Tracking humanitarian performance since 2007

Since its inception 15 years ago, The State of the Humanitarian System report has provided a picture of change in the humanitarian system over time, primarily by tracking progress against the OECD DAC evaluation criteria, as outlined in ALNAP’s 2006 guidance (Beck, 2006). The 2018 SOHS used additional criteria (see Box A) to give more prominence to the key performance areas of accountability and participation, and localisation.

This 2022 edition uses the same indicators for the criteria that have been in use since at least the 2015 edition, but it has also looked to broaden the issues examined and the way in which they’re framed in response to feedback from NGOs, affected communities and humanitarians. In interviews with local NGOs and affected communities, there was the feeling that the system was assessing itself on its own terms. Meanwhile, humanitarian practitioners felt the criteria were increasingly misaligned with the issues that were most pressing for them. Humanitarian evaluations –which remain a vital source of evidence for the 2022 SOHS and frequently use the criteria – are also increasingly seeing their findings under a range of other strategic or policy-relevant issues. 

On this basis, the 2022 SOHS aimed to provide a picture of the complexities of humanitarian performance – beyond simple improvement, decline or stagnation – while answering pressing questions faced by the system. The assessment of performance in this chapter should be read in this context; rather than being a full summary of the report’s insights, it is a snapshot of a sub-set of issues that have been examined consistently since the first edition of the SOHS.

We assessed change on each criterion by improvement, partial progress, mixed progress, decline and no change (see ‘Key performance assessment summaries’ table). Overall, the 2018-2021 period saw a distribution of mixed progress, partial progress and decline since the last period. This is not the level of improvement that many would hope to see; for some people, there is frustration that the system has not moved forward faster. But given the external challenges faced by the system over this period, the fact that performance has largely stayed the same (and in some areas slightly improved) can be seen as a positive accomplishment.

As the previous chapters have explored, the four-year study period for this edition of the SOHS is in many ways a different era to the period covered under the last edition. Over 2015–2017, there was marked progress in humanitarian policy, with the adoption of new commitments, compacts and frameworks for action. By contrast, 2018 to 2021 saw the humanitarian system struggle to shift from policy promises to practice at a time of increasing global challenges (not least a pandemic) and as conditions for delivering effective, efficient and principled humanitarian assistance grew considerably more difficult.

Given these internal and external challenges, slow and non-linear progress may be understandable – but this is no reason for complacency, especially in the face of new challenges in the Russia–Ukraine conflict and its wider impact on other crises.

Humanitarian performance since 2010

Key: performance assessment summaries


Improvement: Clear progress made in policy and/or country-level implementation  

Partial progress: Slight or small improvements made, typically in policy or perception rather than implementation or outcome  

Mixed progress: Clear improvements made, but also clear declines in other areas  

Decline: Clear decline in policy and/or country-level implementation  

No change: Level of performance on this criterion remains largely the same as in the previous SOHS

