Humanitarian Learning Centre

The Humanitarian Learning Centre (HLC) brings together high-quality analysis, dialogue and debate with accessible, operational learning to improve humanitarian response, practice and policy. With a focus on protracted crises and agency-led inclusive responses to multiple shocks, the HLC is dedicated to using this evidence and knowledge to protect and strengthen the lives, livelihoods, and dignity of people affected by or at risk of humanitarian crises.

IDS is known as a key development actor but as early as 1994 it was already convening thinking around the difficulties of linking relief and development in relation to the changing nature of emergencies, in particular those caused by, or related to, conflict. The concept of ‘leave no one behind’, as championed in the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2030, calls for this kind of thinking particularly in a context where acute poverty is increasingly found in those places that have been labelled ‘protracted humanitarian crises’ – places like the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Sudan.

However, the title ‘protracted humanitarian crises’ is a misnomer. Conflict and the increasingly protracted and recurrent nature of crises, combined with high numbers of displaced persons, at a time when climate-related shocks are more frequent and intense, cannot be addressed by humanitarian aid alone. Whilst it provides some form of short-term relief, it is not configured to address structural problems such as systemic inequalities and injustices which are often most acute in humanitarian contexts – issues of social injustice such as of women’s rights, of marginalisation, or equitable access to services, security, justice. Moreover, humanitarian contexts are constantly changing and are becoming more and more complex. Emergencies occur in places affected by underdevelopment, involved in armed conflicts or facing natural disasters or endemics. Each of these situations requires a specific and adapted response which the humanitarian sector cannot and should not deal with alone.

The Aid community has been grappling with these issues for some time. In particular, the humanitarian sector is evolving rapidly and searching for new ideas in recognition that the tools it currently has fall short of the problems it faces. Current global humanitarian initiatives around disaster risk reduction, peace building, and epidemics (e.g. the Sendai Framework, the Grand Bargain, the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States and the International Health Regulations) are all manifestations of an evolving policy discourse on how to work most effectively in the most difficult – and (some of) the places with the most need. The need to link humanitarian and development – most recently called ‘nexus’ has been a common feature in these global policies. They also promote a local turn with localisation high on the agenda. However, the global humanitarian community have struggled to understand community level dynamics and how to recreate a new understanding of protracted crisis in terms of agency.

As such, we are reaching a moment where there is a need to refine social norms from the bottom-up to go beyond the humanitarian – development nexus. HLC is well-placed to provide a new approach towards understanding and supporting agency-led inclusive responses to multiple shocks in protracted crisis.

HLC objectives:

  • Enable access to relevant, scalable, and outcome-focused learning resources for enhanced operational effectiveness.
  • Co-create world class research and innovative thought leadership for doing humanitarianism differently in protracted crises.
  • Facilitate systemic change in support of local responders’ increased participation in and leadership of humanitarian action.

HLC is now leading a number of core research projects and collaborating with a number of international organisations and bilateral agencies, including:

The directors of HLC are Dr. Jeremy Allouche and Lewis Sida, providing the necessary balance between conceptual, methodological and operational knowledge. Tina Nelis is our Knowledge and Learning Officer, Philip Proudfoot is the Research Fellow associated with the centre and Louise Oakley the Programme Manager.




Afghanistan Strategic Learning Initiative (ASLI)

As a part of the Afghanistan Strategic Learning Initiative, IDS led a workshop exploring needs and vulnerability in Afghanistan. Leveraging the collective knowledge and experience of leading global think tanks working on Afghanistan and aid issues, the resulting report will be based on analysis...

Recent work

Impact Story

Evidence on protracted crises shapes more effective humanitarian responses

Humanitarian crises have come thick and fast in recent times – notably Ukraine,  Afghanistan and situations worsened by Covid-19. While each creates urgent humanitarian needs, each also carries the risk of becoming protracted or recurrent like so many other existing global crises. The reflex...

21 July 2022


Needs and Vulnerability in Afghanistan

This paper draws on a series of events under the Afghanistan Strategic Learning Initiative (ASLI). Between December 2021 and February 2022, ASLI convened four workshops led by each of the partner organisations in turn, which brought together senior leaders, decision-makers, experts, researchers...

24 May 2022


Bringing evidence and action to protracted crises

In 1994, at the age of six years old, Clemantine Wamariya fled Rwanda and spent the next six years moving to the next ‘safer’ country. By the age of twelve, Clemantine had travelled through seven African countries until she was granted refugee status in the United States. Clemantine was...

4 February 2020