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Humanitarian Development Nexus

The New Way of Working

The volume, cost and length of humanitarian assistance over the past 10 years has grown dramatically, mainly due to the protracted nature of crises and scarce development action in many contexts where vulnerability is the highest. For example, inter-agency humanitarian appeals now last an average of seven years, and the size of appeals has increased nearly 400 per cent in the last decade. This trend has given new urgency to the long-standing discussion around better connectivity between humanitarian and development efforts. At the same time, the adoption of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set out not just to meet needs, but to reduce risk, vulnerability and overall levels of need, providing a reference frame for humanitarian and development actors to contribute to the common vision of supporting the furthest behind first and a future in which no one is left behind.

Strengthening the humanitarian-development nexus was identified by the majority of stakeholders as a top priority at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), including donors, NGOs, crisis-affected States and others, and it received more commitments at the WHS than any other area. The New Way of Working (NWOW) as outlined in the Secretary-General’s Report for the WHS and the Agenda for Humanity represents an approach to put this into practice.

The New Way of Working can be described as working towards achieving collective outcomes that reduce need, risk and vulnerability, over multiple years, based on the comparative advantage of a diverse range of actors. This notion of “collective outcomes” has been placed at the center of the commitment to the New Way of Working, summarized in the Commitment to Action signed by the Secretary-General and nine UN Principals at the WHS, and endorsed by the World Bank and IOM. A collective outcome can be described as the result that humanitarian, development and other relevant actors want to have achieved at the end of 3-5 years. They should be concrete and measurable and represent an intermediate between the current level of need, risk and vulnerability and the targets set by the SDGs.

Key concepts of the New Way of Working
Collective outcome
A commonly agreed measurable result or impact in reducing people’s needs, risks and vulnerabilities and increasing their resilience, requiring the combined effort of different actors.
Comparative advantage
The unique, demonstrated capacity and expertise (not limited solely to a mandate) of one individual, group or institution to meet needs and contribute to risk and vulnerability reduction, over the capacity of another actor.
Multi-year timeframe
Analyzing, strategizing, planning and financing operations that build over several years to achieve context-specific and, at times, dynamic targets.


This approach is highly context specific, and the New Way of Working recognizes that greater collaboration, coordination and coherence between humanitarian and development actors must be done in a way that respects humanitarian principles. While joint analysis should always be undertaken, in complex emergencies separate humanitarian plans or coordination structures may be required to enable life-saving and protection assistance to reach those most in need. That notwithstanding, humanitarian actors should increasingly engage with other actors, including development partners, to leverage their comparative advantages for better results for people.

Ending needs by reducing risks and vulnerability is now a shared vision, under the SDG umbrella, that transcends this decades-old divide. The New Way of Working offers a concrete, doable and measurable path forward. The changes required to make this approach work are institutionally and financially complex and will need time to operationalize. However, the reductions in risk and vulnerability will improve the lives of the most vulnerable people, and they are essential to ensuring that development progress is accessible to all communities, including those affected by crises.

OCHA is working with UNDP and other partners, including donors, to advance the policy, operational and financial shifts required to enable the New Way of Working, particularly across recurrent and protracted crises. Since November 2017, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs / Emergency Relief Coordinator and the UNDP Administrator co-chair the Joint Steering Committee to advance Humanitarian and Development Collaboration, chaired by the Deputy Secretary-General, which was created as part of the Secretary-General’s reforms.


The New Way of Working booklet
Commitment to Action