The Centre for Humanitarian Data is focused on increasing the use and impact of data in the humanitarian sector. It is managed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). As part of OCHA’s Information Management Branch, the Centre’s role is to enable the organization to deliver on its ambition to be more data-driven and analytical, and to ensure a responsible approach to technology and data management.  

The Centre’s operations are organized around four workstreams: data services, data science, data responsibility and learning and practice. Our support is provided to OCHA staff and partners, with a priority focus on locations with humanitarian operations. 

The Centre’s work has become more relevant and essential since it was created in 2017. Data is now firmly on the agenda of the United Nations with the creation in 2020 of the Secretary-General’s Data Strategy, which seeks to “unlock the data potential of the UN family to better support people and planet.” Our Common Agenda commits the organization to a United Nations 2.0 that prioritizes data, digital, innovation, strategic foresight and behavioural science. 

Similarly, demand for better data and analysis has grown in the humanitarian sector as it contends with unprecedented needs and insufficient funds. Humanitarianism is also facing a reckoning as calls for localization and decolonization require a radical reimagining of the sector. In this context, data is more powerful than ever, and the stakes have never been higher with over 330 million people in need of humanitarian assistance in 2023. 

Our Priorities 

Our 2023-2027 business plan creates new opportunities for faster access to reliable data and insight about humanitarian crises. In the coming years, we will reinforce our fundamentals and explore new strategic areas. This includes:  

  • Evolving the HDX platform to be more sophisticated in its processing of data at scale, and preferencing data quality over data quantity.
  • Using data science, risk analysis and foresight to drive anticipatory approaches and long-term thinking in humanitarian crises. 
  • Activating adoption of data responsibility guidance and introducing frameworks for analytical accountability across the sector. 
  • Building the confidence of humanitarians to use data through learning material and programmes. 

Our Progress 

With our partners, we have made significant progress across all workstreams over the last several years. Some examples include:

  • More data shared and used: Engagement with HDX has grown from just under 20,000 unique users per month in July 2017 to over 130,000 per month by mid-2023. Of the close to 300 entities sharing data on HDX, 50 percent are global, 14 percent regional, and 36 percent national or local organizations. 
  • Closing data gaps: The HDX Data Grids were introduced in 2019 to track the availability of core data across priority humanitarian operations. Data completeness across countries and categories has increased from 54 percent in 2019 to 75 percent by mid-2023. 
  • Guidance endorsed and adopted: The IASC Operational Guidance on Data Responsibility in Humanitarian Action was endorsed in February 2021 and updated in April 2023 after a Centre-led consultation with hundreds of stakeholders. The OCHA Data Responsibility Guidelines were agreed in October 2021, with the adoption of actions for data responsibility by OCHA and its partners in 19 response contexts by the end of 2022.
  • Analytical engine for anticipatory action: During an initial pilot period from 2020-2022, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund released $89 million in funding for anticipatory action based on trigger mechanisms developed by the Centre and OCHA offices. 
  • Model transparency: Twelve predictive models from academic and humanitarian partners have gone through the Centre’s Peer Review Framework with the support of a pool of technical and ethical experts. The results have been made public through model reports.
  • Data literacy: The Centre’s learning resources have been used by more than 13,000 people over the past three years. More recently, we have offered workshops on climate forecasting and created a Climate Guidance Series to help humanitarians access, analyze and interpret different types of climate data
  • Thought leadership: A report on Assessing the Technical Feasibility of Conflict Prediction for Anticipatory Action, published in October 2022, laid bare the challenges of relying on models to predict conflict but also provided practical steps for making progress with this complex challenge.