Consultation outcome

DFID Humanitarian Policy Consultation

This consultation has concluded

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Detail of outcome

The UK is setting out a new Humanitarian Reform Policy, which explains both innovations and improvements in the UK’s humanitarian response, and pushes for a more ambitious reform of the international humanitarian system.

The UK’s approach to humanitarian crises has evolved over the years, but 2 things remain consistent:

  • our steadfast support for international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles, and protecting the most vulnerable

  • our world-class teams of experts for immediate response to natural disasters. Our response will be bigger, better and faster in future

Original consultation


DFID is updating the UK Humanitarian Policy. The new version will supersede the previous policy, Saving lives, preventing suffering and building resilience, published in 2011.

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Consultation description

DFID is updating the UK Humanitarian Policy. The new version will supersede the previous policy, Saving lives, preventing suffering and building resilience, published in 2011. There will be similarities between the 2 policies. For instance, we will retain and reinforce our commitment to rapid, large scale and flexible response to sudden-onset disasters. But we will also consider how the world is changing.

Currently there are 125 million people in need of humanitarian aid. Needs are driven by natural and conflict-related events (often a combination of the 2). The occurrence of natural disasters is also increasing, from a global total of 9 in 1902 to 153 in 2015. Conflicts are increasingly protracted, as indicated by aid flows: In 2015 89% of humanitarian funds went to places that had needed aid for more than 3 years. 85% of the DFID’s country- or region-specific humanitarian funding is spent on protracted crises.

Migration is an increasingly relevant factor, reaching far beyond the immediately affected areas, as the surge of migrants arriving in Europe attests. In 2014, over 60m million people were displaced by conflict while 19.3 million were displaced by natural disasters.

In this inter-connected world, health crises that in the past, would have affected relatively small, isolated communities, can spread rapidly over great distances and with devastating impact; as demonstrated by the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014-15.

The aid environment is becoming increasingly complex. In the past, humanitarian assistance was often perceived as a simple flow from rich donor governments to suffering people. We are now seeing an increased involvement of the governments of affected countries, the affected people themselves, and the private sector. This change is broadly welcome but comes with difficulties, particularly in war zones in which the government may be a party to the conflict.

It has long been recognised that the people affected by crisis must be at the heart of planning, implementation and monitoring. Across the world we see an inspiring growth of local-level civil society, private sector and government partnerships committed to humanitarian action. Yet in 2014 only 0.2% of international humanitarian assistance was channelled directly to local organisations.

In a complex operating environment and a globally connected world, harmonisation of the efforts of multiple actors is important. Initiatives such as Agenda 2030 and the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016 present opportunities for action that we must embrace.

What will be the future drivers of humanitarian action and how might we best position ourselves to meet the challenges? The UK’s goal is to remain an influential, innovative and positive agent of change. To this end, we invite you to give us your views. We’ve structured this consultation around 5 key humanitarian topics. A final question invites you to suggest issues that are not covered elsewhere.

We are seeking views on the role of the UK government and other agencies in this context, how government policy should address humanitarian challenges and how the UK should work with partners to implement policy.

We welcome any views, questions and comments you might have about UK humanitarian policy. Once the consultation period ends, we will review responses and feed into policy formulation. The final UK Humanitarian Policy will be published by DFID.

Please do not telephone DFID with your response. Only written submissions under word limits will be accepted.


Published 1 March 2016