“Climate change, multiple crises and collapse: what can the aid sector do to anticipate and adapt to the major changes ahead?”


A number of scientists and economists believe that there will be major transformations in industrial societies in the coming decades. This will happen because we will have reached certain physical limits and gone beyond certain irreversible climate and ecosystem tipping points, combined with the inertia in our society and the vulnerability of financial, supply and information networks1.

Climate change and its impact on economies, livelihoods and the availability of natural resources, raise questions about our lifestyles, our actions and our ecological footprint. How does this affect humanitarian and development aid? The 12th Autumn School on Humanitarian Aid will look objectively at our current situation and explore possible scenarios for the future (including “collapse” theories) and the economic, social and environmental changes these may bring. It will be a unique opportunity for aid practitioners, researchers and ‘collapsologists’ to discuss and learn from each other.



1. What have aid practitioners, who have witnessed the collapse of regions or countries, learned about the resilience of individuals and groups?

Humanitarian practitioners work in natural disaster contexts and in crisis contexts caused by climate change and/or conflict, and sometimes see the break down, or even the destruction, of social, human and ecological systems. The people caught up in these situations, which resemble what is being predicted in collapse theories today, have to survive and adapt. In order to meet basic needs and develop resilient livelihoods, individual and collective mechanisms are put in place, some of which are supported by aid organisations. National and international aid practitioners have been taking action and learning in ‘collapse’ situations for decades, witnessing both people’s resilience, and the intensification of crises. What lessons have they learned about how individuals and societies anticipate multi-dimensional shocks and recover from them? What psychological, social, political and economic factors allow them to survive and adapt?

2. How can the aid sector adapt to the changes ahead?

Though the aid sector currently appears to have the tools needed to respond to crises, the changes that certain researchers are predicting will call into question the way it functions, its ability to adapt, and even its very existence. In an environment where resources are increasingly limited (energy, water, food), aid organisations play an essential role for beneficiaries and partners in terms of anticipation and adaptation. They also need to adopt a similar approach to their own practices. In extreme contexts like Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 and hurricane Matthew in 2016, and during the long months of the Battle of Aleppo, NGOs and other humanitarian actors struggled to operate in ‘degraded mode’, when there is reduced access to energy and telecommunications. What can we do when there is a very high level of needs and resources are rare, if the collapse affects not only poor countries, but also rich countries who usually contribute to humanitarian aid? What barriers and resistance will there be? What innovations will make it possible to work and meet people’s needs when there is no alternative to resource-efficiency?

We will question the extent to which the aid sector is able and willing to anticipate these changes and modify the way that it responds to crises. Will recent developments, such as the tendency to work more with local and national actors (localisation), new forms of humanitarian activism, or the use of cash transfers, make this adaptation easier? What will the aid sector look like if resources, transportation and telecommunications are drastically limited?

More information on contents, agenda & registration to be coming soon…

For more informations, contact Romane Vilain.

  1. Sevigne P & Stevens R « Comment tout peut s’effondrer », 2015