Performance area  Summary 

2012 SOHS  


2015 SOHS  


2018 SOHS  


2022 SOHS  


  • Despite increases in international humanitarian aid, there was not the same growth as in the previous period, and levels have not kept pace with the near-quadrupling over the past decade of the global requirements set out in humanitarian appeals.  
  • The COVID-19 pandemic drove a peak in requirements in the 2020 UN-coordinated humanitarian appeals, but little more than half of these were met – a new low. On average, levels of funding to appeals were lower than in the previous periods.  
  • While several major donors increased their contributions, others made significant cuts. Despite previous attention to the importance of diversifying funding sources, this has not translated into a shift away from reliance on a few donors for the bulk of humanitarian aid.  
  • Aid recipients’ views showed a decline in sufficiency, and both recipients and aid practitioners noted insufficient aid as the biggest barrier to support. 
No progress Decline  No progress Decline 
  • The response to the sharp increase in needs due to COVID-19 meant that more people were reached with humanitarian assistance, signalling some progress. In 2021 and 2020, the system reached around 70% of those it targeted for aid. There is no comparable data for the previous period, but the system is paying more attention to estimating its reach.  
  • Crisis-affected people expressed significant concerns about aid not reaching those most in need, citing concerns about targeting decisions and aid diversion.  
  • Access constraints seemed to worsen, including government-imposed impediments, making it more difficult and costly to reach affected communities.  
  • Attacks against aid workers rose by 54%, particularly affecting national staff. Sanctions and counter-terrorism measures continued to block aid in some contexts.  
  • Efforts to ensure equitable reach to women, older people and people with disabilities resulted in better frameworks, tools and visibility. However, the system has little data on how well it is doing on inclusiveness. 
No progress Decline  Decline  Mixed progress
Relevance and appropriateness 
  • The proportion of aid recipients who felt that aid met their priority needs declined since the last report. Aid practitioners however continue to believe that this is their strongest area of performance.  
  • Improvements in multi-sectoral analysis have enabled the system to better understand people’s priorities, but evidence of efforts by humanitarian actors to adapt or design what they offer on the basis of recipients’ views continues to be limited.  
  • In the COVID-19 response, the system adapted to provide a largely relevant and appropriate health response, but there was evidence that the pandemic skewed attention away from people’s other priority needs.  
  • There has been further focus on tailoring aid to better support women, older people, and people living with disabilities, and this has translated into a mix of improved practice and simplistic application.  
  • The marked increase in cash assistance has surpassed expectations and led to improvements in relevance in some areas, although it still accounts for only around a fifth of humanitarian aid and is not universally preferred by or appropriate for aid recipients.  
Improvement  No progress Partial progress Mixed progress

Accountability and participation 

  • Consultation, participation and feedback continue to be strongly linked to aid recipients’ perceptions of the relevance, dignity and effectiveness of aid.  
  • While agencies continued to gradually increase their use of feedback mechanisms, these are not seen as being used effectively to influence decision-making. Both the 2015 and 2018 editions of the SOHS found that ‘while there are a number of initiatives and approaches that show potential, they have not yet delivered greater accountability or participation’. Despite increased attention to accountability to affected populations (AAP) issues in the past four years, this finding still holds. 
  • COVID-19 provided a challenging context for communication and feedback with affected populations due to the shift to remote formats. Some agencies used the pandemic to strengthen ties with communities by enlisting community members as proxies for face-to-face messaging.  
  • While meaningful accountability mechanisms for affected populations remain elusive, there were positive developments in the form of high-level acknowledgement of the need to strengthen AAP and in the improvements made to PSEAH mechanisms.
N/A N/A Partial progress Mixed progress
  • The availability and use of mortality data in crisis settings is poor, inhibiting an understanding of the degree to which humanitarian action delivers on its primary mission to save lives. However, there was some evidence that the system contributed to reduced mortality in some contexts.  
  • The system has made some progress on programming for gender-based violence and child protection. However, coordination structures for protection remained largely ineffective. Protection was overlooked during the COVID-19 response and the system was unable to meet the scale of protection needs in contexts of displacement and conflict.  
  • There was evidence of improved wellbeing and other outcomes for people in crisis, particularly in the food security, nutrition and education sectors, as well as in cash modalities and in early mobilisation of the COVID-19 health response.  
  • Increases in the use of preparedness and early action led to improved timeliness in a range of settings but remain a small proportion of overall humanitarian assistance.  
  • There were continued sector-specific attempts to improve the quality of humanitarian response, yet evaluations noted ongoing challenges with meeting quality standards.
Mixed progress Mixed progress Improvement  Partial progress
  • As the system’s estimates of the number of people needing humanitarian assistance have increased, so too have its investments in building longer-term efficiency into humanitarian response, with examples ranging from improvements to funding mechanisms to changes in coordination mechanisms and investment in multi-agency and digital cash payment systems.  
  • The ongoing lack of robust data on costs and outcomes means that assessments of efficiency remain largely qualitative, limiting the ability to fully determine how much progress is being made with new reforms.  
  • Five years of Grand Bargain implementation have delivered meaningful improvements to several drivers of inefficiency in the system, but progress remains limited, both in the number of actors engaged in these initiatives and in the overall proportion of international humanitarian assistance affected by them.
No progress Partial progress Partial progress Partial progress
  • Significant shifts in policy frameworks on the humanitarian–development–peace triple nexus have marked a step forward in connecting the humanitarian system with approaches to longer-term risk and vulnerability.  
  • This normative shift has yet to translate beyond programmatic examples of good practice into system-wide results and observable change for affected people. Evidence so far has focused on process rather than outcomes, while aid recipients continued to report a desire for aid that better enables self-sufficiency and resilience.  
  • Investments have been made in improving connections between humanitarian, development and peace staffing and structures, with new ways of working within donors and country teams. But aid practitioners still reported confusion about what the triple nexus meant, and tensions over how to apply it.  
  • New crises challenged nexus aspirations: 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.  
Improvement  Partial progress Improvement  Partial progress
  • Practitioners continue to attach great importance to the humanitarian principles, yet often lack the skills and support to apply them in complex settings.  
  • Assertive states and weakened multilateral meant that pressures on the space for principled humanitarian action increased over the past 10 years. Government-imposed restrictions and blocks on aid were cited as the primary constraint to access by humanitarian practitioners, and declining respect for international humanitarian law and refugee law was widely reported.  
  • Humanitarians’ ability to handle trade-offs between their own principles was tested, with many accepting increasing compromises as the price for operating in heavily controlled contexts, including Syria and Ethiopia.  
  • There were policy bright spots, such as the passage of UN Resolution 2417 on starvation in conflict, as well as innovative advocacy collaborations. Overall, however, the risk of expulsion and a decline in avenues for influence were felt to have had a chilling effect on humanitarians’ willingness and ability to call for respect for principles and rights. 
Decline  No progress Decline  Decline 
  • Change in this area has been incremental and uneven, despite the attention to ‘decolonising’ the aid sector and the opportunity provided by the COVID-19 pandemic to shift towards a more locally led model.  
  • Compared to how the system viewed and engaged with local actors a decade ago, there is now a widespread recognition that local leadership is a goal for the system to work towards, but implementing the commitments made on localisation has been more difficult than some actors have anticipated.  
  • In several contexts, international agencies continue to side-line or undermine national actors and compete for resources, using risk and capacity concerns as reasons for the slow shift to localise. In other contexts, local actors are excluded from response planning altogether.  
  • In a significant shift from the 2018 study period, the relationship between governments and INGOs in particular has declined, and the relationship with UN agencies become more challenging, as national governments attempt to exert more influence over targeting and the use of humanitarian resources. While COVID-19 provided opportunities for more positive partnerships with crisis- affected states in some contexts, in others the pandemic was used as the basis for further restrictions on humanitarian actors, causing increasingly strained relations.  
N/A   N/A Improvement  Mixed progress



