Contested Evidence: The challenges and limits of evidence-based approaches to humanitarian action
Humanitarian action is fraught with challenges, and frequently has no choice but to act in the face of considerable uncertainties. The use of evidence and evidence-based approaches – knowing what does and does not work in responding to conflict, disasters and other emergencies – is crucial to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian interventions. With access to information and evidence greater than ever, promoting evidence-based approaches to humanitarian action has been given much attention in the past years.
What does the greater focus on evidence mean in practice for humanitarian work? Do institutional and political agendas promote the selective design or application of evidence-based approaches? Are there situations where focusing on evidence conflicts with other priorities? And how do evidence-based approaches relate to accountability? In other words, what are the limits to an evidence-based approach to humanitarian action?
As part of Humanitarian Evidence Week, on 7 November, PHAP hosted an online discussion, looking critically at the concept of evidence-based approaches to humanitarian action.
The event featured an overview of the concept of evidence and how it has been used in the humanitarian sector. The presentation was followed by a moderated discussion on the dilemmas of evidence among a panel of experts. The event also provided the opportunity for participants to share their perspectives on the topic discussed, through the live chat and the possibility to pose questions to the panelists.
Session recording (YouTube - faster loading time)
Session recording (Adobe Connect - higher quality)
Session recording (audio podcast)
- Jeremy Shoham and Marie McGrath, “Evidence in humanitarian emergencies: what does it look like?,” Evidence Aid, 27 September 2016
- Kristin Bushby and Roxanne Krystalli, “Mapping Evidence Syntheses in the Humanitarian Sector: Insights and Challenges,” Humanitarian Evidence Programme (DFID, Oxfam GB and Feinstein International Center), April 2015
- Paul Knox Clarke and James Darcy, “Insufficient Evidence? The quality and use of evidence in humanitarian action,” ALNAP Study, February 2014
Professor at University of Durham and University of California, San Diego (UCSD), and Co-Director, Centre for Humanities Engaging Science and Society (CHESS), University of Durham
Paul Knox Clarke
Head of Research, ALNAP
Lars Peter Nissen
Development Advisor, Independent
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 an undergraduate degree in philosophy, an MA in development studies and a degree in law.
Geneva Humanitarian Connector
This event was made possible through the Geneva Humanitarian Connector, an initiative of PHAP supported by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.