The futur of aid : INGOs in 2030

Report on line on futur of aid website on 10/01/2017

Today, the legitimacy and efficacy of the humanitarian system is eroding.

Humanitarian needs have grown, the number of displaced people worldwide is higher than ever before, the effects of climate change are increasingly being felt and conflicts are lasting longer.

In the past, when the humanitarian system has been in crisis, unable to adequately respond to needs, there has been an evolution in terms of programmatic approach and the appearance of new humanitarian actors.

We are on the threshold of a major shift. It is both a challenge for traditional actors and an opportunity for humanitarian leaders to create a more inclusive and effective humanitarian ecosystem that better reflects those within it and those it serves.

A number of trends will shape the humanitarian sector through to 2030

  • Populations are growing larger (especially in Sub-Saharan Africa), older, more urban, wealthier.
  • Climate change will be threat multiplier – putting pressure on resources in already environmentally fragile parts of the world.
  • Inequality in access to services, in wealth, in vulnerability and, across rural and urban divide is likely to continue worsening.
  • Protracted state fragility will be concentrated in Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

It is in these countries that the least progress towards human development will be made. Humanitarian needs will continue to grow, crises will be increasingly politicized and rising protectionism will mean that states will prefer to respond without external assistance. The slow shift towards the global south with intensify within humanitarian organisations as resources, values, knowledge, and eventually power shift to developing countries.

New actors will continue to challenge traditional humanitarian principles and actors with their advocacy and their ways of working.

A critical component of this analysis is the construction of a set of global scenarios that represent four distinct possible futures in which humanitarian interventions may take place in 2030. These are designed to explore the way in which political, economic, social, technological, legal, and environmental trends and uncertainties will affect how and where humanitarian actors operate, and who those actors will be.

The scenarios have been constructed by identifying the key uncertainties that could be critical to shaping the future of humanitarian action and using them to frame the possible futures outlined below.

These uncertainties include

  • What impact will the rise of nationalism and erosion of traditional global governance have on the humanitarian ecosystem?
  • How will the role of networks, companies, megacities, and citizens in governance structures evolve?
  • How will humanitarian principles shift in their interpretation and application as they are challenged by non-Dunantist approaches and new actors?
  • What will shape the prominence of faith-based NGOs at the national and international level, or not?
  • How will nation states and regional organizations manage large-scale forced migration?
  • What will be the impacts of ecosystemic crises exacerbated by climate change and demographic pressures?


A descriptive typology of humanitarian crises that seeks to illustrate a representative breakdown of the types of crises or humanitarian need with which the humanitarian ecosystem might engage over the course of the outlook builds on the global scenarios. Nine types of crises have been identified, which are overlaid with a categorization of protracted crises, recurrent crises, and emerging crises.

Protracted crises are defined as situations where elevated levels humanitarian needs are normalized over a long period of time. Recurrent crises are those that regularly re-appear, with similar dynamics, though the scale and intensity can vary, such as sudden-onset disasters caused by natural hazards or epidemics.

Emerging crises are those that are becoming increasingly relevant or those that have the potential to have a larger impact over the course of the outlook due to changing dynamics of global risk.

Multiple types of crisis could occur concurrently in any given context as many of the causes are interlinked.

Fit for the future: Profiles of INGOs

Building from the analysis of the changing dynamics in the humanitarian ecosystem and the context in which it will operate, a series of organizational profiles that present five different approaches to the structure, mandate, competencies, and business models of future INGOs are explored.

There will not be a one-size-fits-all model that is most appropriate or effective but rather many potential structures, creating a diverse spectrum of INGOs with different rationales for their place in the evolving system. Which organizational profile is best suited for the future depends on each INGO’s culture, mandate, and ambition.

Organizational profiles are designed to highlight how INGOs can amplify their impact through excellence and adaptability and leverage their requisite skills and resources to catalyze humanitarian action. A new way of working necessitates that INGOs challenge the competitive incentive structure in which they operate to build a more collaborative response.

A change in organizational profile would result in a complete change in structure, as each requires markedly different resources and expertise to be effective.

Read the report


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