Background paper | ALNAP 32nd Annual Meeting: More Relevant? 10 ways to approach what people really need

Swithern, S.
64 pp
Date published
30 Sep 2019
Conference, training & meeting documents
System-wide performance

This is the background paper to ALNAP's 32nd Annual Meeting. It offers a framework for understanding what relevance means in practice for humanitarian action.

How best to understand what’s most relevant when people’s needs are diverse, dynamic and sometimes at odds with expert views? Who gets the power to decide what’s relevant and how? To what extent can humanitarian aid be culturally and contextually relevant, while upholding principles and delivering on time and at scale? Indeed, is it possible for the western-bred humanitarian system to transcend its origins in order to do so? The relevance test also raises inevitable questions about humanitarian politics, structures and the resources of the response. Are current systems getting in the way? What kinds of collaboration are possible? And what kind of funding, staffing and expertise would it take to do things better? 

This paper seeks to explore these key questions rather than anticipate all the answers, and a fuller study will follow from the discussions at the Annual Meeting. This paper is not intended as an exhaustive inventory of relevance to specific demographic groups or needs; or of modalities or approaches. Instead, it offers a broad overview to inform and structure rich conversations based on experience and evidence.