Following events focusing on the three other core principles, PHAP’s final discussion in this series spotlights the principle of independence, looking in particular at how it relates to how humanitarian action is funded.

The principle of independence calls upon humanitarians to practice an autonomy vis-à-vis political, military, ideological, religious, or economic interests and pressures. It highlights the interrelatedness of the core principles – it acts as a precondition or an enabler of humanity, impartiality, and humanity. Independence is thus profoundly pragmatic. It defines itself not on paper or in speech but through actions.

The capacity to act impartially, to remain neutral in a given context, or even to give operational meaning to the call of humanity, all require that an organization possess certain resources, expertise, and capacity. That principle comes under consistent threat by financial constraints, for humanitarian relief requires funding, and the availability of funding often fails to align with the needs of affected people. The humanitarian sector appears to be particularly dependent upon institutional donor funding from key Western governments, such as the US, UK, Japan or Sweden. How does the sector reconcile this reality with the imperative to avoid the appearance of being an instrument of government policy?

There have been, and continue to be, efforts aimed at creating funding mechanisms that allow greater responsiveness to needs, or averting the outright politicization of the receiving organization. What are some of the “new” ideas in this regard? How can the humanitarian sector do better in terms of assuring their independence? From a starting assumption that greater independence is always possible, what do our expert panelists see as the promising ways forward?

The event began with an expert presentation on the topic by Sean Lowrie, Director of the START Network. This was followed by a moderated discussion among a panel of experts which will also include Dr. James Kisia, Executive Director of the International Centre for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Secretary-General of Kenya Red Cross; Lydia Poole, research and policy specialist with extensive experience on financing architecture and policy; and Ed Schenkenberg van Mierop, Executive Director of HERE-Geneva. The facilitator for the event was Marc DuBois.


Dr. James Kisia Dr. James Kisia is Executive Director of the International Centre for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Secretary-General of Kenya Red Cross. Prior to joining Kenya Red Cross, James worked for the Government of Kenya as a medical officer in disaster- and conflict-prone areas of northern Kenya. James trained as a Medical Doctor in the West Indies and holds an MSc in Public Health from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and an MA in Practicing Management from Lancaster University Management School.
Sean Lowrie Sean Lowrie is the Director of the Start Network, a consortium of 26 leading international NGOs working together to strengthen the humanitarian aid system. The consortium works in three areas: Start Fund (financing for emergency response); Start Engage (strengthening civil society capacity); and Start Labs (innovation to find new ways to deliver humanitarian assistance).The Consortium Agreements enable resources to be delivered through some 5000 organisations in 200 countries and territories.
Lydia Poole Lydia Poole is a research and policy specialist experienced in leading consultative research processes and developing internal and public policy guidance and reports. She has as the Programme Leader for the Global Humanitarian Assistance Programme at Development Initiatives and with OCHA and Merlin in South Sudan, Darfur, and Myanmar. Lydia's areas of thematic expertise and experience include international donor financing architecture and policy, understanding influences and incentives in resource allocation processes and programmatic modes of engagement in crises including risk reduction and humanitarian response. She has extensive experience in analysis and interpretation of data on resource flows.
Ed Schenkenberg van Mierop Ed Schenkenberg van Mierop is the Executive Director of HERE-Geneva, a humanitarian think tank, with 22 years of experience in humanitarian affairs. He has worked with DARA, a Madrid based humanitarian research and evaluation organisation, and ICVA, the Geneva-based humanitarian NGO network. He has worked extensively on a range of issues such as humanitarian principles and standards; coordination; and protection. He has also participated in many high-level forums and coordination bodies with governments, UN agencies, the Red Cross / Red Crescent Movement, and NGOs. Before ICVA, Ed Schenkenberg worked with MSF in Amsterdam and overseas. Ed Schenkenberg holds a masters degree (LL.M.) in International Law from Leiden University.


Marc DuBois Marc DuBois currently an independent humanitarian consultant/researcher/blogger, was the Executive Director of MSF-UK from March 2008 until March 2014. He joined MSF in 1999, landing as a project coordinator in Khartoum, Sudan, where he managed a basic healthcare program. Following Sudan, Marc went to Angola as a Humanitarian Affairs Officer and then moved to Amsterdam, spending over six years in the Humanitarian Affairs Department of MSF-Holland, first as an advisor and later as head of department and researcher. Marc has a degree in philosophy from Yale University (BA 1981), an MA in development studies from the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague (1988) and a degree in law from Columbia University in New York (JD 1994).


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This World Humanitarian Summit consultation event is made possible with the support of the Federal Foreign Office of Germany

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