Make the Humanitarian Encyclopedia yours : take our online survey!

Have you ever been left with the impression that, while we all use the same words in the humanitarian sector1, they don’t have the same meaning to all of us? To analyse this diversity of “humanitarian languages”, the Geneva Centre for Education and Research in Humanitarian Action (CERAH) and its partners are launching an Encyclopedia for Humanitarian Action.

To explore what humanitarian practitioners perceive as priority concepts, we are launching a consultative survey.

The survey is available here.

This survey will contribute to the selection of the entries of the Humanitarian Encyclopedia. By answering the survey, you will ensure that the Humanitarian Encyclopedia addresses your priorities and you will contribute to defining the structure of the Encyclopedia. When answering the questions, please refer to your current experience as aid worker. Quotes may be cited anonymously in the report.

The survey takes approximately 10 minutes to be filled. It is part of a four stage participatory approach to select the entries of the Humanitarian Encyclopedia.

1 We define as part of the humanitarian sector any actor, regardless of organizational affiliation, profession, geographical origin or value, who undertakes most of his activities in crisis situations and self-qualifies the activities as belonging to “humanitarian”, “relief”, “emergency” work and to “disaster” or “crisis” response.

ADRNN Regional Partnership Event – Bangkok – 12 to 14 December 2017

A partnership between the Humanitarian Encyclopedia and ADRRN has developed over the past year. Since May 2017, Manu Gupta chairs the Advisory board, one of the two main governing bodies.

This partnership was presented during the ADRNN Regional Partnership Event (Bangkok, Thailand 12-14 of December 2017). The Humanitarian Encyclopedia team was also invited to facilitate a workshop on “Localization in Action in Asia Dialogue 2017” during a day organized by ICVA. The discussion on “successful localized humanitarian practice”, allowed to capture the terminology used by Asian humanitarian practitioners (illustration below).

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Dialogue with CoAN members in Chad (Nov 22-25 2017)

The Humanitarian Encyclopedia realized a first assessment with 14 humanitarian organizations, members of the Coalition des ONG africaines (CoAN) in Chad (November 22-25 2017).

Representatives from Chad, DRC, RCA, Cameroon, Burundi, Congo Brazzaville and Gabon shared their perspectives on the relevancy of the Humanitarian Encyclopedia, their needs in terms of related products and their capacities to share organizational knowledge internationally. They also reflected on their practices regarding their current use of existing resources within the sector, their digital user experience as well as social media practices.

In individual interviews, three main concepts were highlighted as particularly salient and challenging for their practices: “Stateless”, “Resilience” and the concept of “Vulnerable groups”

Humanitarian Encyclopedia at the Humanitarian Evidence Week 2017

From November 6-12 the HEW2017 provided an international platform to deploy and promote initiatives and products related to the generation, use or dissemination of evidence in support of humanitarian action.

It was the place to be for the Humanitarian Encyclopedia project since it promotes a more evidence-based approach to humanitarian action.

Learn more on the HER2017 Webpage:




Knocking at the door of Europe

Mid-July in Brussels: Prof Doris Schopper met the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides to discuss the Humanitarian Encyclopedia project.
The Cypriot Stylianides has held this position since 2014 with one of his responsibilities being to build close relationships with various partners to make joint humanitarian work more effective. And here is where the Humanitarian Encyclopedia fits right in, with its declared objective to engage a broad constituency of local, regional and global humanitarian actors, and to bring about more reflective, effective and innovative humanitarian action. Professor Schopper reports that the discussions were very positive and that Commissioner Stylianides expressed a sincere interest in the project.

The meeting had been organized by Charles Goerens, EU Parliamentarian, in collaboration with the General Director of MSF-Luxembourg, Paul Delaunois.

Local NGO’s want their voices to be heard

Listen to Manu GUPTA, Chair of the Humanitarian Encyclopedia Advisory Board on how this project has the capacity to bring together some of the wisdom that is used in the work on frontlines to be recognized in the international vocabulary.

Click to access his video testimonial from the Encyclopedia Launch on June 13, 2017

Memories of the reception

On June 13, Ville de Genève kindly hosted the launch reception for the Humanitarian Encyclopedia. Representatives of the humanitarian sector, academia and friends of the project enjoyed a beautiful flow of keynotes, welcome addresses, cocktails and networking opportunities.

