Section 1: ActionAid’s approach to emergencies

Section 1: ActionAid’s approach to emergencies


This section outlines why ActionAid sees engaging in emergencies as a global strategic priority, and summarises some of the key principles that guide ActionAid’s work in emergencies. It is designed as an overall introduction to the Manual and should be read by all users, ideally in advance of an emergency.

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Key Points

  • Emergencies are a strategic priority for ActionAid, and we are committed to responding to the emergencies that affect the communities we work with.

  • We believe that disaster-affected people have the right to assistance – when a disaster strikes, our aim is to save lives and protect people’s rights.

  • In emergencies, it is people living in poverty and exclusion, particularly women, who are worst affected. We see disasters as part of a cycle of poverty, and we seek to use every opportunity brought about by disasters to shift power relationships in favour of the poorest and most excluded – especially women.

  • Our emergencies work is guided by the eight ActionAid human rights based approach principles – this section explains how each of these principles applies in an emergency context.

  • In our emergency work, ActionAid promotes seven alternatives – things that we believe represent a different way of working from the traditional humanitarian model, and which place disaster-affected communities at the centre of the debate. These alternatives should be integrated into all our resilience, preparedness and response programmes:

    • promoting women’s leadership

    • accountability to disaster-affected communities

    • the importance of local partnerships

    • combining scientific information with community experience and traditional knowledge

    • advocating for adequate funding and aid effectiveness

    • linking emergency response to resilience building and longer term change process

    • creating a loss and damage framework to help people claim their rights.


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ActionAid’s strategic commitment to emergencies

ActionAid’s 2012-2017 global strategy, People’s action to end poverty, recognises emergencies as a key priority for the organisation. Strategic Objective 4 commits the organisation to:

Build the resilience of people living in poverty to conflicts and disasters and respond to disasters with people-centred, rights-based alternatives.

- People’s Action to End Poverty, 2012-2017

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Why are emergencies important for ActionAid?

ActionAid’s core commitment is to work with people living in poverty and exclusion, particularly women. Disasters disproportionately affect these people, further violating their rights and making them even more vulnerable. Disasters can also strip away the advances that communities and ActionAid have made in securing their rights and ending poverty through ongoing development programming, and so affect ActionAid’s ability to deliver on its core commitment.

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What is ActionAid’s approach to emergencies?

When a disaster strikes, our aim is to save lives and protect people’s rights.

ActionAid supports people living in poverty who are affected by disasters not only to meet their basic needs (which we recognise as basic rights), but to overcome poverty and injustice by ensuring they can lead the process of their own recovery. We place women and other particularly vulnerable groups at the centre of all our activities.

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Principles that guide ActionAid’s work in emergencies

ActionAid’s human rights-based approach (HRBA) guides our response to disasters. The following tables set out the eight core human rights principles that ActionAid follows, and contextualises these for disasters.

This handbook will not give you a step-by-step guide for implementing emergency response and resilience programmes – there is no standard template that can be rolled out in any context. What this handbook aims to do is to explain the key principles of ActionAid’s approach to emergencies, and provide some practical guidance and examples from our work in different countries to help you put them into practice.

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