Evidence 1: An expanding humanitarian sector

The first post is a general introduction to the topic, it presents the temporal evolution of the sector.

The analysed data draws upon a database of humanitarian organisations we are currently finalising at CERAH. Organisations are included in the database according to two complementary criteria:

  1. The organisation – whatever its organisational structure 1  – defines itself as a “humanitarian” or “relief” organisation and develops at least 30% of its activities in “disaster”, “emergency” or “crisis” contexts.
  2. Contexts of intervention include conflict situations 2 , natural disasters 3 and protracted crises/ situations of vulnerability 4.

Our database compiles information coming from diverse sources such as various lists of humanitarian actors 5 and existing databases on international organisations 6. So far, we have collected data on 1800 organisations. We plan to gather data on 2500 organisations. Research teams of two coded and double-coded the data to ensure the reliability of the evidence provided. The beta version of the database shall be completed by December 2017.

The graph above shows the number of humanitarian organisations created per year (all types and regional locations of organisations included). Three historical turning points can be identified. Overall, our data confirm what is known about the humanitarian sector, but also reveal original regional patterns which are listed below:

  1. After 1945: the well documented rise in the creation of humanitarian organisations after World War Two has been driven by the creation of European and North American organisations.
  2. After 1965: the birth of the “French doctors” only partly accounts for the increasing number of organisations created in this period. This period is also characterised by a considerable rise in the creation of African and Asian organisations
  3. After 1992: this creation peak is almost exclusively driven by the creation of humanitarian organisations in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Note that the oldest organisations – such as the Order of Malta created in 1099 – are not included in the graph. It is worth mentioning that the data refer to the aggregated number of creations of humanitarian organisations per year and does not provide information on the absolute number of active humanitarian organisations per year. Our results show that 94% of the organisations included in our database were created after 1945, 85% after 1965 and 55% after 1992.
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