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Practical Best Practices on Humanitarian-Development Nexus

Last week, UNICEF asked Mindset-PCS to share best practices on humanitarian-development nexus. Here is a rapid overview of core recommendations.

As the nature of emergencies changes and development challenges are more concerning than ever before, current ways of conceptualizing and providing humanitarian and development assistance are being challenged. There is a need to find faster, cheaper, more effective, and more sustainable ways to support and work with communities affected by crisis, displacement and structural vulnerabilities.

In such context, the international community has been advocating to connect the once-separated humanitarian and development sectors. The ‘nexus approach’ requires humanitarian and development actors to work more closely together to coherently address people’s vulnerability before, during and after crises.

  • What does this nexus approach mean in practice? Is it yet another theoretical concept for the reports, or can it actually help us reflect on, and meaningfully improve, our practice?
  • Is this nexus desirable? What does it mean for affected communities, practitioners, donors?

Why nexus?

Core recommendations:

Genuine localization:

  1. 1. National and local civil society must remain at the forefront of program to deliver on the nexus.
  2. 2. Consortium (especially when composed of complementary national organizations)  are great way to implement nexus. The nexus can provide a shared vision and collective narrative among stakeholders.

Long-term programming:

  1. 1. Long term programming: Oxfam advocates for a shift first from short-term projects of 6–12 months to 3–5-year program cycles, and ultimately 10- to 15-year goals that deliver across the humanitarian-development-peace spectrum.
  2. 2. Imagination, creativity and innovation are needed to address short-term cycles. One way is definitely to invest in existing local and national structures and networks (cf. the very successful local responses for COVID-19 across the world). Another way is to identify flexible funding strategies and adjustable operation mechanisms – including finding new partnerships and alternative sources of funding.
  3. 3. New partnerships / alternative funding: : the aid sector should increase its collaboration with the private sector – especially through innovation and technology-based models and alternative (and more sustainable) financing mechanisms.

Programmatic content:

  1. 1. Shifting the mindset: the nexus can help us shift from an activity-based approach to a outcome-oriented systematic thinking, as well as to move away from a needs-based and rather embrace an asset-based.
  2. 2. Inception phases: A long inception phase should be included into nexus programs to allow time for building trust and invest in local capacities .
  3. 3. Holistic and integrated contextual analysis are the key to understand complex systems, grasp intertwined layers of vulnerabilities, and address deep root causes of conflict, displacement and poverty.
  4. 4. Organizations must define nexus outcomes and indicators across sectors that aim at reducing vulnerabilities and risks (as opposed to exclusive project-based indicators).

Agility, innovation and flexibility:

  1. 1. A nexus approach requires that we step out of our comfort zone and work across different disciplines. Multi-mandated organizations need to support capacity-sharing, cross-learning and upskilling to ensure that staff and partners are able to deliver (Oxfam).
  2. 2. Programs must be agile and responsive to changes in context.
  3. 3. All nexus programs must include disaster mitigation strategies: e.g. a regularly updated gender-sensitive conflict analysis, scenario planning and built-in humanitarian finance mechanisms to quickly address crises and protect development gains.
  4. 4. Technology can help anticipate, mitigate, prepare for, and address crises (e.g. resilience-based technologies).
  5. 5. Iterative and continuous learning is vital. This requires consistent and transparent engagement with donors and national stakeholders, who will need to be active partners in learning. Communities should also be brought into this process to ensure transparency, accountability, information-sharing and better learning.


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