The Tufts International Famine Center is undertaking research organized around key issues that are likely to challenge the humanitarian enterprise during the next ten years. Four such issues have been identified and fleshed out in individual work programs: the supposed universality of humanitarian action, the implications of terrorism, the search for coherence between humanitarian and political agendas, and the security of humanitarian personnel. These four topics are being approached as individual “petals” which, taken together, constitute a single flower. The research is structured so as to examine each of the issues in detail and to explore their relation to each other.
As with earlier work conducted by the Center, the overall approach taken of is inductive rather than deductive. The core of the research, which is designed to reflect issues affecting practitioner organizations and to help them improve their effectiveness, is evidence-based. Data derived from interviews in countries experiencing crises, or rebounding from them, will be supplemented by reviews of existing literature and international consultations with experts and practitioners. Given the sensitivity of the issues raised and the high degree of opinionation associated with them, there is a premium on soliciting and analyzing the perspectives of people in the field, both aid practitioners and local people themselves. We envision that the findings of the research will inject into policy discussions a sense of how a broadly representative group of people perceive the identified issues.
Data will be gathered locally through a combination of oral interviews, informal conversations, and focus group meetings; and internationally through a significant number of web-based interviews. We have designed four instruments: (I) for local communities in the crisis areas; (II) for aid agencies and aid workers there; (III) for other international personnel; and (IV) for personnel working for donors and aid agencies at headquarters. The first three are designed for face-to-face interviews; the fourth is an electronic questionnaire and is not included in this package.