Livelihood is a concept closely related to “life”, “security” and “protection”. It is not only related to tangible goods, like property, income, assets, and infrastructure, but also to a wide range of basic needs including shelter or home, health and education. Aid providers engage in a range of livelihood “activities”, “assistance”, “support”, “programmes”, “projects”, or “strategies” to generate livelihood “opportunities”, “options”, or “alternatives”. By far the most frequent and most typical type of livelihood referred to in humanitarian documents is “sustainable” livelihood.
This raises important questions for humanitarian actors and researchers:
- Is restoring basic livelihoods in humanitarian settings sufficient, or should humanitarians strive to build “sustainable”, “secure”, “resilient” or “improved” livelihoods?
- At what point does supporting sustainable livelihoods overlap with the mandate of development actors?
- And to what extent do these distinctions matter at the local level, where community-based organisations often work across the humanitarian-development continuum?
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Please note: The overview on this page represents a first summary and exploratory analysis of the concept, proposed by the HE core team for discussion, on the basis of preliminary linguistic data. It is not the full concept entry which will be based on rigorous linguistic methodology and collaboration with humanitarian practitioners and experts.
Coming soon: Expanded concept explanations, visualisations and analysis for this and 17 other COVID-19 related concepts.
The use of the term “livelihood” has gradually but significantly increased in the document collection since 2005.
“Livelihood” is frequently used in documents from Asia, but rarely used in documents from the MENA region. More research is needed to explore these regional differences.
“Livelihood” appears frequently in the projects and corporation/business/think tank categories, as it is frequently referred to in humanitarian standards and policy debates.
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