Data responsibility in humanitarian action is the safe, ethical and effective management of personal and non-personal data for operational response. It is a critical issue for the humanitarian system to address and the stakes are high. Ensuring we ‘do no harm’ while maximizing the benefits of data requires collective action that extends across all levels of the humanitarian system. Humanitarians must be careful when handling data to avoid placing already vulnerable individuals and communities at further risk. This is especially important in contexts where the urgency of humanitarian needs drives pressure for fast, sometimes untested, data solutions, and the politicization of data can have more extreme consequences for people.
The implementation of data responsibility in practice is often inconsistent within and across humanitarian response contexts. This is true despite established principles, norms and professional standards regarding respect for the rights of affected populations; the range of resources on data responsibility available in the wider international data community; as well as significant efforts by many humanitarian organizations to develop and update their policies and guidance in this area. However, given that the humanitarian data ecosystem is inherently interconnected, no individual organization can tackle all these challenges alone.
This system-wide Operational Guidance, which is a first, will ensure concrete steps for data responsibility in all phases of humanitarian action. It is the result of an inclusive and consultative process, involving more than 250 stakeholders from the humanitarian sector. Partners across the system will implement these guidelines in accordance with their respective mandates and the decisions of their governing bodies.