and leading difficult decision-making. However, evaluations found gaps in thought leadership, prioritisation and direction at headquarters and in-country, and within and between agencies.804 At an inter-agency level, there were unresolved questions about where the leadership for coordination should lie, and how and when power should be located and shared. There was both expectation and precedent for the Humanitarian Coordinator/Resident Coordinator to be the focal point for in-country leadership.805 But there were also questions about whether recent UN reform processes – which detached the role from UNDP – had left Resident Coordinators with the staffing, resources and institutional political capital to effectively play this convening role, even for the relatively small portion of development aid that flowed through the UN system.806 

Many country teams identified the need for dedicated staff to support and drive forward coordinated action, and a new cadre of nexus advisers was deployed over the study period. At least six countries807 had dedicated in-country nexus advisers or coordinators funded from various sources, including Sida, the UN Peacebuilding Support Office808 and the Swiss government. There was a high-level nexus coordinator in the HC/RC’s office in Sudan for an extended period prior to the 2019 revolution, to review ways of working, gain buy-in and convene actors. DRC and Cameroon both have funding for multiple posts – senior roles at the capital level, supported by subnational paid and volunteer posts. The Swiss and Swedish development agencies both created nexus adviser posts within their own staff, with Sida establishing 10 nexus-focused posts in 2019 to be deployed to country or regional offices.809 There was a great demand among country teams for this type of post – a 2021 mapping exercise identified that most of the countries it surveyed identified the lack of dedicated nexus personnel as a challenge to progress.810 

Advancing the nexus demanded investments in wider staff capacity, as well as the deployment of dedicated personnel. Evaluations and studies of nexus approaches repeatedly identify the need for staff to become more ‘trilingual’ – able to speak the languages of humanitarian, development and peace, and bridge mindsets, identities and skillsets. Programme staff and leadership with these abilities and with the requisite ‘systems thinking’ skills were however scarce, and it often proved hard to build these skills. As one evaluation noted, one consequence of often short-term humanitarian staff taking on long-term service provision in protracted crises was that they became overstretched and lacked the capacity to implement new approaches.811 Initiatives were under way to address this skills shortage, beginning with a ‘nexus academy’ launched by the UN-DAC dialogue group in 2022.812

How have country strategies and programmes changed?

The efforts of in-country coordination task teams and advisers focused on building towards two central elements of the nexus approach – common analysis and collective outcomes. There were new efforts to bring together humanitarian, development and peace analysis to provide a more connected picture of vulnerabilities, risks and needs in protracted crises: joined-up analysis was in evidence in 10 out of the 16 countries surveyed by the IASC,813 grounded in a range of well-tested multi-agency models.814 There were still mismatches with UN-led Common Country Analyses (CCA), which usually took place every four years and thus were often regarded as ‘paper in a drawer’815 and out of step with nexus processes. However, recent reforms offered potential for them to become more risk-informed, regular and ‘living’ processes, and so form the analytical starting point for collective action. As these reforms were in the initial stages of roll-out, it remained to be seen whether this potential would be realised. 

A growing number of country teams used these analyses to develop collective outcomes. As of 2021, at least 10 countries816 had agreed collective outcomes through a UN-led multi-agency process, and a further five817 were planning or in the process of developing them.818 Most commonly, these clustered around the thematic areas of access to basic services, social cohesion, food security and nutrition, displacement and disaster management.  

While the process of developing collective outcomes brought key players together, their value as a practical framework for collective action remained unclear. Outcomes were expressed in very high-level terms – for example ‘basic healthcare for at least 50% of people in crisis zones’819 – and lacking clearly evidenced indicators or dates. This prompted concerns that they were too broad to drive meaningful collective action – serving as an umbrella for existing parallel activities rather than driving real systemic or programmatic change. The lack of monitoring processes meant that there was no collective accountability for collective outcomes and little incentive for achieving them. As a pilot country for both the EU nexus approach and the UN-led New Way of Working, Chad was one of the first countries to develop collective outcomes in 2016. OCHA was tasked with monitoring progress, but this primarily involved repurposing secondary data and encountered challenges around the lack of specific indicators and baselines, mismatches in timings and geographies of reporting, and an inability to attribute outcomes to interventions.820 As with the Comprehensive Refugee Response Frameworks, most collective outcomes processes stopped short of meaningful planning or any attempt to cost and prioritise interventions. Without this, it proved difficult to convene donors around priorities, understand gaps and continuity issues, and identify where problems lay in the pipelines of funding or of fundable programmes.  