The world does not stand still while humanitarians reflect on their performance. Already, the research period for this SOHS (2018–2021) included a major pandemic, the humanitarian effects of which were still reverberating across the globe, increasing rates of climate-related disasters, and the collapse in Afghanistan of 20 years of stabilisation and development efforts. Even as this report was being written, the Russian invasion of Ukraine tested the system in ways that we are only just beginning to understand. 

Humanitarians are used to dealing with disruption and uncertainty – it is their operational milieu. And although this is a sector rife with self-critiques, it has proven again and again that it can be flexible and successful in facing major new challenges and supporting people through crises, scaling up and adapting in often surprising ways. Today’s humanitarian system is in many ways quite different to that of 12 years ago, when the first SOHS study was written: its finances, institutional capacity and presence have expanded to recognise and respond to a greater range of needs. It has kept professionalising and become more technically adept, and it has innovated. Cash-based programming has continued its progress from marginal and mistrusted to a mainstay of humanitarian response. The system has gone from lamenting the lack of early warning to evolving and investing in sophisticated practical models of anticipatory action.  

Yet this is also a system whose basic model can be unwieldy and highly resistant to change. The previous SOHS report noted how the humanitarian system struggled to find its role and approach to ‘novel’ crises outside its standard playbook, such as the West African Ebola Outbreak in 2015 and the European Migration ‘Crisis’ in 2015–2016. More widely, the system is still dogged by the same tough questions it has faced for decades – how to link to long-term solutions, how to localise, how to put affected people at the centre of everything it does. Although the language, commitments and tools around these have moved on, meaningful wholesale progress has not happened. Similarly, the system is still lacking the evidence to clearly understand its effectiveness. While there have been evolutions in tracking and monitoring the use of aid it remains extremely difficult to follow investments through the system to understand the outcomes and impacts for crisis-affected communities. 

