PhD Candidate, School of International Development and Global Studies, University of Ottawa


Associate Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa

Read here: LERRN Working Paper No. 1 – Protection

Executive summary:

Attempts to bridge the Humanitarian-Development (HD) nexus are not new, but in recent years this idea has received renewed interest in light of the failure of traditional approaches to adequately respond to and manage complex, protracted crises. While these major policy shifts take place at the global and national levels (for example, see the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, the Grand Bargain, the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees, or the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan (3RP)), few studies have considered the implications that an HD approach could have on one of the core mandates of humanitarian assistance: protection. This literature review therefore examines the potential protection implications of an HD approach to complex, emergency situations. It discusses current gaps and areas for future research that were identified in our review of the literature. Highlighting both the risks and benefits that this approach could have towards the protection outcomes for affected persons, we find that these outcomes largely depend on who is involved and whose interests are prioritized in decision-making processes in an HD approach. Consequently, this approach raises additional questions that lead us to an unresolved and ongoing debate within the humanitarian sector around its role in non-traditional humanitarian situations. This debate centres around whether the humanitarian sector should maintain a needs-based approach or shift towards a rights-based approach, which in turn raises important questions about when (and which of) the humanitarian principles are relevant and what protection really means, particularly when the perspectives of other stakeholders – such as affected persons – are taken into consideration. These issues remain unresolved and become complicated by the addition of multiple actors (humanitarian, development, civilian, private, affected persons etc.) with different roles, interests and mandates in an HD approach. We therefore propose that both the humanitarian and development sectors engage with the concepts, objectives and principles behind this debate head-on, in order to strengthen our understanding of what they mean practically. As HD approaches are likely to become the new way of addressing complex crises, finding clarity on how humanitarian and development actors can work together through shared principles and objectives is critical to ensure that affected persons are adequately protected.