Programmatically, it remained hard to assess the results of the recent focus on the nexus – for individual agencies, for the system as a whole and ultimately for affected people. Organisations were certainly able to identify many examples of relatively large-scale programming which combines both long- and short-term approaches to addressing emergency needs and chronic vulnerabilities, but it was hard to know either how far these were a result of new nexus thinking, or collectively represented a real shift in ways of working.821 Organisations were, however, starting to build their abilities to evaluate their nexus efforts; at the start of the study period there were very few nexus-specific evaluations and fewer still on the ‘triple nexus’, but by the end of the period several had been published and there was a clear appetite to share frameworks and learning.822 These evaluations tended to focus on processes rather than results because organisations’ nexus concepts were vague and not tied to clear objectives, and because in general monitoring systems tended to be ill-equipped for the complex task of measuring transformative change.

Box P: Nexus approaches in the COVID-19 response - social protection

The COVID-19 pandemic was a global crisis where immediate emergency needs were clearly bound up with longer-term socioeconomic vulnerabilities – and it could have been a prime opportunity for new connections to be made between humanitarian, development and public health actors. Yet, while there were positive examples of adaptiveness and collaboration, the COVID-19 response lacked an explicit nexus framing at the global system level. The separation of global plans, appeals and funding streams for humanitarian, development and health response led one commentator to lament a missed opportunity for ‘any kind of transformational change in the way that aid is delivered’.823  

However, the COVID-19 pandemic did accelerate new opportunities and ways of working at the programme level – particularly in shock-responsive social protection, whereby welfare measures expand to react to increases in vulnerabilities and needs. As the potential economic impacts of the pandemic became clear, countries of all income levels scaled up existing social safety nets and introduced new provisions. By mid-May 2021, the World Bank had noted an ‘exponential growth in social protection measures’, ranging from school feeding to cash transfers, over the previous six months – a global rise of 148% to reach a total of 3,333 measures planned or implemented across 222 countries.824 Between 2020 and 2021, the Bank estimated that an astonishing 17% of the world’s population had been covered by at least one COVID-19-related cash transfer payment.  

Shock-responsive social protection has long been identified as a practical entry point for humanitarian–development collaboration.825 Before the pandemic there were several well-tested models for linking humanitarian cash-based programming to wider social safety nets, including the Productive Safety Net Programme in Ethiopia and the Somalia Shock Responsive Safety Net for Human Capital Project in Somalia (also known as ‘Baxnaano’).826 These have yielded lessons around ensuring that systems do not create social tensions through inconsistent targeting, do not neglect protection concerns through an ‘assistance bias’, and are grounded in evidence on what works in fragile as well as stable contexts. As systems scaled up and adapted to respond to the economic shock of the pandemic, there were both positive and negative examples of how well these lessons had been learned. 

In Yemen, prior to the pandemic, the problem of fragmentation and duplication between humanitarian responses and development-backed social protection systems had been well-noted but minimally addressed – there were persistent silos and institutional territoriality, including between the World Bank-funded UNICEF social welfare scheme and the humanitarian-funded WFP cash programming response. But when the pandemic hit, there was a marked improvement in collaboration and ‘cross-fertilisation of ideas’ between humanitarian and development donors, including through a new and well-supported working group on cash and social protection. The World Bank subsequently increased the transfer value, including to a sub-group of ultra-vulnerable households, part-funded by humanitarian donors via the Yemen Emergency Multi-Donor Trust Fund. The experience led experts to conclude that the ‘COVID-19 response has been an entry point for these donors to move forward with joint planning on how to collectively support a transitional “safety net” system for Yemen.’827 