As successive SOHS reports have shown, the system is able to change. But as the world around it changes more rapidly there are questions as to whether it can keep up. This chapter looks at what the future might hold in three areas: the changing nature of crises and risks; the scale and spread of the populations these may affect; and the shifting political and economic environment for response. Drawing on the evidence from this and previous editions of the SOHS, we ask if the system is set to meet these potential challenges.

Changing crises

Systemic risk and complex crises  

Systemic risk is the idea that the negative outcomes of an event depend on how parts of affected systems interact with each other, leading to large-scale system malfunction or collapse. In a globalised world these connections are complex and often unseen so the large-scale risks that result from them can go unmonitored and unprepared for. As the 2022 Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction (GAR) sets out, in a world of hyper-connected systems, ‘everyone is living downstream of something else’,831 and systemic risks are accelerating.  

The COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine demonstrated the effects of systemic risk. As the GAR reports, the economic effects of COVID-19 measures were felt in Fiji well before the first case was registered there. The economic aftershocks of the pandemic, compounded by the Ukraine war, fractured global fuel and food systems – in the first four months of 2022 the FAO Food Price Index rose by 17%832 – with the World Bank estimating that every percentage point rise in the Index could drive 10 million more people into poverty. Food security and political crises around the world have heightened the problem of ‘risk myopia’:833 faced with multiple crises, world leaders they can lose sight of – or even exacerbate – one dimension of systemic risk while attending to another.

Climate threats  

Climate change is a clear driver of systemic risk, creating cascading effects that cross geographic and sectoral boundaries. The IPCC sixth assessment report published in 2021 showed how threats to people’s lives and livelihoods around the world are set to accelerate, worsen and spread. Based on current trends, the world will exceed the Paris Agreement target of 1.5°C global average maximum temperature increase by the early 2030s, if not before, accelerating the pace and severity of heatwaves, floods and droughts.834 The complexity of climate change impacts hinders accurate predictions and multiple scenarios are possible, but the GAR projects a possible 40% increase in the number of disasters by 2030. 

Climate change was the external threat most frequently cited by aid practitioners when we asked them about the future of the system (see Chapter 7). This may be because the humanitarian implications are already being felt. Of the 20 countries most vulnerable to climate change,835 three- quarters had humanitarian response plans in 2021 – among them some of the largest, Yemen, DRC, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. Support for climate adaptation remains insufficient836 and is poorly targeted to these most vulnerable countries,837 and at least a third of people in the poorest countries are not covered by early warning systems (in Africa, this is as high as 60%).838 


The modern humanitarian endeavour has its roots in war, but the nature of conflict is changing. While the war in Ukraine may in some ways resemble the last century world wars, recent wars often bear little resemblance to the battlefield-based scenarios that still underpin international humanitarian law. Conflicts between armed actors are becoming more protracted and urbanised, while chronic organised crime and political violence – as in Venezuela or Myanmar – are responsible for high levels of death and displacement.839 Localised and regionalised conflicts appear set to continue, as societies face heightened socio-economic, political and resource pressures. But the risk of a return to ‘big war’ may also be growing. 840 Such a conflict might be markedly different from its twentieth century predecessors – with new tactics, weaponry and theatres of war some of which are already in play, including cyber-attacks on high dependency systems, and disinformation and misinformation. As the UN Secretary-General’s Common Agenda report notes, ‘Longstanding agreements on nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction are increasingly fragile as trust among major powers continues to erode’ and the ‘world is moving closer to the brink of instability, where the risks we face are no longer managed effectively through the systems we have’.841 

Is the humanitarian system fit for these changing crises? 

The humanitarian system is certainly used to working in complex crises – an estimated 80% of international aid is directed to countries facing some combination of conflict, disaster, displacement or disease.842 Working in these settings has however not routinely meant working in ways that respond to their complexity (see Chapter 5).  

