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Innovation in humanitarian assistance

In Jordan, biometric data is used to make it easier to log requirements and distribute food to people in need.

In Jordan, biometric data is used to make it easier to log requirements and distribute food to people in need., © WFP/Mohammad Batah

11.10.2019 - Article

What will humanitarian assistance look like in the future? International experts will discuss the answers to this question during the Innovation Day at the Federal Foreign Office on 14 October. Working with our partners, we are seeking new ways of helping people in need quickly and effectively.

A Sudanese woman in a clinic in Kenya
A Sudanese woman in a clinic in Kenya© Johanniter / Rommel

Humanitarian assistance aims to ensure that people who are in need as a result of conflicts or disasters can survive in dignity. Every crisis presents aid organisations with new and unique tasks in this regard. The growing awareness of the particular needs of women, children and older people, people with disabilities, and people who belong to minorities is also increasing the requirements that humanitarian assistance must fulfil. As climate change causes regional shortages of drinking water and groundwater, and record temperatures occur more frequently, humanitarian organisations are having to work in new or more difficult conditions.

In light of these challenges, promoting innovations is one of the new priorities in the Federal Foreign Office Strategy for Humanitarian Assistance Abroad. The Federal Foreign Office assists its partner organisations in incorporating new instruments, products and processes into their work. It also advocates adopting a systematic and coordinated approach to innovations in the international humanitarian system.

How the Federal Foreign Office promotes innovation

The WFP Innovation Accelerator

In collaboration with the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development and with the Bavarian State Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Forestry, the Federal Foreign Office is supporting the Munich-based Innovation Accelerator, which is run by the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP). The Innovation Accelerator initiates, develops, nurtures and matures ideas that lead to efficiency gains and cost savings in humanitarian assistance and development cooperation. In particular, it aims to develop and apply new approaches to achieving food security. The programme holds regular ideas competitions that allow teams with promising concepts to develop their ideas and present them to an audience of representatives of the private sector, the political sphere, civil society and academia. The projects then receive financial and logistical support as part of a Sprint Programme lasting three to six months. The Innovation Accelerator supported 28 projects in 2018, including one that deploys blockchain technology to provide humanitarian cash assistance in Jordan.

International workshop on innovation in humanitarian assistance

An IOM employee scans an ID card to electronically identify a person in need
An IOM employee scans an ID card to electronically identify a person in need© IOM Jemen

The Federal Foreign Office is inviting humanitarian organisations and donor countries to come together on 14 October 2019 and exchange ideas about innovations in humanitarian assistance. The workshop will provide an opportunity to discuss evidence, monitoring and evaluation, as well as possible obstacles to establishing innovations in the day-to-day activities of humanitarian organisations. Working with distinguished experts, we will address a variety of compelling questions, such as: On what basis does one decide that it is necessary or desirable to introduce an innovation? Given the often-challenging practical conditions, how can an innovation be piloted in a way that provides information about its added value? What can be done to promote new ideas? What can be done to raise awareness of innovative ideas in organisations and ensure that they are actually implemented?

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