By contrast in Kenya, where cyclical droughts had led to a well-established national Shock Responsive Social Protection programme, the COVID-19 response revealed, rather than resolved, a lack of coordination. The national social protection system, the COVID-19 response and the multiple humanitarian cash transfer systems in the country lacked a common strategy, protocols to minimise duplication and measures to prevent wide variations in the pay-outs people received.828 Experiences in Kenya and several other countries have led to emerging conclusions on what works in linking humanitarian response with social protection, and how to overcome stubborn challenges and divides. Many of these came back to wider nexus-related recommendations – the need to invest in and incentivise coordination, to improve shared understanding of the specific political economy and context and build a joint vision and strategy.829 Emerging learning shows that coordination between humanitarian and social protection stakeholders was strongest where there was a joint focus on the ultimate outcomes for those in need.830


Connectedness is one of the DAC evaluation criteria which is used to assess the extent to which activities of a short-term emergency nature are carried out in a context that takes longer-term and interconnected problems into account.


When asked to give their opinion of how well their sector (or the system) performed in connectedness between humanitarian, development and or peace activities, 29% rated it poor, 37% fair, 26% good and only 8% excellent. When asked to rate progress in strengthening the nexus in their context, 31% rated it poor, 42% fair, 25% good and 2% excellent.


For example, partnerships between humanitarians and climate scientists in risk-based approaches under the auspices of the Red Cross Climate Centre and other networks, and new collaborations between OCHA and the UN Environment Programme through the Joint Environment Unit.




SDG and IASC, ‘United Nations Sustainable Development Group & Interagency Standing Committee (IASC) Task Team on Strengthening the Humanitarian-Development Nexus with a Focus on Protracted Contexts’ (SDG and IASC, 2019).


CARE Canada, ‘Annual Impact and Learning Review The Humanitarian - Development Nexus’ (CARE Canada, 2019).


Collective Outcomes were a central component of the New Way of Working approach, intended to identify a series of common positive changes which could be achieved through complementary short-term humanitarian and longer-term development approaches.


See for example the IASC, ‘Exploring Peace within the Humanitarian-Peace-Development Nexus’, Issue Paper (Geneva: IASC and OPAG, 2020). which makes the distinction between ‘big P’ peacekeeping and political peace processes, and ‘little p’ peace-building processes.


OECD DAC, ‘DAC Recommendation on the Humanitarian-Development Peace Nexus’ (Paris: OECD, 2019), World Humanitarian Summit, ‘Transcending Humanitarian-Development Divides: Commitment to Action UN’, 2016; European Commission, ‘Joint Communication to the European Parliament and the Council: The EU’s Comprehensive Approach to External Conflict and Crises’ (Brussels: European Commission, 2013).


UNICEF, ‘Formative Evaluation of UNICEF Work to Link Humanitarian and Development Programming’ (New York: UNICEF, 2021)., FAO, ‘Evaluation of FAO’s Contribution to the Humanitarian–Development–Peace Nexus 2014–2020’ (Rome: FAO, 2021).


See inter alia F. Schmitz Guinote, ‘A Humanitarian-Development Nexus That Works’, Humanitarian Law and Policy, 21 June 2018,; and M. Dubois, ‘The Triple Nexus – Threat or Opportunity for the Humanitarian Principles?’ (Berlin: Centre for Humanitarian Action (CHA), 7 May 2021).


 J. Macrae, ‘Linking Thinking: Why Is It so Hard and What Can We Do about It?’ (Netherlands: KUNO, 2019).


A. Steinke, ‘The Triple Nexus in Mali: Coordination, Securitisation and Blurred Lines Centre for Humanitarian Action’ (Berlin: Centre for Humanitarian Action (CHA), 2021).


