Briefing: Humanitarian response for development: lessons from Tropical Cyclone Winston (June 2018)

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
Originally published


Linking humanitarian response and development is an important agenda, with multiple drivers across both sectors’ landscapes. It is also a topical issue in Fiji, a country vulnerable to natural hazards. Our research aimed to learn from Fiji’s experience of response and recovery after Tropical Cyclone Winston hit in 2016; we found that the humanitarian response to the cyclone had no substantive influence on the longer-term governance and institutional arrangements for development. However, the study did reveal cross-sector aspirations and practical actions to strengthen the connections between humanitarian work and development (the ‘humanitarian-development nexus’). This research offers lessons for the sub-national and national governments of Fiji, as well as other governments and donors in the Pacific region and beyond, on how humanitarian response and early recovery can be strengthened to contribute to development goals.

Tropical Cyclone Winston was one of the most powerful cyclones ever recorded in the Southern Hemisphere. Making landfall on Fiji in 2016 as a Category 5 storm (the highest possible intensity rating), Tropical Cyclone Winston affected 62% of the country’s total population. It was the highest-cost cyclone ever to hit the South Pacific region (Figure 1), costing Fiji approximately US$500 million or 10% of the country’s gross domestic product.This briefing reports key findings from research undertaken in 2017 with government officials, representatives of civil society organisations (CSOs) and community leaders in Fiji’s Western Division (see Figure 2). The study used interviews, a multistakeholder workshop and a supplementary document review to explore whether the humanitarian response to Tropical Cyclone Winston interacted with longer-term development goals and structures. It also looked for potential synergies and opportunities to strengthen the nexus between humanitarian response and development goals in the future.

Three specific questions guided the research:

  1. How did the humanitarian response to Tropical Cyclone Winston influence the longer-term governance and institutional arrangements for development?

  2. What implications did the humanitarian response have for longer-term development outcomes (including education, housing, health, water, sanitation and hygiene, roads and food security)?

  3. What opportunities do humanitarian responses offer for strengthening longer-term governance and institutional arrangements for development?