Reaching people caught in war, and providing them with appropriate and timely assistance, is a formidable task. Yet in each of the four countries we looked at (Afghanistan, South Central Somalia, South Sudan and Syria), some organisations were managing to get there and make a real difference. We examined what works to enable access and deliver quality assistance to people most in need.


We found that:

  1. Multiple factors, not just one or two, determine whether an organisation can enable access and deliver high-quality assistance under difficult circumstance. Cultivating operational independence, including unrestricted or less restricted funding and independent logistics, for example, gave different types of organisations more flexibility to undertake higher-risk programming. See the full report (PDF) for ‘what works’ in enabling access and quality aid.

  2. Delivering principled and quality aid in war zones involves difficult choices. Agencies must weigh a complex set of risks and benefits, and make decisions with ethical consequences. It is important to openly discuss the compromises needed to help people in dangerous places. Read our report (PDF) published with the Humanitarian Practice Network  at ODI that looks at these issues.

  3. Communicating and negotiating with warring parties is an important first step in enabling access. Aid organisations can operate more safely and effectively when armed groups acknowledge them and know what they’re doing. Find the resource paper (PDF) that explores the experience in the four case study countries, and summarises good practice here.


Main Research Outputs:

What It Takes: Principled pragmatism to enable access and quality humanitarian aid in insecure environments

Tug of War: Ethical decision-making to enable access in high-risk environments

Humanitarian access negotiations with non-state armed groups: Internal guidance gaps and emerging good practice



For more information about this part of the SAVE programme, contact Katherine Haver: