Policy brief series

The HCRI policy brief series provides short, policy-relevant briefings and recommendations on issues and concerns under the themes of humanitarianism, disaster management, peace and conflict and global health.

Policy briefing top table

The HCRI policy brief series publishes cutting-edge research on humanitarianism, peacebuilding, global health and related topics. Concise, evidence-based and accessible, our policy briefs are designed for policymakers, governments, humanitarian practitioners and the general public.

The series brings important and neglected issues to the forefront of the policy agenda. As well as summarising high-quality research, our briefs also make targeted, evidence-based recommendations for policy makers. Previous briefs on the gender data gap, LGBTQI+ experiences of Covid-19, and cash assistance have been widely read across the humanitarian sector.

Our policy briefs offer a platform for academics and practitioners to write about the policy relevance of their research findings. The series is open for contributions from researchers across the globe. If you are interested in writing for us, please consult the guidelines for authors and contact us via luke.kelly@manchester.ac.uk & kristina.tschunkert@manchester.ac.uk. 

The series is currently edited by Dr Kristina Tschunkert and Dr Luke Kelly.

To keep up-to-date on our policy briefings, please sign up to our mailing list.

Published policy briefs

Accounting for gender for when it is not counted

Highlighting the importance of sex-disaggregated data in understanding the impacts of attacks on healthcare - Róisín Read, University of Manchester

Brief summary

This brief makes a plea for organisations to collect and report sex-disaggregated data about attacks on healthcare in conflict. Initiatives exist to record these violations, and these data contribute to our understanding of attacks. Data also help to assess the broader impacts of attacks on healthcare workers, systems and patients’ access to healthcare. However, a persistent data gap about the sex of those involved in and affected by attacks means that we still cannot account for the gendered dimensions of attacks on healthcare.

The collection of more sex-disaggregated data about conflict has highlighted that women and men face distinct risks and harms in conflict. This has enabled the analysis of gendered violence: the forms of violence that men, women, transgender or non-binary people are more likely to face because of their gender identity, or understanding how vulnerability to conflict violence may be rooted in gendered societal marginalisation. If other forms of targeted violence are driven by gender dynamics, we need to consider this may influence the nature, instances and impacts of attacks on healthcare.

This brief highlights the importance of sex-disaggregated data to developing policies to protect and mitigate against the effects of attacks on healthcare in ways that take gender seriously.

This policy brief:

  • Advocates for the systematic collection and reporting of sex-disaggregated data about attacks on healthcare in conflict as an important step in identifying the gendered dimensions of attacks on healthcare in conflict.
  • Highlights the gap in our knowledge about the ways gender influences attacks on healthcare.
  • Recommends organisations record and report attacks on healthcare with sex-disaggregated data to develop appropriately gender-sensitive protection and mitigation strategies.
  • Recommends collecting basic data on which healthcare roles are more likely to be carried out by men, women, or people of diverse gender identity.


Adapting humanitarian aid to the climate emergency

Seven recommendations - Stephanie Sodero and Bertrand Taithe, The University of Manchester

Brief summary

This policy brief summarises seven recommendations that emerged from a research project undertaken by the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (University of Manchester), UK-Med, and Save the Children-UK, supported by the UK Disasters Emergency Committee, on how humanitarian aid needs to adapt to the climate emergency. The resulting recommendations are based on analysis of policy documents and peer-reviewed literature, as well as interviews with and surveys of aid workers operating in various countries, sectors, and organisations. The seven recommendations are, in brief:

  1. Closing the information gap;
  2. Planning for scale;
  3. Acting early;
  4. Resourcing that’s fit for purpose;
  5. Collaborating beyond sectors and borders;
  6. Getting the humanitarian house in order; and
  7. Speaking up.

For each recommendation, we provide examples of successful initiatives that can be scaled-up. These interrelated recommendations are a starting point for a broader galvanising platform to transform humanitarian aid. Based on these findings, this brief offers guiding principles for humanitarian organisations, public and private donors, and national and international policy makers in creating a humanitarian system equipped to deal with the climate emergency.

This policy brief:

  • Outlines current and projected impact of climate change on humanitarian aid delivery;
  • Describes seven recommendations for adapting humanitarian aid to the climate emergency;
  • Provides concrete examples of ongoing initiatives that can be scaled-up for each recommendation;
  • Emphasizes that these recommendations are a starting point for transforming humanitarian aid.


Artful Resistance in a Theatre State

Promoting grassroots conflict transformation in eastern Congo

Peer Schouten

Brief summary

Recent theories of change and academic approaches suggest that grassroots art movements can be harnessed to transform conflict and promote peace (e.g. British Council 2019; Premaratna & Bleiker 2016). Conflict-ridden eastern Congo is home to a vibrant art scene—can it be harnessed to mitigate conflict?

