HCRI is a partner in the consortium that delivers the Knowledge, Evidence and Learning for Development (K4D) programme. The K4D programme supports learning and the use of evidence to improve the impact of development policy and programmes. The programme is designed to assist DFID and other partners to be innovative and responsive to rapidly changing and complex development challenges.

The evidence of what works in these challenging and uncertain contexts is highly complex. Without this evidence, programmes would not be designed for maximum impact and could be poor value for money. K4D provides an integrated approach to linking organisational learning processes with the use of evidence from research. A key part of this approach is a rapid response research helpdesk service and foresight reports. Dr Luke Kelly, HCRI Research Associate, has written many helpdesk reports for the programme, many of which are published on the Institute of Development Studies OpenDocs website. Below are three featured examples of these reports.

Evidence on implementation of Joint Needs Assessments (JNA) and Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) by humanitarian organisations

There is little evidence on the effects of Joint Needs Assessments (JNAs) and Accountability to Affected Populations (AAP) on humanitarian organisations’ behaviour and humanitarian outcomes. JNAs are needs assessments undertaken jointly by humanitarian agencies and organisations to prevent duplication of effort, improve co-ordination and ensure a more independent report of needs. AAP designates a number of methods to either communicate to affected populations, gather feedback, use their feedback in programming or involve them in decision-making on programmes (or a combination of these). Reports have made a number of conclusions about the best ways of implementing feedback mechanisms in different contexts, including which technologies to use, how to ensure representative feedback, and how to include it in decision-making (Price, 2018). Case studies have pointed to ways in which individual feedback mechanisms have led to programme changes in the field, such as changing rations. They have also suggested ways in which AAP might be implemented in humanitarian organisations. The review has been unable to find evaluations of the effects of JNAs on humanitarian outcomes and organisational behaviour. Several case studies point to some barriers and enablers to JNA implementation. Synthesis reports suggest that implementation of JNAs has been limited by structural barriers in the humanitarian system (Derzsi-Horvath, Steets, & Ruppert, 2017).

The role of UN humanitarian forums involving conflict parties in conflict situations

This query studies the role of regular UN humanitarian forums that involve conflict parties in conflict situations to discuss humanitarian issues of concern. It focuses on forums that are held outside of any political processes or peace talks. This paper finds six examples of forums that meet two or more of the criteria, although several of these are informal and/or linked to a political process. Forums such as the Technical Committee on Humanitarian Assistance (TCHA) in Sudan (1998-2000) and the Nuba Mountains Programme Advancing Conflict Transformation (NMPACT) in Sudan (2002-2007) have allowed humanitarian issues to be discussed in a coordinated way among United Nations (UN) organisations and/or Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and parties to the conflict. This can lead to better technical co-ordination, a distribution of aid according to humanitarian principles rather than strategic negotiations, and a greater acceptance of humanitarian principles among the warring parties. However, literature shows that the success of such forums is highly context-specific and depends upon their format, personnel and tactics, as well as the broader political context and the tactics and capabilities of the conflict parties. The forums risk legitimising the conflict parties and allowing aid to be instrumentalised. Some key challenges shape the space humanitarian actors have for engaging in regular forums with conflict parties. Firstly, so-called “complex emergencies” after the Cold War have changed the context for humanitarian action, and brought distinct challenges to implementing humanitarian principles and maintaining humanitarian space. Secondly, the UN introduced a policy of integration in 1997 whereby UN peacekeeping, security and humanitarian agencies are linked together. Evidence from interviews points to a perception that aid is linked with UN political goals in contexts such as Somalia and Afghanistan and a subsequent reduction in the efficacy of aid delivery. Humanitarian organisations and the UN have tried various methods to overcome these problems, including co-ordination mechanisms and the formation of joint operating principles.

Overview of research on far-right extremism in the Western Balkans

Far-right extremism is widespread in the Western Balkans and exists in both mainstream political parties and extremist groups and individuals. Most of the literature focuses on Serbian nationalist groups, but far-right groups are also present in Bosnia Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania and North Macedonia. The literature focuses on explaining far-right extremism in relation to the political cultures of the countries. It notes continuities with the politics of the 1990s in terms of organisations, personnel and nationalist ideas. Many far-right groups centre on continuing disputes over borders and ethnic victimisation in the Balkans, to which the ‘ethnic democracy’ practised by today’s political elites contributes. It also notes the perceived ‘Europeanness’ of liberal ideas on LGBT and women’s rights, against which some groups contrast their traditional, Orthodox, Eurasian or Slavic values. The spread of these discourses is analysed through media and internet sources. Far-right groups are shown to be linked to football supporters’ clubs, and to have experience in the Balkan wars or the recent Ukraine conflict in some cases. Sub-regional links within the Balkans are important, as are links with Russia, and there is some evidence of wider international links. Some studies look at relative social deprivation, criminal backgrounds and high levels of unemployment across the region, but most focus on political culture. The perceived threat of Islam is a theme of many groups, as well as migrants entering Europe through the Balkans. Far-right groups are shown to be enabled by mainstream politics and institutions which agree with some of their extreme ideas and fail to clamp down on groups.