Yet there have been changes within the system, including in joint assessments (see Chapters 4 and 5) and multi-dimensional analysis related to the humanitarian–development–peace ‘triple nexus’ (see Chapter 12). In recent decades, the focus on resilience documented in the last edition of the SOHS (see Focus on: Resilience and Recovery in Protracted Crises), has also boosted the capacity for systems thinking843 within some parts and partners of the system, resulting in innovative collaboration and programming. There have also been advances in approaches to the effects of climate change – the recent focus on anticipatory action brought a new sophistication to risk monitoring and early warning tools (see Chapter 6). 

The extent to which these advances prepare the system for the potential magnitude of change in crises is questionable. There are gaps between the improved understanding of risk and the limited capacity to act: after the failure to respond in time to the 2011 Horn of Africa famine the system developed early warning and action mechanisms, but over a decade later it appeared that the system was failing to heed its own warnings in Somalia. Some agencies are thinking about the future of war, for example ICRC’s 2022 creation of a delegation for cyberspace, but many are struggling to provide protection and assistance in today’s wars (see ‘Focus on: Active conflict’, and Chapters 4, 6 and 11). More and more organisations are signing up to public commitments on climate change, but there are few examples of major practical or strategic changes. More broadly, there is little sign that agencies are rethinking what their mandate means in the face of these complex global risks. In the worlds of one climate lead: ‘What is a humanitarian organisation when the world is in such a crisis – given that the challenges of climate are so omnipresent? Can the humanitarian sector overall evolve at a pace to remain relevant, given what climate change and other threats are bringing to the fore?’844 

Growing caseload

These potential global shifts suggest more people will be affected by extreme food insecurity, conflict and disaster.  Deprivation associated with worsening poverty is likely to be a cause and consequence of these crises for many households and economies – and in many fragile contexts, the line is extremely fine between extreme poverty and humanitarian need. As Chapter 1 shows, the impacts of the pandemic have reversed previous development gains, pushing an additional 97 million people into poverty and setting back progress towards poverty reduction targets by at least seven years845 – numbers that may increase further with the future effects of climate change and food price spikes. But again, complexity combined with data gaps in many of the poorest countries makes modelling difficult.846  

These rises in extreme poverty and exposure to crisis risk do not of course automatically mean an increase in the number of people requiring support from the international humanitarian system. As seen in the COVID-19 response, social protection systems can adapt and expand in the face increased need (see Chapter 12), and disaster risk management systems can effectively mitigate and respond to the effects of weather-related events. These and other systems provide safety nets that prevent crisis exposure becoming humanitarian need. As ‘Focus on: Support behind the system’ shows, people’s safety nets are woven from multiple threads: formal and informal, domestic and international, private and public. But these safety nets may also come under stress – for example, many developing countries increased their public expenditure in response to COVID-19 but, at a time of economic downturn, some are now at risk of debt distress and are putting in place austerity measures that will reduce national and household resilience to crises.847 

Even without factoring in future crisis scenarios, a look back at trends in the humanitarian caseload suggests that the number of people in need may have been set to increase. As we saw in Chapter 3, the number of people the system sought to reach through humanitarian response plans alone has increased by more than 60% just within the study period.848 This is partly the result of the cumulative effect of protracted crises – as the Focus on Forced Displacement section shows, more people are newly displaced each year than find durable solutions. But it is also partly the result of a growing humanitarian system whose concept of need has expanded, and which sees and responds to a greater range and breadth of needs. 

Is the system ready to deal with a growing caseload? 

Whether the humanitarian system can address an increased caseload is partly a question of capacity and partly a question of limits. In terms of capacity, the system has proven over the past decade that it can expand – organisationally and financially – in response to the growth in the needs it observes. As Chapter 2 shows, there are an estimated 10% more organisations, 40% as many field staff and 90% more money in the system than there was 10 years ago. But that financing has plateaued in recent years, suggesting that similar levels of growth over the coming decade are by no means a given – especially in the context of record public debt and reductions in global economic growth.849 Even at current levels, there are significant shortfalls: UN coordinated appeals in 2021 were more under-funded than they were a decade ago, and although the system lacks a clear understanding of how many people it is reaching with adequate support (Chapter 3), evidence suggests that many people who require support are not receiving what they need. A growing humanitarian caseload will heighten dilemmas between reaching the most people and the people most in need (Chapter 4) and doing so in a way that better takes account of their views (Chapter 8)

