Bioforce publishes The State of Humanitarian Professions 2020

A year ago, Bioforce launched the study The State of Humanitarian Professions 2020 (SOHP) based on one idea: the level and quality of humanitarian aid largely depends on the availability, quality and professionalism of its staff. With the support of Monaco’s Directorate of International Cooperation and the backing of an advisory committee made up of Humanité et Inclusion, ALNAP, PHAP, CHS Alliance, NRC, the United Nations World Food Programme and the ICRC, Bioforce has since drawn up the first international inventory of humanitarian professions.

Nearly 1,000 humanitarians have expressed their views during interviews, workshops in ten countries and in a large-scale survey. These initial results were presented on 17 November 2020 at an online conference attended by 566 humanitarian professionals from all continents who joined this forum for reflection and exchange.

For the first time, all these contributions provided quantified, measured and, in fact, decisive information on 24 humanitarian professions and their evolution, their activities, the skills they require, their degree of professionalism and, more generally, on recruitment and professional development practices in the humanitarian sector.

What the SOHP study highlights is that:

  • Humanitarian work is a professional career path (54% of the study participants and 79% of the conference participants plan to work in this field for at least 10 years).
  • Sector-specific skills are needed to make a career path in the sector (82% of study participants and 86% of conference participants).

But the SOHP study also alerts us: These skills are insufficiently recognised and verified, as recruitment processes in humanitarian culture and practice place a strong emphasis on humanitarian experience. These practices hinder the integration of new recruits and the diversity of profiles, particularly of national actors when it comes to localization. There is a risk of favouritism, of recruiting “like-minded people”, or even nepotism or abusive behaviour, in the absence of measurable and verifiable data. Failure to highlight these skills can weaken accountability to the beneficiaries of our aid. The way in which teams are recruited thus represents a risk for those receiving aid. This is the opposite of professionalisation, which implies career paths based on verifiable skills, validated and recognised by a professional community.

What next?

The success of the SOHP study confirms the interest that the humanitarian sector is now giving to these issues of professionalisation. 95% of the 566 participants at the conference want this work, which one of the experts described as “decisive and timely”, to be continued in the future. Through SOHP, Bioforce demonstrates the need for a collective space for consultation, sharing initiatives, but above all for coordination and steering on these issues, with 19 recommendations to be found in the final report.

From one end of the human chain that is humanitarian aid to the other, from those who are mobilised to provide aid to those who receive it, the professionalisation of the humanitarian sector will make a strong contribution to the localisation process and guarantee that aid is provided by professionals whose skills are verified, validated and recognised.

To read the full report in English, click here.