About the Humanitarian Encyclopedia

With a vision of empowering people around the world to prepare for and respond to humanitarian crises and disasters more effectively, CERAH gathered academia and humanitarian actors and launched the  Humanitarian Encyclopedia project in mid-2017.

A diversified humanitarian sector

In recent decades, humanitarian action has massively expanded and diversified, with increasingly protracted crises of massive scale and growing strategic importance of humanitarian aid in international crisis management. 

In 2017, the international humanitarian response hit historical highs with assistance reaching USD 27.3 billion globally.  With an estimated 570,000 people working in some 4,500 organisations, not counting the tens of thousands of individual and spontaneous initiatives, today’s diversity of geographical, cultural, organizational, linguistic, and professional profiles in the humanitarian field is simply unprecedented.

The Humanitarian Encyclopedia project

Understanding the impact brought by this increasing diversity, the CERAH, supported by engaged experts from academia and humanitarian organisations, has launched and been developing the Humanitarian Encyclopedia project to enhance humanitarian practice through greater knowledge and understanding.

The Humanitarian Encyclopedia, through its participatory approach, collectively interrogates how humanitarian concepts are used – across time, geographical contexts, organizational cultures, disciplinary backgrounds, and professions – to bring about great coherence and effectiveness of humanitarian action.  It aims to:

  • Improve mutual understanding among practitioners;
  • Accompany the localization of humanitarian knowledge;
  • Render the sector more legible to external stakeholders including media, governments, military, and the general public; and
  • Contribute to the training of current and future generations of humanitarian practitioners and to the enhancement of humanitarian studies.

The Humanitarian Encyclopedia project has been developed with the generous support from the Government of Switzerland, the Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg, and the Loterie Romande (Switzerland). The initial development of the project laid a solid foundation in 2017 and 2018, which includes: the definition of the structure of the Encyclopedia and its on-line platform, the identification of 129 key concepts and associate concepts through a three-pronged research method, and a database of 2’500 humanitarian organisations.