Principled Humanitarian Programming in Yemen: A 'Prisoner's Dilemma'?

Montemurro, M. and Wendt, K.
Publication language
Date published
01 Dec 2021
Research, reports and studies
Working in conflict setting, Coordination, Humanitarian Principles

Commissioned with the support of ECHO, this piece of research comes at a time when serious concerns about the effectiveness of the humanitarian response in Yemen have forced humanitarian actors to reconsider the role that humanitarian principles (should) play in their decision-making. Six years into the conflict, and after billions of dollars spent on the humanitarian response, several individuals and groups of people are still excluded from humanitarian assistance. This is due not only to elements linked to the external context, such as conflict dynamics and social and cultural norms and structures, but also to issues linked to the humanitarian response itself. Recognised as a cornerstone of aid effectiveness, applying humanitarian principles can in theory not only help set the parameters for engagement with non-humanitarian actors but also contribute to securing access and tailoring humanitarian responses to the specificities of each context. Why does this not seem to have worked in Yemen?

The research behind this report has aimed to develop an understanding of the challenges and decisions related to negotiations, access,
and coordination that organisations pursue to uphold principled humanitarian action in Yemen. The overarching finding of the research
is that a lack of trust and communication about how each agency/organisation operationalises the principles is hindering the effectiveness of the response. Whether implicitly or explicitly, principles are an everyday reference for all humanitarian actors in the country, and a coordinated principled approach is considered by most as the best way to reach the people most in need with good
quality assistance and protection. Still, organisations tend to navigate the context from their own individual perspective, and without consideration of the way their decisions impact the principled humanitarian programming of others, or in the future.