Reframing the Humanitarian Response: Time for Change

Fri, Jul 14, 2023

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Charitable organisations play a critical role in responding to crises and alleviating the suffering of millions around the world. However, as the world continues to evolve, it is becoming evident that the sector needs to be transformed to effectively address the complex challenges of the 21st century. We want to explore the reasons behind this need for change and highlight the potential benefits of ‘reframing’ the humanitarian response. We argue that if we are serious about decolonising the sector, we need to rethink the way funding and capacity building has historically been delivered.

Reframing the Humanitarian Response: Time for Change

Shifting Global Dynamics:

The world is undergoing significant transformations, including political shifts, environmental challenges, and technological advancements. These changes are reshaping the nature of crises and the contexts in which humanitarian assistance is required, for example the war in Ukraine. At Cohere, we believe that the best way to adapt to these shifting dynamics is to ensure that the solutions are more responsive, innovative, and sustainable, and this means they must be locally-led.

The Rise of Protracted Crises:

Traditional humanitarian responses have primarily focused on short-term emergency relief. However, the increasing prevalence of protracted crises, such as conflicts and displacement, demands longer-term solutions are essential. To put this into more context, at least 117 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes. Among them are nearly 27.1 million refugees, around 41 per cent of whom are under the age of 18. Reframing the sector would involve transitioning from a predominantly reactive approach to one that integrates capacity strengthening, resilience-building, development initiatives and meaningful participation. This holistic perspective would foster greater self-reliance and empower affected communities to better withstand future shocks.

Localisation and Empowerment:

The current humanitarian system often fails to fully engage and strengthen local actors, including community-based organisations, refugee-led organisations, and local leaders. Transforming the way the sector responds would prioritise localisation, ensuring that affected communities are at the forefront of decision-making, planning, and implementation processes. When refugees lead, their contextual knowledge, expertise and networks, brings more effective and sustainable outcomes

Innovative Technologies and Data Revolution:

The digital revolution has brought forth a wide range of technologies and tools that can revolutionise humanitarian response. From mobile apps for real-time data collection to artificial intelligence for predictive analysis, these innovations have the potential to enhance the sector’s efficiency, coordination, and impact. A reframed humanitarian sector would embrace these technologies and leverage the power of data to inform decision-making, target assistance, and improve accountability. Reframe, is such an example of an innovative data platform. Reframe is an online profile network and data-hub for refugee-led organisations, developed by Cohere with partners, that showcases the work of RLOs and connects them to the partnerships and funding they need to transform their communities, improving the way we respond to emergencies.

Climate Change and Environmental Crises:

The escalating impacts of climate change, including natural disasters, food insecurity, and displacement, require a fundamental rethinking of humanitarian approaches. Reframing the sector would involve integrating climate adaptation and mitigation strategies into humanitarian interventions. This would entail promoting sustainable practices, building resilience, and advocating for climate justice to address the underlying causes of vulnerability and reduce future humanitarian needs. We can respond directly by offering assistance to refugee-led organisations currently on the Reframe network with immediate technologies such as solar-powered photovoltaics, water pumps and vaccine chains that can enhance resilience by ensuring independent water and energy supplies to remote rural facilities, and for continued use during emergencies.

Funding and Accountability:

The humanitarian sector heavily relies on donor funding, which often comes with its own set of challenges. The reframing of the sector should focus on diversifying funding sources, exploring innovative financing mechanisms, and promoting greater transparency and accountability in resource allocation. This would help reduce dependency on traditional funding models, increase flexibility in responding to emerging needs, and ensure that resources are allocated efficiently and effectively. For example, the Reframe network has made it easier to support the work of various refugee-led organisations by showcasing their work. Donors can also contribute through pooled funds within the platform, which are geared towards responding to emerging crises within the continent, and around the world.


We want to see a world in which everyone has control over their own future. Especially refugees. Our mission is to unleash the potential of refugees to determine their own futures on their own terms. No one chooses to live a life of dependency. That’s why our vision isn’t to transfer aid. It’s to transfer power. Show your support today through the Reframe Network and help refugee leaders transform the humanitarian sector. It’s time for a change.