Improving Humanitarian Performance through the Implementation of Lessons Learned

The Tsunami Evaluation Coalition’s (TEC) assessments and other studies show that many of today’s well-known lessons about effective and equitable humanitarian assistance and existing international standards are not consistently reflected in humanitarian policies, programming and practices. Apparently, the humanitarian community is good at identifying lessons learned – yet faces significant difficulties in putting them into practice. Thus, humanitarian actors are often “accused of being very poor learners” (Van Brabant 1997:2). However, the failure on the part of humanitarian actors to implement lessons learned is not only a question of an organization’s ability to learn but also a function of political priorities.

This study group seeked to analyze the stumbling blocks and enabling factors that humanitarian donors on both sides of the Atlantic face when trying to mainstream lessons learned into humanitarian programming. It focused on gender equality programming and working with local communities, two issue areas that highlight exemplarily how the humanitarian community struggles with the implementation of existing and broadly accepted lessons learned. While the vast majority of donors and implementing agencies agree on the necessity to support local capacity and to address the different needs and capabilities of women and men, girls and boys in disaster response and preparedness, both these issues are far from being sufficiently addressed in humanitarian action.


The study group produced five outputs: four case studies and an analytical framework study.

The case studies focused on individual implementing agencies, collecting and analyzing empirical material from the field related to the implementation of lessons learned. Two case studies dealt with gender equality programming and two with local capacity.

The framework study focused on the donor level. It analyzed the learning process of donors; their aid and foreign policy goals relevant to the implementation of gender and local capacity; their tools and mechanisms designed to influence implementing agencies; as well as their policies for M&E and the use of evaluation results.

To download the concept paper for this study group, please click here.

For more information on this study group, please contact Andrea Binder.