The Future of Aid - INGOs in 2030



Humanitarian action has consistently evolved, transforming what is entailed in humanitarian action and who humanitarian actors are. The legitimacy and e icacy of what we consider the formal humanitarian sector is eroding. In the past, when the formal humanitarian sector has been in crisis, unable to adequately respond to needs – in the aftermath of both World Wars, for instance, and, more recently, in the Biafra War and following the Rwandan genocide3 – new humanitarian actors have appeared or programmatic approaches have evolved. As is evidenced by the Syria crisis, the formal humanitarian sector is once again in such a period of crisis. Humanitarian needs have escalated, the number of displaced people worldwide is higher than ever before, the e ects of climate change are increasingly being felt, and conflict is endemic in some parts of the world. It is both a challenge and an opportunity for humanitarian leaders to create a more inclusive and e icient humanitarian ecosystem that better reflects those within it and those it serves.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) provide a long- term framework of 17 objectives “to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.”4 The SDGs are a call to action to which the humanitarian ecosystem can contribute; however, to do so e ectively requires a change in the way the humanitarian ecosystem works. Crucially, it requires moving beyond the humanitarian- development divide, which creates a superficial segregation of work and approaches that undermines the capacity of the humanitarian ecosystem to systematically address vulnerabilities, manage risks, and build resilience. The question of how to be more e ective and impactful over the long term must be considered by all actors in the humanitarian ecosystem if they are to leverage their resources and expertise to help achieve the vision of the SDGs.

Leading actors in the formal humanitarian sector have made commitments to change the way they work, many of which are encompassed in the Grand Bargain: Agenda for Humanity signed at the World Humanitarian Summit in 20165 and the New Ways of Working Initiative.6 However, fundamental, not incremental, change is required if a shift in power is to be realized, collaboration is to become the norm, and the success of a humanitarian actor’s mission is to be disassociated from their institutional growth. Many of the trends explored in this study reflect the emerging discourse on the future of the humanitarian ecosystem, but we endeavor to present an analysis that explores how these dynamics will evolve and the impact they will have, as well as how INGOs can become gamechangers, amplifying the impact of formal and non-formal actors in a more open and inclusive humanitarian ecosystem.

Scope of the project.

This report seeks to explore the drivers of change in the global environment in which the humanitarian ecosystem works, the causes of humanitarian need, and the potential evolution of the dynamics of the humanitarian ecosystem to 2030. The length of the outlook has been set to match the timeline for the delivery of the SDGs, to highlightthe humanitarian ecosystem’s important role in contributing to the 17 agreed objectives.

General objectives:

  • This report endeavors to provide a comprehensive and rigorous analysis of the potential evolutions of the humanitarian ecosystem and the global environment in which it operates by 2030

  • This report has been commissioned as a thought piece to provoke discussion about the role of INGOs in a more inclusive humanitarian ecosystem

  • This report was commissioned to support INGOs in designing a resource strategy that would be fit for purpose in the long-term

Summary of the report

The first section provides an overview of the methodology applied in the creation of this report. The foresight analysis, where we analyze the drivers of change, was split into three distinct sections: global changes, types of humanitarian need and crises, and the humanitarian ecosystem. Twenty-three key topics were identified across the three subsections of analysis, each of which was individually explored in a dedicated insight file (see Annex 2) and subsequently summarized to define the foresight base for the study at the outset of the report. The foresight analysis examines the main trends and uncertainties of each topic. These help to develop an understanding of the forces that can shape the future.

The global scenarios are the basis of the projected environment in which the humanitarian ecosystem could operate in 2030. These are constructed by analyzing the interactions of the uncertainties and main trends explored in the foresight base. Four global scenarios are explored in detail to define the environment in which the role of the humanitarian ecosystem will be grounded. Scenarios are a vehicle to frame the trends and uncertainties that can shape the future and present di erent sets of global dynamics for which actors in the humanitarian ecosystem can prepare to manage.

Subsequently, we propose a typology of humanitarian crises. These constructed groupings are intended to be not an exhaustive list but a representation of the types of humanitarian need to which humanitarian actors will engage over the course of the outlook. This typology, built from the foresight base, illustrates the di erent types of crises and explores the implications of each given a particular scenario.
Finally, we have explored several di ering organizational profiles for INGOs. These present five distinct potential structures for INGOs, each with di ering strengths and weakness and each with contrasting roles in the humanitarian ecosystem. The organizational profiles of INGOs provide a lens through which INGOs can consider what will make an e ective structure; what resources, capacities, and relationships would be required; and how the di erent profiles would be better or less suited depending on the scenarios and types of crises to which they might need to respond.

These three component parts, the global scenarios, the typology of crises, and the organizational profiles for INGOs are layered to build a comprehensive outlook.