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Markets in Crisis

Partners: ODI, Sukkur IBA

Duration: January 2012 – December 2014

Locale: Pakistan

Team: Steven A Zyck, Irina Mosel, Huma Dad Khan and Saad Shabbir


  • How do markets and businesses adapt during crises, and what determines their ability to function through crises?
  • How do relations of power and institutional factors affect the way in which people are treated by and engaged in markets during and immediately following crises?
  • What influences the extent to which people derive resilience, or become vulnerable, as a result of market activity during crises?
  • How does humanitarian aid affect markets in crises, and what impact does this have on different households?


The aim is to understand markets in crises as important institutions in themselves, and not just as an aid vehicle. In crisis-affected places, the terms and opportunities that different people face in markets are rarely, if ever, determined simply by rules of free market economics.  Since market outcomes are a significant determinant of livelihood outcomes, understanding how crises affect markets and how crises affect market relations is critical to understanding livelihoods and humanitarian (and, in the longer term, developmental) outcomes. Market conditions and market relations may be changed by external interventions. Understanding the many ways in which this occurs may allow greater attention in the design of interventions to the ways in which the provision of humanitarian assistance can effect markets, positively or negatively, both in direct ways and also by affecting wider social and power relations. Better understanding may, in time, also open up much greater possibilities for deliberate intervention in crisis response, where market dynamics can be identified which have specific impacts on the resilience of particular populations.

In other words, the impact of the crisis and aid on people’s resilience is affected both by the resilience of the market (i.e. it’s continued functioning) and by the ‘resilience’ of people’s relationship to the market.  This means extending a market analysis beyond looking at market transactions using the traditional approaches of economists, by exploring how and why different market actors adapt, cope or fail during crises and by incorporating an understanding of the non-economic ways in which market terms are set – through power and social relations. This leads to three questions about resilience:

  • What gives local businesses and markets resilience in crises?
  • How does this resilience affect the resilience or vulnerability of people affected by crises?
  • How and where can humanitarian assistance best support market functioning in ways that enhance people’s resilience in crises?

Future Activities:

  • One paper and one accompanying brief, reviewing current state of knowledge on markets, crises and resilience/livelihoods;
  • Paper on markets and resilience in crisis;
  • 1 paper on how markets change during crises as a result of crises and humanitarian action;
  • 1 summary report from roundtables on markets and resilience in crises;
  • 1 final project report, on markets, resilience and crises; and
  • 1 brief capturing the key findings and implications for policy and practice.
  • OpEd article

Findings: please visit “”