This policy brief argues that grassroots art spearheads a progressive and critical engagement with conflict and political unaccountability in eastern Congo.

However, it also shows that there are important limits to what outside actors can do to strengthen the positive impacts that this grassroots movement can have because artistic expression in the public sphere is heavily curtailed by political restrictions that stem from the political manipulation of art to cement authoritarian rule.

This policy brief:

  • Discusses the emerging grassroots art scene in eastern Congo and its political potential.
  • Describes how art and popular culture are and have been politicised in Congo.
  • Outlines policy options to support a larger role for grassroots artists in conflict transformation and the promotion of peace.


Learning from LGBTIQ+ experiences of COVID-19 in the UK for future crises

Recommendations to policymakers and practitioners for more inclusive strategies - Billy Tusker Haworth

Brief summary

This policy brief highlights the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and other queer identities (LGBTIQ+) during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in 2020. While LGBTIQ+ people experience unique vulnerabilities linked to pre-existing marginalisation, their needs are often overlooked in crisis response strategies.

This brief offers recommendations for improving the care and wellbeing of LGBTIQ+ people in future crises based on lessons learned during the pandemic. The brief summarises key challenges faced, and the coping capacities adopted by LGBTIQ+ people.

Their main concerns were related to mental health and isolation, including isolation from support networks and identity-affirming spaces. Sub-group specific challenges included disrupted transgender healthcare access, employment impacts, and “one size fits all” guidelines and government communication approaches that did not align with the diversity of LGBTIQ+ families and lives. Many of the coping capacities interviewees relied on were drawn from prior experiences of surviving marginalisation or distress. Participants, in particular, highlighted the importance of LGBTIQ+ organisations and community and peer-support groups.

Future policy interventions for providing effective support during crises should strengthen existing coping capacities, community groups and support services. Policies and strategies must also better-recognise diversity within LGBTIQ+ communities and other minority groups.

This policy brief:

  • Outlines key challenges faced by LGBTIQ+ people during COVID-19;
  • Identifies coping capacities used by LGBTIQ+ people to deal with the pandemic;
  • Emphasises the necessity for more nuanced and inclusive crisis response strategies that encompass LGBTIQ+ needs and that recognise diversity within minority communities;
  • Provides recommendations for improved strategies, such as delivering increased and targeted mental health support and maintaining transgender healthcare.


Re-balancing the 'value for money' calculations in humanitarian cash assistance by including beneficiaries' perspectives

Recommendations for international donors on designing and evaluating humanitarian cash programmes - Birte Vogel, University of Manchester

Brief summary

This policy brief integrates beneficiaries’ experiences and expectations on humanitarian cash and voucher assistance (CVA) with traditional Value for Money considerations, and analysis on how they intersect. It is based on a multi-case research study (Juillard et al, 2020) that allowed space to capture the voices of crisis-affected people receiving assistance via different operational models (Unified Delivery Platforms, linking to Social Security Networks, and consolidation of grants). It is important to acknowledge the strengths, but also the limitations, of different operational models for delivering at scale.

The findings suggest that the debate on humanitarian CVA Value for Money needs to go beyond scale alone, and take the quality assistance, defined as effective, equitable and sustainable, into account alongside traditional economy and efficiency considerations to meet beneficiaries’ expectations. To research the majority of crisis-affected people, there is also still a need for other, more agile and supplementary programmes to complement large-scale programmes. Based on the findings, this document offers practical guidance for assessing value for money taking different priorities into account.

This policy brief:

  • Unpacks the strengths of different operational models;
  • Highlights concerns from the beneficiaries’ perspective;
  • Offers recommendations on how to address these challenges;
  • Suggests that equity may be achieved via a mix of different operational models to ensure the needed level of flexibility to reach most crisis-affected people


The Arts as a Medium of Reconstruction in Beirut

Recommendations for international agencies on the integration of art in post-disaster urban reconstruction - Azadeh Sobout

Brief summary

The value of involving the arts in reconstruction programmes is currently overlooked by humanitarian organisations and funding agencies. This policy brief makes a case for artistic interventions as a critical aspect of integrating and articulating community needs within the process of (post-)disaster reconstruction.

The evidence is drawn from research in post-blast Lebanon and suggests that many artists have developed an extensive array of techniques and practices that foster community building, social and physical reconstruction.

Building on the Post-Disaster Needs Assessments and the Culture in City Reconstruction and Recovery framework, aligning reconstruction plans with principles of Build Back Better and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, this document offers practical guidance for engaging artists in designing creative approaches to post-disaster reconstruction.

