‘The traditionally separate domains of humanitarian response and longer-term development need to be brought together.’

Locals employed through an Oxfam cash-for-work program digging rain water traps in Gobro, Niger

Locals employed through an Oxfam cash-for-work program digging rain water traps in Gobro, Niger. Photo by Fatoumata Diabate/Oxfam via Flickr, CC BY NC ND 2.0.

‘Joined up’ is a phrase I’ve heard, read and repeated on a near-daily basis while working on our Resilience to extreme weather project. Back in March, we published this short statement and blog post about the need to join up policies on disasters, development and climate change in order to tackle extreme weather. This World Bank report also makes a compelling case for joining these dots internationally.

As plans for the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit develop apace, one particular dot-to-dot that we’ve been puzzling over concerns humanitarian relief and longer-term development.

As our Resilience to extreme weather report outlined, these have too long been treated as separate domains – which presents a problem when it comes to extreme weather. Although emergency preparedness features in most plans to manage floods, droughts and heatwaves, actually putting in place measures to build resilience is far less common.

The status quo? Reacting to crises rather than proactively managing risks. And the result? A global humanitarian system that’s stretched beyond its means (a problem also highlighted in ODI’s Dare to prepare report, and Save the Children and Oxfam’s A dangerous delay).

Fortunately, though, the false dichotomy between humanitarian response and longer-term development seems to be eroding. Risk management is becoming an integral part of both, and organisations like DFID now focus primarily on protracted and cyclical stresses rather than one-off shocks. However, as is often the case with matters of sustainable development (see this piece on financing for development), warm words aren’t always matched by cold hard cash.

To really bridge the humanitarian-development divide, funding mechanisms will need to be transformed. As recommended in our report and discussed in a previous ‘Resilience in brief’ post:

‘To limit the need for costly disaster responses, more national and international funds will need to be directed to measures that build resilience to extreme weather.’

But as well as more proactive investment, funds also need to be better co-ordinated across the proactive-reactive spectrum. Better co-ordinated and more… joined up! You see, it really is an unavoidable phrase.


For more on this, see our recent submission to the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.

Also see our Resilience City Prezi, which shows how a city can recover from a humanitarian disaster in a manner that improves its long-term prosperity and resilience to future shocks.

Read other posts in the ‘Resilience in brief’ blog series.