Triple Nexus – Threat or Opportunity for the Humanitarian Principles?

Author: Marc DuBois
Date: 07.05.2020
Publication: Download (EN)

CHA discussion paper by Marc DuBois, independent humanitarian consultant, Senior Fellow at SOAS and ex-Director MSF-UK, London.


The Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus (HDP or Triple Nexus) brings three sectors into closer alignment to better address poverty and conflict, the underlying causes of crisis. At the same time, it deals with people’s urgent needs. Humanitarians have objected, at times sharply, to the implementation and even conceptual basis of this policy initiative. A central concern is that the humanitarian principles require distance from the inherently political aspirations and workings of development and peace. Yet, this discussion paper argues that the principles are flexible, that they envision the compromise and negotiation necessary to make the Triple Nexus work.

More ambitiously, the paper sees the potential for the Nexus to improve the humanitarian sector’s operational impact and its respect for its principles. It further identifies the principles as a chance to ground the Nexus in people-centric approaches that supplement the top-down focus on institutions. Specifically, rather than focus on intersectoral linkages, two propositions are made to address the underlying ideological blockage within the silo of humanitarian action. First, the necessity of exploring how ‘Nexus-thinking’ can strengthen humanitarian programming and realisation of its principles by enlarging the scope and time dimension of the sector’s analysis. Nexus-thinking will thus push humanitarians to reduce negative consequences and better address rather than dismiss the most important needs of people. Second, the sector must capitalise on Nexus-thinking to help strengthen the value, interpretation, and operationalisation of its principles, in particular the principle of humanity. Central to humanity lies human dignity, and central to a life of human dignity lie development and peace. The principle of humanity thus offers a potential common ground for discussion across the sectors, and challenges humanitarians to build a new relationship to development and peace.

Marc DuBois will present and discuss the key findings of his paper in a CHA webinar on Thursday, May 14, 2020 at 3pm (CEST – Berlin time). If you have missed it, you can read a brief event review and watch a recording of the webinar here.