It proposes an Arts-led Reconstruction Framework to advance the inclusion of artists in reconstruction programmes with suggestions on how to integrate artistic interventions into the reconstruction process.

This policy brief:

  • Recommends the development of a comprehensive framework that reconnects people, places, and policies through artistic and creative practices in the post-disaster context.
  • Calls for humanitarian organisations and donors to engage with artists and creative practitioners in shaping and co-designing reconstruction programmes;
  • Recommends the creation of art and cultural funding programmes hosted by relevant international donors such as the UN and EU to work towards post-disaster reconstruction objectives in more context-specific ways.
  • Suggests that post-disaster reconstruction programmes should offer immediate and rapid aid to the affected artistic communities and space.


The global compact on refugees: The road to inclusive and relevant impact

Recommendations for international actors working towards GCR objectives - Mekhla Jha, Sumedha Choudhury, and Jessica Field

Brief summary

This month, December 2020, it is two years since the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) affirmed the Global Compact on Refugees (GCR), and more than four years since UNGA adopted the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants. These agreements constitute the biggest global commitment to refugee protection since the 1951 Refugee Convention. To date, however, their impacts remain limited.

This policy brief — based on an India-focused edited volume, The Global Compact in Refugees: Indian Perspectives and Experiences (Field & Burra, 2020) — reflects on where the GCR might be falling short. In the volume, contributors highlight how, in India (and elsewhere in the world), the GCR’s significance has faded as nationalist forces have mobilised anti-refugee rhetoric. Contributions also show how research, legal support and grassroots action for refugee protection in India is surging.

Despite this expertise, Indian and Global South perspectives continue to be overlooked at the international level, even though decentralised action presents a more inclusive and context-relevant route to achieving GCR goals, in India and beyond.

This policy brief:

  • Calls for academic, legal, and civil society experts from the Global South to shape and lead GCR discussions;
  • Recommends the creation of regional solidarity forums hosted by relevant regional actors to work towards GCR objectives in more context-relevant ways;
  • Recommends that the GCR’s digital platform proactively includes grassroots ‘good practice’ examples in refugee-hosting contexts, and reorientates case studies from ‘show-casing’ activities to facilitating change.


Transforming Contested Space through Street and Sound Art

Community Arts for Peace in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Lydia C. Cole

Brief summary

This policy brief explores community arts in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). While the arts have been a dominant mode of peacebuilding in BiH, they have primarily been engaged as a tool of inter-ethnic reconciliation.

This policy brief suggests a more expansive space for the arts. Examining the interventions of the Street Arts Festival Mostar and the Mostar Sound Archive, it shows how the arts contribute to processes of transforming and reimagining space in the city.

The Street Arts Festival Mostar curates a series of murals which visually and spatially transform urban space, while the Mostar Sound Archive enables diverse audiences to reexperience urban space through the stories of art in the city.

The policy brief makes several key recommendations for policymakers engaged in art and peacebuilding in post-conflict spaces:

  1. Recognition of a broader range of artforms as a source of knowledge on politics and society
  2. Diversification of funding frames to account for the diverse stories, narratives, and experiences represented within the arts
  3. Fund small-scale arts initiatives at the community level
  4. Support production of more accessible art, particularly initiatives which utilise public space

This policy brief:

  • Provides a brief overview of the role of the arts after the 1990s war with regard to politics, society and urban space;
  • Shows how the arts have been key to challenging and overcoming multifaceted politics of division;
  • Introduces key challenges to creating and sustaining arts in Mostar, BiH, focusing on space for the arts and funding;
  • Highlights two arts initiatives that re-imagine Mostar’s urban space beyond simplistic narratives of ethnonational division.


Who Killed UN Peacekeeping?

Who Killed UN Peacekeeping? - Mark Millar

This brief suggests provocatively that in a critical moment for global peace and security UN peacekeeping is either absent or in rapid and terminal decline.

It challenges the assumption that peacekeeping has been especially wasteful or ineffective, or its demise a consequence of it collapsing under the weight of its own contradictions or conceptual weaknesses.

Instead, this brief suggests that UN Member States and the UN Organization share responsibility for failing to create an environment, provide the resources or properly administer its missions in ways that would have made peacekeeping more consistently successful.

Current alternatives look problematic. UN peacekeeping remains the best, among a bad range, of intervention options to support global peace and security. It is worth resurrecting.

This policy brief recommends:

  • Policymakers reassert the principal that a robust UN peacekeeping operational capability remains a critical part of global peace and security.
  • Policymakers, experts, and practitioners resolve to establish a best practice of UN peacekeeping that is doctrinally strong, more autonomous, and better integrated into local areas where it is operating.
  • Policymakers discourage a rhetoric of a primacy of politics where that detracts from the contributions of ground missions to contribute to transformational peace.