“Monitoring” is a concept closely linked with “evaluation” in the humanitarian sector, and is part of a broader range of terms related to the project management cycle such as “planning”, “implementation”, “review”, “assessment”, “analysis” and “management”. 

The types of monitoring frequently referred to in humanitarian documents include “project”, “performance” and “growth” monitoring. Apart from “detention” monitoring of prisoners, the most frequent types of monitoring apply to organisations and actors who provide assistance, rather than to the individuals themselves who are affected by crisis. This is perhaps because humanitarians typically “assess” the needs of these individuals, rather than “monitor” them. This may be because “monitoring” individuals raises negative connotations related to privacy and control issues. 

Monitoring is frequently used in reference to a “monitoring system” built around “tools”, “mechanisms” and “frameworks”. It involves individual events such as a “visit”, “mission” or “activity”, but the frequency with which “ongoing”, “regular” and “continuous”, “processes” and “rounds” are used in conjunction the concept implies that monitoring tends to be repetitive and maintained over a period of time.


  • Monitoring is frequently bundled together with assessment, evaluation, accountability and learning ((A)MEAL). What is the difference between these terms and why are they so frequently used together by humanitarian actors?
  • “Monitoring is a burden imposed by donors and takes time, resources and energy away from organisations trying to serve populations in need of assistance.” Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Why or why not?
  • How could monitoring be more effective and efficient?  How can it best contribute to the overall project management?
  • How has COVID-19 and movement restrictions affected monitoring in humanitarian settings? What are the risks and opportunities of remote monitoring?
  • How do or should humanitarian actors reconcile the need to monitor the effectiveness of their programmes, remain accountable to beneficiaries, and the right to privacy of the individuals they serve?

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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.

Monitoring has been used consistently frequently since 2005.

Documents published in Africa and Asia, where many humanitarian activities are implemented, refer to monitoring more frequently than other regions.

Religious entities refer less frequently to monitoring than projects and information services, who are often involved in monitoring, evaluation and learning activities. 

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