The formal reception hosted by the Mayor of Geneva Rémy Pagani was followed by a welcome address by the Ambassador of Switzerland to the United Nations Valentin Zellweger. They both underlined the importance of this project for International Geneva;  and Ambassador Zellweger to continue that, as the humanitarian sector transformed itself in (…) different ways, a process of systematization and professionalization of humanitarian action had tried to make the humanitarian sector more efficient, more effective, and more accountable to the affected populations. The Ambassador added that with the empowerment of local actors and the systematic involvement of affected populations came the realization that each crisis had its own specificities – its own history and its own narrative and that this implied that (…) key humanitarian concepts and approaches would be understood very differently. He concluded that it was (…) of vital importance to engage in an in-depth analysis of core humanitarian concepts and provide a shared framework of reference (read the full speech here).

Prof Doris Schopper, Director of CERAH,  took up from there and put the Humanitarian Encyclopedia in context by explaining why, in the first place, CERAH had come up with that ambitious idea to create a common and living repository of knowledge on humanitarian action: ” It all started with our students who are humanitarian professionals coming from all regions of the world, who have various disciplinary backgrounds and have worked with different organizations. They represent today’s plurality of the humanitarian sector. Throughout their training at CERAH they exchange among each other and they are confronted with the views of a wide range of academics and practitioners lecturing at CERAH. And this can lead to some confusion. For example, when a central concept such as Protection is used in very different ways by ICRC and UNHCR, not even to speak of MSF, students ask us ‘where is the truth?‘. Well there is no truth and there is no place to look this up.”

Dr Hugo Slim, ICRC Head of Policy, offered the audience an enthusiastic keynote address about “The Geography of Knowledge in Humanitarian Action”, underlining the importance to create this project from Geneva, not in Geneva: “Although this new Encyclopedia starts today in Geneva, it will spread out to co-create and encapsulate a diverse geography of humanitarian knowledge that extends all around the world involving experience and empirical fact and the reason and moral values of many different people and places. If all goes well, the Encyclopedia can then accumulate knowledge, cultivate wisdom and redistribute power.” (read the full speech here)

Manu Gupta, Chair of the Advisory Board, and Marco Sassòli, Chair of the Scientific Committee, further developed on the added value of the Humanitarian Encyclopedia on their daily work and why this sound scientific approach is so important.

With weather gods being particularly kind, the assembly celebrated on the beautiful terrace of Geneva’s Palais Eynard to take discussions further and continue co-creating.

What a beautiful day!

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Happy birthday – a new visual identity is born

The symbol stands for humanity, co-creation, dissemination, evolution and solid foundations. It shall carry these concepts and values over bridges and across borders.

Designed as a living process, the collaborative research project Humanitarian Encyclopedia will develop a cross-cultural, transdisciplinary and multi-sectoral review of key humanitarian concepts. By 2020, the “living” Encyclopedia will engage a broad constituency of local, regional and global humanitarian actors, and bring about more reflective, effective and creative humanitarian decision making, while constituting a milestone in the scholarship of contemporary humanitarian action.

The ultimate goal is a more informed humanitarian community delivering quality programming thanks to shared and contextualized analyses as well as improved dialogue among stakeholders.

Partnerships are the DNA of the project

The new visual identity will allow partners, co-creators, contributors and beneficiaries to better identify with the Humanitarian Encyclopedia.

The new symbol stands for humanity, co-creation, dissemination, evolution and solid foundations. It shall carry these concepts and values over bridges and across borders.

0 comments on “Countdown for takeoff”

Countdown for takeoff

After a dynamic preparation period and incubation stage, the foundations are laid and The Humanitarian Encyclopedia is ready to be launched.

Three days of meetings will mark the entry into the launch phase of the project. CERAH and its partners (academics, humanitarian organizations and related networks) will gather in Geneva from June 13 to 15, 2017.

On the programme: workshops and meetings of the two governing bodies Scientific Committee and Advisory Board, as well as a private launch reception to celebrate the formal launch of the project.