The Centre for Humanitarian Action (CHA) and the Excellence Cluster Africa Multiple are delighted to invite you to a virtual roundtable discussion
Humanitarian reflections – research meets practice
On the Basis of Need Alone? Data Gathering, Impartiality and the Localisation of Humanitarian Action
- Prof. Dr. Joël Glasman, University Bayreuth
- Corinna Kreidler, Advisor Food Security and Cash Assistance, Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO, former DFID) Zimbabwe
- Claudia Ah Poe, Head of Needs Assessment and Targeting Unit, World Food Programme Rome
- Diego Fernández Otegui, PhD Researcher, University of Delaware
Facilitation: Sonja Hövelmann, Centre for Humanitarian Action
According to the principle of impartiality, humanitarian organisations should provide humanitarian action “on the basis of need alone”. Thus, need assessment is a prerequisite for action. Quantification and data aggregation provide the foundation for an impartial and unbiased decision-making. Large agencies collect vast sets of data, often analysed by algorithms to determine who is in need. Related accountability and efficiency of humanitarian assistance have become key issues in the international debate in times of increasing needs and overstretched aid budgets.
However, the call for localisation of humanitarian action and for more accountability for affected populations has raised serious concerns on universal standards. The debate on ‘local’ vs. ‘universal’ assessment approaches has underlined the need to better take local cultural and socioeconomic issues into account. Should there be universal standards as established for example by “Sphere”, or do we need a turn to culturally adapted, local standards? Should every person, living in rural or urban settings, in Al-Hol or in Kakuma, be bound to the same basic need standards? How can donors decide where to direct their funding if there is no common denominator to identify the greatest needs?
We are delighted to welcome Joël Glasman, Corinna Kreidler and Claudia Ah Poe to discuss these dilemmas and share their reflections from both academia and practice. Participants are encouraged to share views, observations and questions during the discussion.
- Quack, Martin (ed.), Based on Need Alone? Impartiality in Humanitarian Action. CHA, 2018.
- Glasman, Joël, Minimal Humanity. Humanitarianism and the Quantification of Human Needs. Routledge Humanitarian Series 2020.
- The Sphere Project, The Sphere Handbook. Humanitarian Charter and Minimum Standards in Humanitarian Response. 2018.