The formal humanitarian system is broken. Despite years of reform, it continues to privilege the values, interests, and worldviews of a small number of actors based in industrialized economies. Actors external to each crisis define what affected populations need, often displacing, rather than building on, existing systems and capacities. Programs are crafted in uniform and technical terms, with limited regard for the complexity of human needs or the disparate impacts of conflict on different social groups. Accountability of humanitarian agencies is largely upwards—toward donors, rather than toward the populations they are supposed to serve.
This report, produced by the Women’s Refugee Commission, the Feminist Humanitarian Network, and Quicksand, explores how a new vision and strategies can be charted using feminist frameworks, because feminism, at its core, draws attention to unequal power structures and their gendered impacts. The report also draws from literature on place-based approaches—that is, approaches that center the knowledge, capacities, and priorities of actors from the site of conflict—used most often in urban displacement settings, to help identify bottom-up opportunities for challenging these unequal power structures.