More than 500 camels, goats and sheep visit the borehole according to Abdirashid, a herder in Qodqod village, Somalia. The borehole has been connected to provide water to animal troughs in the village. More than 500 camels, goats and sheep visit the borehole according to Abdirashid, a herder in Qodqod village, Somalia. The borehole has been connected to provide water to animal troughs in the village. Photo credit: Anisa Hussein Dahir/ICRC

Protection and the nexus: tensions and opportunities

by Damian LillyApril 2020

The need to ensure a complementary approach to humanitarian and development assistance has been a long-standing challenge for the international aid system. For people affected by crises, it matters little what label is given to the assistance they receive, and yet the bifurcation of humanitarian assistance and development cooperation has been an enduring policy issue to be addressed by the international community. Given the increasingly protracted nature of many crises and a squeeze on both humanitarian and development funding, there have been renewed efforts to break the silos between these two types of assistance as part of the nexus approach. In particular, the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in 2016 ushered in the New Way of Working (NWOW) ‘that meets people’s immediate humanitarian needs while at the same time reducing risk and vulnerability by working together towards collective outcomes over multiple-year time frames and based on comparative advantage in each context’. Efforts are underway to operationalise the nexus approach at the field level. However, there remains a great deal of uncertainty about what it means in practice, and work is needed to tackle the deep-rooted conceptual, structural, institutional, financial, planning, and other barriers that continue to impede a more joined-up approach to humanitarian and development assistance.

One area of the humanitarian–development nexus that has received less attention has been protection. Indeed, there has arguably been an assistance bias within the debate. This Network Paper, therefore, aims to explain what the nexus approach means for humanitarian protection actors (including members of protection clusters) and how they may begin to address it. Section 1 asks why aid agencies engaged in protection activities have only recently begun to engage more on the issue, when they have not significantly addressed it up until now. Section 2 then explains some of the conceptual similarities and differences between protection within the humanitarian response compared to the development agenda. While there has been almost universal acceptance of the need to ensure greater complementarity between humanitarian and development assistance, there have also been concerns about moving in this direction, which are presented in Section 3. Notwithstanding these reservations, in Section 4 the paper argues that protection should engage with this agenda and outlines key issues to consider regarding protection collective outcomes, as well as the priorities for advancing the nexus approach in relation to protection (in Section 5).