Right-sizing the humanitarian system for the future demands more than increasing its resources and increasing its efficiency, though these are both important (see Chapters 3 and 10); it may also demand re-evaluating the scope of its ambitions and its role in relation to others. Mission creep has long been a concern, prompting calls for the system to pare back expectations of the number of people it assists, and what it offers – instead focusing on supporting and complementing others (see ‘Focus on: Forced displacement’), including states and civil society, to assume responsibility.850 As Chapter 9 shows, persistent shortcomings must be confronted in how international actors relate to and support, rather than stymie, local and national NGOs. As Chapter 12 shows, part of the logic of the triple nexus is that reducing humanitarian needs calls for joined-up efforts between humanitarian, development and peace actors – although nexus efforts to date are far from achieving that aim.

Context constraints

When the UN marked its 75th anniversary in 2021, the Secretary-General pointed to the continued erosion of the international norms established since 1945. Shared beliefs in multilateralism and solidarity to fulfil people’s fundamental rights are being challenged. A clear message emerging from our review of the past four years is that the basic norms that underpin humanitarian action are under stress. Humanitarian space is hard-won in many contexts and assumptions of people’s rights to access assistance and protection do not hold – both in the countries in which humanitarians operate and among global powers (see Chapters 1, 4 and 11). None of this is new, but the evidence suggests it is worsening. It is hard to project future trends, but recent democratic backsliding and political polarisation are unlikely to be quickly reversed.

Stress is being felt in economic as well as political spheres – and these influence each other. Judged in purely financial terms, international commitment to the humanitarian endeavour remained substantial – even as other forms of global solidarity wavered. Although there were evident shortfalls, and humanitarian aid levels plateaued (see Chapters 2 and 3), the fact that it did not shrink could be taken as testament to continued international commitment. But there have been shifts among the governments on whom the international system depends for funding. Notably, the UK, historically one of the mainstays of support for international humanitarian action, has significantly reduced its profile as a donor. While others increased their funding, this may prove unsustainable as economies face declining fiscal space and potential recessions.

The relevance and influence of the Western-led aid model is also in question. If colonial legacies continue to be challenged and the political contours of a multipolar world become more starkly defined, the role of aid may have to change. Developing countries’ demands for climate-related ‘loss and damage’ payment are emblematic of calls for a post-aid order, which shifts from a discretionary, benefactor model of unpredictable handouts to a model based on global justice, redress and obligation.

Is the system fit to handle these future contexts?

With these potential power shifts at play, are humanitarians in a position to promote support and tolerance for a principled humanitarian endeavour and protect their operational space? As we have seen, migration management and the national interests of some major humanitarian donors are undermining claims to adherence to the principles – and their ability to call on others to respect them. Although humanitarian agencies are developing initiatives to strengthen their negotiation and advocacy for humanitarian space, their appetite and ability to influence the terms and extent of their access is limited (Chapter 11). Ultimately, this is a problem bigger than humanitarianism – as one respondent to our survey put it: ‘The humanitarian system can’t – and shouldn’t try – to address the underlying causes of the ongoing collapse of the international political and economic system. It’s beyond our reach. We should rather focus on saving and protecting lives, leaving the big, structural issues to political leaders. It’s their failure, not ours.’

Of course, reiterating that there are no humanitarian fixes to political problems does not absolve humanitarian organisations from considering their own role – past and present – in perpetuating systemic inequality. In the context of debates about localisation and decolonisation and facing existential financial concerns, many international NGOs have engaged in soul-searching about their place in the wider humanitarian ecosystem. Localisation and decolonisation were by far the biggest ‘fit for the future’ issues for respondents to our survey, with one summarising the sentiments of many that humanitarians should step back: ‘The humanitarian sector must have a secondary role, accompanying and supporting the affected population and guaranteeing that they are the ones leading their recovery process.’ Whether current attention results in more distributed power in the humanitarian system – and ultimately in a greater ability to reach crisis-affected people in the most constrained environments – remains to be seen.

