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Evolving Operational Contexts and the Role of the Private Sector in Humanitarian Action: Literature Review

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The aim of this paper is to provide a broad based overview of some of the trends and issues in the existing literature around the evolving engagement of the private sector in humanitarian action and the interface of the private sector with civil-military actors in disasters and conflict. A number of themes are covered in the review including how the resources of the private sector and the military can be tapped more systematically and strategically to support the humanitarian sector to augment its capacity to address today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. A second theme is ‘trilateral’ interface between of the private sector and civil-military actors. A third theme briefly looks at some of the trends and patterns of the private sector’s pattern of engagement in international development and potential relevance to humanitarian action.

Global risks analyses suggest that an increasingly globalised and interconnected world, compounded by climate change, urbanisation and demographic shifts and technological advances, is changing the nature of current and future crises threats. The humanitarian literature acknowledges this and how it will continue to drastically expand the complexity of the humanitarian operating environment and crisis response. In turn, this has raised substantial questions concerning the capacity of the traditional humanitarian system to respond to existing and mounting needs. It is clear from the literature that new capabilities are required as the humanitarian system seeks to anticipate and respond to new types and dimensions of crisis challenges. In addition it is increasingly highlighted in the humanitarian literature that the way the traditional sector (e.g. United Nations ((UN)) agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, donor governments and international non-governmental organisations) is configured limits its capacity to be able to address new kinds of challenges and to build cohesion in an increasingly crowded, competitive and diverse community. As humanitarian concerns become increasingly part of core politics and new types of expertise are required, it is ever more evident in the literature that traditional humanitarian actors need to consider how to harness other types of expertise from both inside the sector and outside the sector.

Evolving Operational Contexts and the Role of the Private Sector in Humanitarian Action: Literature Review forms Annex 1 of the Private Sector Challenge Final Report.