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Network Paper No. 69: Common Needs Assessments and humanitarian action

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In brief

- This Network Paper draws on field experience from more than a dozen Common Needs Assessments (CNAs) to identify the opportunities, costs and trade-offs involved in carrying them out.

- At their best, common inter-agency, inter-sectoral needs assessments help to develop a better joint understanding of needs, capabilities, and appropriate response. Yet in trying to meet too many objectives, CNAs have sometimes failed to live up to their promise. Carrying out a CNA takes time and resources; even when funds and experienced assessors are available, results have not always been useful or timely.

- This Network Paper summarises the basic characteristics of a common needs assessment, reviews experience in using assessments in recent years and highlights the problems encountered. We demonstrate what CNAs can achieve, and detail their limitations. We then provide an overview of steps to avert common problems. We hope that this will assist in producing better, more useful and more timely assessments, contributing to improved humanitarian response.