New year, new you? What the WHS can learn from failed New Year’s resolutions

By Alice Obrecht, Research Fellow, ALNAP

[Much of the thinking behind this blog was sparked by the fantastic discussions at the 4th Annual Evidence Aid Conference]

It’s January, a time for new year’s resolutions and self-improvement regimens. Yet many of these resolutions are abandoned by February. For those that manage to succeed, what’s their secret? Apparently, one of the keys to a successful new year’s resolution (or ‘self-change’ as they are called by psychologists), is measurement: setting realistic and clear goals that can be tracked over time. The ability to monitor progress not only helps a self-changer understand whether the resolution is being achieved, but also acts as a source of motivation to continue.

Eight months ago, an unprecedented gathering of humanitarian actors laid out their own version of ‘self-change’ in the form of commitments at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. It will take some time before we know whether or not these commitments are being successfully achieved. But if we think that measurement is important for a successful commitment, then there is much work to be done to ensure that the Agenda for Humanity is a success. Currently, it’s unclear how commitments made under the Agenda for Humanity will be implemented, or how their impact on humanitarian action will be assessed.

How can we ensure that the WHS commitments do not end up like so many new year’s resolutions? Good data and evidence will play a fundamental role in delivering on the Agenda for Humanity and there are at least three areas that agencies might consider as they implement these reforms: … [To continue reading, click here]

Alice Obrecht is a Research Fellow at ALNAP, leading ALNAP’s work on innovation, humanitarian effectiveness, and the World Humanitarian Summit.