ADE, Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis, 41.; J. Murray, F. Pedersen, and S. Ziesche, ‘Evaluation of the Global Cluster for Early Recovery’ (New York: UNDP, 2018), 38.; R. Zetter et al., ‘Evaluation on Forced Displacement and Finnish Development Policy. Final Report’ (Finland: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 2019), 60.; SDC, ‘Independent Evaluation of the Linkage of Humanitarian Aid and Development Cooperation (Nexus).’ (Bern: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), 2019), 6.; Global Affairs Canada, ‘Evaluation of the International Humanitarian Assistance Program 2011/12 to 2017/18’, 3. ADE, Response to the Rohingya Refugee Crisis, 41.; J. Murray, F. Pedersen, and S. Ziesche, ‘Evaluation of the Global Cluster for Early Recovery’ (New York: UNDP, 2018), 38.; R. Zetter et al., ‘Evaluation on Forced Displacement and Finnish Development Policy. Final Report’ (Finland: Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland, 2019), 60.; SDC, ‘Independent Evaluation of the Linkage of Humanitarian Aid and Development Cooperation (Nexus).’ (Bern: Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), 2019), 6.; Global Affairs Canada, ‘Evaluation of the International Humanitarian Assistance Program 2011/12 to 2017/18’, 3.


 L. Zamore, ‘The Triple Nexus in Practice: Toward a New Way of Working in Protracted and Repeated Crises’ (New York: Center on International Cooperation (CIC), 2019).; L. Poole and V. Culbert, ‘Financing the Nexus: Gaps and Opportunities from a Field Perspective’ (Rome/Oslo/New York: FAO, NRC, UNDP, 2019); CARE Canada, ‘Annual Impact and Learning Review The Humanitarian - Development Nexus’.


US, Germany and the European Commission.


As for example in the case of Sida, which maintains a separate Humanitarian Unit, with strategic communication with the development side of the agency. See: Sophia Swithern, Donors at the Triple Nexus: Lessons from Sweden Development Initiatives (Bristol: Development Initiatives, 2019).




OECD, The Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus Interim Progress Review (Paris: OECD, 2022).


One evaluation cited the example of an initiative to improve livelihoods through gardening groups which, without considering wider investments in markets and infrastructure, simply led to rotting crops. CARE, CARE Canada Annual Impact and Learning Review: The Humanitarian - Development Nexus’ CARE, 2020.


See, e.g., DFID, Why We Need to Work More Effectively in Fragile States (London: Department for International Development, 2005); F. Davies, ‘Development Assistance and Approaches to Risk in Fragile and Conflict Affected States’ (Paris: OECD, 2014).


UN, ‘United Nations Transitional Engagement Framework (TEF) for Afghanistan’ (Afghanistan: UN, 2022).


Poole and Culbert, ‘Financing the Nexus: Gaps and Opportunities from a Field Perspective’.


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).


A. Burlin, ‘Forced Displacement and the Humanitarian-Development Nexus: A Roundtable Anthology’, EBA Working Paper (Sweden: Expert Group for Aid Studies (EBA), 2021).


L. Perret, ‘Operationalizing the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus: Lessons from Colombia, Mali, Nigeria, Somalia and Turkey’ (Geneva: IOM, 2019).; D. Lilly, ‘What Happened to the Nexus Approach in the COVID-19 Response?’, IPI Global Observatory, 2020.; Macrae, ‘Linking Thinking: Why Is It so Hard and What Can We Do about It?’


Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Colombia, DRC, Jordan, Libya, Niger, Ukraine and Somalia (planned).


M. Thomas, ‘NGO Perspectives on EU Humanitarian Development Nexus Approach’ (Brussels: VOICE, 2019),; Ndeda and Birungi, ‘Addressing the Humanitarian-Development Nexus in the Horn of Africa’ (London: Save The Children, 2018).


E. Fanning, and J. Fullwood-Thomas, ‘The Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus: What does it mean for multi-mandated organizations?’ Oxfam, 2019.


These include ‘constrained’ settings, where state authorities are unwilling to uphold obligations to their populations and limit international engagement; ‘capacity-driven’ settings, where there is state willingness but limited capacity and budget support; and ‘consultative’ settings, where authorities are willing and have capacity but where there is emergent peace or active conflict.


Macrae, ‘Linking Thinking: Why Is It so Hard and What Can We Do about It?’