Futures thinking can often become synonymous with technological innovation. With due attention to ethical use, it will clearly be important for humanitarians to keep pace with these innovations, in order to operate smartly in a changing world. But current questions about the future of humanitarian action run much deeper than operational and technical improvements and fixes. Whether international humanitarian agencies, and their donors can step up to respond to the changing nature and scale of crises, and step back to support others to do so, rests on fundamental questions of insight, capacity, responsibility and power. In terms of insight and capacity, it is about working with others to gain a more sophisticated awareness of systemic risk and being better prepared to face it. In terms of responsibility and power, it is about sharing obligations at the highest political levels in order to move to a predictable model of international support that is based on duty as well as need; and about sharing power at the most local levels. One respondent to the SOHS practitioner survey told us: ‘This not about our organisations; we are here to serve populations in need. A complete rework is needed to ensure humanitarian response is driven by people affected by crises, with their input, feedback, leadership and ownership.’

Finding the right balance between scaling up and letting go will demand conscious effort by all stakeholders – as the COVID-19 response and Ukraine responses have demonstrated,851 new crises are not enough to change the system’s status quo. Becoming fit for the future demands both deep humility and high ambition on the part of the humanitarian system: renegotiating its place as part of a larger global social contract which so many sources cited in this report, from aid leaders to the UN Secretary-General, have said the world must renew. As a recipient of local aid in Venezuela put it: ‘I think humanitarian work should be dynamic, as we are growing, we are improving, getting stronger and we are beginning to move forward. It is not the idea that only humanitarian organisations are acting in our country. The idea would be to grow all together, to continue with our humanitarian intention to help the weakest and to strengthen all of us as a society.’


UNDRR, ‘Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2022. Our World at Risk: Transforming Governance for a Resilient Future’ (Geneva: UNDRR, 2022).


 FAO, ‘FAO Food Price Index’ (Rome: FAO, 2022).


UNDRR, ‘Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2022. Our World at Risk: Transforming Governance for a Resilient Future’.


IPCC, Summary for Policymakers – Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis.


According to the ND-GAIN Country Index’, Notre Dame Global Adaptation Initiative, 2019.


UNEP, ‘Adaptation Gap Report 2021.’ (Nairobi: United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), 2021).


 IFRC, ‘World Disasters Report 2020: Come Heat or High Water - Tackling the Humanitarian Impacts of the Climate Crisis Together’ (Geneva: International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC), 2020).


WMO, ‘State of the Global Climate 2021’ (Geneva: World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), 2021).


K. Krause, ‘From Armed Conflict to Political Violence: Mapping & Explaining Conflict Trends’ 145, no. 4 (2016).


Solferino 21 Project, ‘Warfare Today and Tomorrow. War Now and next Generation Warfare’, ELAC University of Oxford, n.d.


UN, ‘Our Common Agenda – Report of the Secretary-General’ (New York: United Nations, 2021).


According to calculations of country-allocable aid by Development Initiatives.


 See B. Ramalingam and J. Mitchell, ‘Learning to Change’ forthcoming, ALNAP


Key informant interview with climate and environment lead in humanitarian organisation.


World Bank, 2020a; Yonzan et al., 2020 – cited in UNDRR, ‘Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2022. Our World at Risk: Transforming Governance for a Resilient Future’.


According to one review, the most optimistic scenarios predict that climate change impacts alone could push an additional 37.6 million people into extreme poverty, or 100.7 million into poverty, by 2030. B.A Jafino et al., ‘Revised Estimates of the Impact of Climate Change on Extreme Poverty by 2030. Working Paper.’, The World Bank, 2020.


In 2018, the number of people targeted in HRPs alone was 89.2 million. By 2021 it was 143.1 million – see Chapter 4.


The International Monetary Fund (IMF) reduced its forecast of global growth in 2022 by 0.8 percentage points to 3.6% - see UNDRR, ‘Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2022. Our World at Risk: Transforming Governance for a Resilient Future’, 9.


Hugo Slim, Solferino 21: Warfare, Civilians and Humanitarians in the Twenty-First Century (London: Hurst & Company, 2022).


Humanitarian Outcomes, ‘Enabling the Local Response: Emerging Humanitarian Priorities in Ukraine March–May 2022’ (United Kingdom: Humanitarian Outcomes, 2022).