Workshop on

Advancing Research on Protection in the Context of Humanitarian Action

Bilbao, 7 and 8 November 2018

Pedro Arrupe Human Rights Institute, University of Deusto

“The seminar in Deusto was a unique opportunity to discuss humanitarian protection from different angles and also a collaborative space to bring together practitioners and academics for potential future collaboration. It was a significant first step to initiate a much needed discussion and collaboration”.

Dr. Romina Cachia

(Researcher, Laboratorio de Redes Personales y Comunidades, University of Sevilla, Spain.Lecturer, University of Malta)

“It has been a pleasure to hold such in-depth discussions on protection and field work. It has been also a real acknowledgment for the hard work by our colleagues in the field”

Francesco Michele,

( Humanitarian and Protection Policy Expert, GVC-Italia)

“Inhumanity under public scrutiny”

Dr. Joana Abrisketa

(Lecturer in International Law and European Union Law at the University of Deusto)

The first University of Deusto-NOHA Seminar on Advancing Research on Protection in the Context of Humanitarian Action took place on the 7th and 8th of November 2018. During one and a half days we managed to bring together a bunch of academics, academic-practitioners and practitioners in a series of fruitful presentations, discussions and joint learning on the still uncharted field of protection within humanitarian action.

Protection has been identified as the purpose and intended outcome of humanitarian action. This was the point made in the 2013 Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Statement on the centrality of protection in humanitarian action as part of preparedness efforts, immediate life-saving activities, and throughout the duration of a crisis and beyond. Yet, despite dramatic changes in the operating environment, the structure of the humanitarian system has remained essentially unchanged. Traditional modes of action that have been dominated by the provision of goods and services have side-lined the importance of prioritizing protective action essential for safeguarding lives at imminent risk. Operationalising the centrality of protection requires partnership with a wide range of stakeholders.

One way of contributing to putting protection at the centre of humanitarian action is the promotion of practitioner and academic partnerships to advance research and knowledge in this area. The University of Deusto implements some relevant initiatives around humanitarian protection: We offer humanitarian protection as a specialization in our second semester of the European Master of Humanitarian Action (NOHA network of Universities), and within NOHA we have run already six International Advanced Schools on Humanitarian protection since 2014.

But this is not enough. We need to understand better how humanitarian protection works and how to operationalize it. We need different perspectives and theories that can improve understanding of protective action and protection challenges and opportunities as well as inform practices geared to enhancing humanitarian protection. This Seminar has been one more step to develop collaborative initiatives for research in humanitarian protection within and beyond the NOHA Faculty.

First part: Setting the scene of Protection in Humanitarian Contexts

After the welcome speech by Gorka Urrutia, Director of Pedro Arrupe Human Rights Institute, the first panel chaired by Joana Abrisketa outlined the current context of global changes and crisis trends and their implications for the protection of at risk individuals and communities. Norah Niland examined global level changes, its implications for crisis trends and structural problems within the humanitarian system like the lack of a common understanding of the essence of protective programming and how to secure protective outcomes. From this starting point Cristina Churruca highlighted how forced migration and in general population movements are being considered not just a humanitarian but also and mainly as a security problem. In particular she focused on the impact of European migration control on the protection of displaced people. To end Arantza Gurtugay presented the experience of Open Arms rescue and search mission in the Mediterranean as an example of the criminalization of solidarity and the inhumanity of European migration management.

Following this session a consultation of the United Against Inhumanity (UAI) initiative took place place. Presented by Antonio Donini and Norah Niland, the aim of the consultation was to review the rationale and objectives of UAI and gather the reactions and feedback from the audience. UAI aims to mobilize a global movement to increase the reputational damage for states and non-state actors perpetrating or facilitating crimes against humanity and failing to meet their responsibilities under IHL and refugee law.

Second part: Understanding and Informing Protection in Humanitarian Contexts

During the second part of the programme we had three panels and a final round table discussion.

First Session: Social networks analysis as a tool for humanitarian protection.

Romina Cachia introduced us to the topic of social network analysis (SNA) and its main dimensions. SNA focuses on identifying and comparing the relationships within and between individuals, groups and systems in order to model the real-world interactions at the heart of organisational knowledge and learning processes. SNA aims to illuminate formal and informal relationships like 'who knows whom' and 'who collaborates with whom'. This allows visualising and understanding the diverse relationships that either facilitate or impede knowledge sharing. After that she proposed different ways in which SNA could be applied for assessing protection needs and designing protection interventions.

Discussant Enrique Eguren elaborated on Romina´s presentation and referred to several conceptual and practical challenges for the application of SNA to humanitarian protection, opening the floor for questions and comments from the audience.

Second session: Quantitative and qualitative methods for profiling rights and needs at community level and informing protection programming.

Francesco Michele brought the difficult topic of defining protection indicators at community level. He presented the work GVC and allies are doing on this in Palestine and Lebanon. It was crystal clear that this is still a challenging task, as indicators need to be placed in a wider framework about what can be achieved in protection, but one of the ways ahead they are exploring is triangulating quantitative and qualitative methods for profiling rights and needs at the community level and therefore informing protection programming.

Discussant Patricia García Amado commented on Francesco´s presentation and suggested further questions for reflection, that were shared with the audience for engaging in some more discussions on the topic.

Third Session: Evaluating protection in humanitarian action: What have we learned? Do evaluations contribute to better protection outcomes?

Neil Dillon presented to us to the just released ALNAP Guide to the Evaluation of Protection in Humanitarian Action. This new Guide is a companion piece to the ALNAP (2016) Evaluation of Humanitarian Action Guide. It provides protection-specific insights for evaluators and evaluation commissioners across the ALNAP Membership, and covers issues touching on evaluation initiation and scoping, data management and analysis of evidence around protection. It does not attempt to define protection but is rather intended as support for evaluators and evaluation managers involved in analysing interventions that take their points of departure from a variety of different definitions and programming models.

Discussant Norah Niland elaborated further on these points, from the point of view of a practitioner. Finally the audience engaged in some questions on the topic.

Closing Session: Roundtable and on integrating theory and praxis in protection: Ways forward

The final round table with all participants provided the opportunity to reflect on the discussions which had been brought up during the two days. Participants found the seminar a very good opportunity to start sharing ideas and perspectives on advancing research and exploring ways forward. It also offered the room to engage with the larger audience in discussing and assessing the opportunities and challenges identified.