Marie Müller-Koné, Esther Meininghaus, Birgit Kemmerling, Boubacar Haidara

How can the Humanitarian–Development–Peace Nexus Work from the Bottom Up?

A Discussion Paper on Implementation Challenges from a Decolonial Perspective: Insights from Iraq, Mail and South Sudan

The humanitarian–development–peace (HDP) nexus is a new way of working for UN agencies and international and national NGOs, introduced at the 2016 Global Humanitarian Summit. It aims to closely link humanitarian aid, development assistance and peacebuilding through a bottom-up approach and joint conflict analysis.

The need for a nexus approach is often justified by the fact that humanitarian, development and peacebuilding organisations face increasingly complex and protracted humanitarian crises. However, it has also been a response to widespread popular dissatisfaction with the existing system of humanitarian aid. More recently, the aid sector has witnessed the emergence of a decolonial critique from within INGOs and NGOs in all three fields. This critique asks how today’s power imbalances between the global North and the global South are rooted in a colonial past, and how greater equity can be achieved beyond a bottom-up approach.

The authors of the BICC Report How can the HDP Nexus work from the bottom up? A Discussion Paper on Implementation Challenges from a Decolonial Perspective. Insights from Iraq, Mali and South Sudan argue that a bottom-up approach to the HDP nexus requires a change in mindset, practices and structures of power to succeed. By adopting a decolonial lens that makes power imbalances more visible, the HDP nexus offers an opportunity to uncover and reflect on the political positioning of international humanitarian actors in their respective contexts of intervention. According to co-author Marie Müller-Koné: “Only when such power imbalances are reflected in day-to-day aid operations can they be addressed and the influence of local actors on project design be increased”.

The experiences from Iraq, Mail and South Sudan illustrate different obstacles and strengths in their approach reflecting the key findings of our BICC Report:

\ The HDP is largely being implemented from the top down.

\ A localisation approach runs the risk of reproducing existing power imbalances rather than overcoming them.

\ Peace activities can be controversial or too politically sensitive to be implemented at all.

Marie Müller-Koné: Senior Researcher with expertise in resource conflicts and resource governance, ethnicisation of land conflicts, displacement

Dr Esther Meininghaus: Senior Researcher with expertise in local concepts, peace negotiations and decoloniality

Dr Birgit Kemmerling: Senior Researcher with expertise in human–environmental relations, food insecurity and violent conflict

Dr Boubacar Haidara: Senior Researcher with expertise in crisis and stabilisation processes, peace and security and inter-community conflicts

About BICC 
BICC (Bonn International Centre for Conflict Studies) is a non-university, non-profit research institute with international staff. It was funded in 1994 and deals with a wide range of global topics in peace and conflict research centring on the conditions, dynamics and consequences of violent conflicts. These topics range from the (de-)mobilisation of violent actors, arms exports and small arms control to migration and forced displacement as well as natural resources and social inequality.

Marie Müller-Koné, Esther Meininghaus, Birgit Kemmerling, Boubacar Haidara
BICC (Bonn International Centre for Conflict Studies)