Inclusive Humanitarian Action: A study into Humanitarian Partnership Agreement (HPA) agency practice in the Nepal earthquake response

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Impartiality – the imperative to carry out humanitarian action on the basis of need alone and prioritise the most urgent cases of distress without adverse discrimination – is central to the integrity and effectiveness of humanitarian action. A foundational principle, together with humanity, neutrality and independence, impartiality is a distinguishing feature of what makes disaster response humanitarian.

If the principle of impartiality is so integral to the integrity and effectiveness of humanitarian action, why is it so difficult to achieve? Disasters, conflict and displacement affect different people differently. Some people inevitably find it harder to access the information, protection and assistance they require. Barriers to access, participation and full enjoyment of rights, may relate to attitudinal or environmental factors. Frequently, people may experience multiple barriers at one time.

The notion of inclusive humanitarian action responds to this challenge – how to ensure that all people affected by conflict and disaster receive access to information, protection and assistance on an equitable basis, without any exclusion or restriction based on their age, sexual or gender identity, disability status, nationality, or ethnic, religious or social origin or identity.

Over the last three decades, humanitarian actors have made significant steps towards disaster response activities that are more inclusive. The Humanitarian Charter, Core Humanitarian Standard, initiatives to strengthen accountability to affected populations, coordinated needs assessments, and better awareness of disability inclusion and gender and protection mainstreaming are all contributing to better targeted, more equitable assistance. However, despite these gains, achieving inclusion remains a challenge for many actors.

This study, commissioned by Humanitarian Partnership Agreement (HPA) agencies, examines inclusive humanitarian practice by ve participating agencies (CARE, Caritas, Oxfam, Plan International and World Vision). It took a look behind the policy commitments and known gaps to explore practice at a programmatic level. What are agencies doing? What are they not doing and why not? What could they do more of, and better, to strengthen inclusion?

This report is in four sections.

The first section provides some background context to the study, including its purpose, scope and methodology. The global imperative for inclusive action is briefly outlined, and a summary of what is already known about inclusion in response to the 2015 Nepal earthquakes.

Part 2 examines agency practice in terms of how well agencies are doing at including different individuals and groups, the extent to which intersectionality is understood and practised, and highlights two case studies with examples of promising practice. Part 3 provides a summary of key findings and Part 4 - the conclusion and recommendations – identifies areas where more information and inquiry is needed, and offers practical suggestions for strengthening practice, based on the evidence presented.