UNDP, ‘Evaluation of UNDP Support to Conflict-Affected Countries’ (New York: UNDP, 2021), 19.; UNICEF, Work to Link, 98; CARE Canada, ‘Annual Impact and Learning Review The Humanitarian - Development Nexus’, 4.


A stakeholder survey conducted for the OECD DAC interim progress review on the humanitarian-development-peace nexus found that the RC/HC were understood to be the most common leaders and coordinators of the nexus effort, followed by a ‘group of international partners’ (OECD, ‘Interim Progress Review).


OECD, ‘Co-ordination across the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus’ (Paris: OECD Publishing, forthcoming).


Cameroon, DRC, Haiti (peace and development adviser), Jordan, Libya and Sudan (prior to the 2019 revolution).


The PBSO-managed Humanitarian-Development-Peace Partnership Facility has provided funds for nexus advisers.


In DRC, the Sida nexus adviser has been pivotal in supporting the nexus task team and convening donors in a donor nexus group.


IASC, ‘Mapping Good Practice in the Implementation of Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus Approaches: Synthesis Report. IASC Results Group 4’ (Geneva: OCHA, 2021).


OECD, ‘Nexus Academy. Learning, Community, and Capacity for HDP Solutions’ (Paris: OECD, 2022).


IASC, ‘Mapping Good Practice in the Implementation of Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus Approaches: Synthesis Report. IASC Results Group 4’.


These include OECD’s resilience analysis, which has provided the foundation for development of collective outcomes in several countries, and the Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessment model (RPBA) and its sister process, the Post Disaster Needs Assessment (PDNA), which bring together national and international actors to develop a shared analysis of the root causes of crises and prioritise actions.


Zamore, ‘The Triple Nexus in Practice: Toward a New Way of Working in Protracted and Repeated Crises’.


Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Ukraine and the DRC.


Burundi, CAR, Haiti, Occupied Palestinian Territories and Libya.


Others, including Colombia and Iraq, had agreed other kinds of common nexus priorities without calling them collective outcomes.


Collective outcome for Chad


Poole and Cuthbert, ‘Financing the Nexus: Gaps and Opportunities from a Field Perspective’, FAO, NRC, UNDP, 2019.


Many could be traced back to a prior focus on resilience, including livelihoods programmes in Somalia, and the FAO/WFP/UNICEF joint resilience, peace and stabilisation programme in DRC, which includes agriculture, livelihoods, basic service provision and social cohesion activities.


These include evaluations from DANIDA, SDC, UNICEF, FAO and GAC.


Lilly, ‘What Happened to the Nexus Approach in the COVID-19 Response?’


U. Gentilini et al., ‘Social Protection and Jobs Responses to COVID-19 : A Real-Time Review of Country Measures’ (Washington DC: The World Bank Group, 2020).


 SDG target 1.3 calls for the substantial coverage of the poor and the vulnerable by nationally appropriate social protection floors.


Barca, ‘Social Protection and COVID-19 – the Emerging Story of What Worked Where... and What It All Means for Future Crises’, FP2P (blog), 2021.


G. Smith, “Overcoming Barriers to Coordinating across Social Protection and Humanitarian Assistance – Building on Promising Practices’’ (Social Protection Approaches to COVID-19 Expert Advice Service (SPACE),DAI Global UK Ltd, 2021), 35.


Smith (Ibid); C. Clare Gardner et al., ‘Opportunities of, and Obstacles to, the Utilisation of the Enhanced Single Registry. Kenya Social Protection Research Study 1’ (Oxford Policy Management and UKAID, 2020).


Smith, ‘Overcoming Barriers to Coordinating across Social Protection and Humanitarian Assistance – Building on Promising Practices’’.


L. Austin and V. Barca, ‘Learnings on Linking Humanitarian Cash and Social Protection: Synthesis Note. The Grand Bargain Sub-Group on Linking Humanitarian Cash and Social Protection’ (Agenda for Humanity, 2021).


ALNAP, ‘The State of the Humanitarian System.’, ALNAP Study (London: ALNAP, 2012), 13.