Humanitarian Aid in Relatively Strong Host States: Colombia as a Case for Rights-Based Approaches


Given the transient nature of humanitarian assistance, durable solutions for forced displacement and exit strategies for humanitarian actors require careful engagement with a host state. This highlights a central challenge for the humanitarian sector: how to relate to states? Drawing on a case study of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s use of rightsbased approaches (RBA) in Colombia, this policy brief suggests that the importance of RBA in humanitarian aid lies in fostering the mutual dependency between beneficiaries and states. In this way, the humanitarian actor’s work is focused on enhancing state capacity to provide for its citizens, as well as supporting and empowering community engagement. This is particularly relevant when humanitarian aid is provided in the context of relatively strong states with the capacity to provide humanitarian aid.

Brief Points

  • Humanitarian actors should account for the capacity of the host state, and calibrate their response accordingly.

  • State institutions capable of guaranteeing rights provide the best possible exit strategy for humanitarian assistance: durable solutions for beneficiaries.

  • Humanitarian actors can navigate the principle of neutrality by choosing to engage with unarmed state institutions that redistribute goods and services to the poor, as well as by supporting policy-making mechanisms that involve beneficiaries.

  • Rights-based approaches frame relationships between beneficiaries and states in ways that help facilitate beneficiaries to survive and thrive after the humanitarian emergency.