Applying a nexus approach to transcend the humanitarian-development divide

How differently do we need to work to leave no one behind?

Understanding and acting on the links between humanitarian, development and peace actions can help to better address and reduce needs. The European Development Days are a great opportunity to discuss the humanitarian-development-peace nexus at the EU level and to foster exchanges between NGOs and the EU. This session will focus on offering different perspectives on the enablers and pitfalls of nexus programming and on how to reduce vulnerabilities;strengthen national, regional and local capacities; avoid doing harm; build resilience; and address the root causes of crises. Representatives from NGOs, the EU and EU Member States from across the humanitarian, development and peace fields will have an open space to share their views on how to better operationalise the nexus in protracted, fragile and conflict-affected contexts.

Key points

  • The nexus of humanitarian, development and peace-building actions is working badly – It needs better and more flexible operational structures and coordination.

  • Humanitarian missions are often too long and development missions too short.

  • The humanitarian “ask” has risen from EUR 8 billion a year to EUR 20 billion a year.

  • Bilateral actors, especially state governments, need to be more closely involved and cooperative rather than dismissive and/or coercive with development, humanitarian and peace building representatives.

  • There needs to be better joint risk analysis. Too many risks currently exist where principled humanitarian actions run into complex political and military emergencies, where the State is often a main source of violence and corruption.


The nexus approach is in flux and in some cases outright distress, with the vast majority of the extremely poor and those vulnerable to militarised violence living on the verge of obliteration. The security situation on the ground is unstable, leading to finger pointing about mission creep or lack of understanding or expertise in providing shifting “assistance” roles. This was the main thrust of the comments and findings of an expert panel debating the nexus approach to humanitarian and development work The nexus approach is not about throwing more money at the problem: ODA (official development assistance) is around US$148 billion per year. It is about getting money to the right place at the right time. This is particularly true in central Sub-Saharan Africa, Syria and Myanmar, where the national state is in conflict with various ethnic groups but often claims the right to be the sole hub for external assistance. Six pilot programmes are underway in Uganda, Chad, Sudan, Nigeria, Myanmar and Iraq, which the EU is undertaking with its partners in DEVCO and ECHO as well as various state and international NGOs. But the confusion about roles and strategies has led to many humanitarian missions going on far too long: a humanitarian crisis was designed to last six weeks; now the average is closer to 17 years. Conflict prevention still gets short-changed: only 2 % of ODA is allocated to it per annum. Some countries on the frontline – such as Myanmar, Syria and Nigeria – even block aid. Effective joint risk assessment remains sorely lacking. Development needs to come in earlier to take over from humanitarian assistance. Large aid programmes should not be started in high conflict areas because the potential for misuse and outright abuse is high.


There is more than enough money out there, but it is still allocated inefficiently. There is also a glaring knowledge gap – and subsequent underinvestment – in conflict prevention. The ‘nexus’ needs to improve with more active work by NGOs on the operational level rather than simply on the donations side. If operations in high-risk regions concentrate only on high-profile counterterrorism and stabilisation efforts, then they will put everyone on the ground in danger.

Organised by


Kathrin Schick
Voluntary Organisations in Cooperation in Emergencies (VOICE)
Sonya Reines-Djivanides
Executive Director
European Peacebuilding Liaison Office
Pedro Campo Llopis
Deputy Head of Cooperation
EU Delegation to Myanmar
Hugh MacLeman
Policy Advisor Crises and Fragility
Alda Cappelletti
Director of Programmes