1.6 Key Challenges and Limitations

  • Consensus-building is a time-consuming process, and agreement is not always reachable. Consensus-building represents the cornerstone of every analysis exercise, and as an approach, sets the IPC apart. However, it is time-consuming and requires careful stewardship to mitigate against bias, encourage openness, and in some cases, reconcile interpersonal conflict. In contexts in which rigid hierarchies are the norm, this process can prove complex to navigate and remains an ongoing challenge. The time required to build technical consensus and the contextual factors at play need to be well understood from the onset.
  • The ‘convergence of evidence’ approach often identifies contradictory evidence. IPC Reference Tables provide commonly accepted thresholds, cut-off values and approaches. Although they guide convergence, they do not provide a definitive classification, as there is no guarantee that indicators will align. Analysts commonly face divergent and contradicting data due to context-specific issues, indicator validity and reliability of evidence. Divergent data can lead to differences of opinion: although the IPC has been developed precisely to embrace and identify reasons for divergence, lack of convergence can result in failing to attain consensus, making the process more time-consuming.
  • IPC classification is only as robust as the evidence used and how it is analysed. The IPC does not collect primary data and relies on existing evidence. It may provide a useful platform for identifying critical data gaps, but it does not have the means to directly address them. The IPC can thus act as a stimulus to improve data availability and quality, but this depends on the efforts of external parties. The usual limited data availability for vulnerable subgroups, such as refugees, displaced populations and marginalized groups, as well as for areas with limited access for collecting evidence is of particular concern in this regard. In addition, high-quality data do not guarantee accurate classification, since available information must be critically analysed.
  • Analysis of drivers does not always meet decision-makers’ needs. Although the IPC supports the identification of key drivers, it does not provide the details required to develop sector-specific response plans, especially those focusing on addressing structural causes of food insecurity and malnutrition. In this regard, the food security and nutrition context at the subnational level may require additional, in-depth analyses that provide greater details on causality, drivers and structural factors that contribute to food insecurity and malnutrition.
  • Analysis planning is not always aligned with country response processes. The IPC’s relevance for informing decision-making depends on the ability of countries to align data collection and analyses processes with decision-making processes. When not aligned, evidence generated by the IPC may not be optimally used for programming and policy decision-making. 
  • In-country resourcing of the IPC is variable. IPC implementation is contingent on time, place, and available human and financial resources. IPC global partners’ representation at the national level may not have the required resources or skills set to support the introduction or institutionalization of the IPC in the countries. At the planning stages, it is essential to ensure that the overall resources required are well identified and that solutions for any major gaps are sought. In the planning process, care should be taken to consider: (i) availability of requisite financial and human resources to conduct analysis at the level of the intended unit of analysis; and (ii) the feasibility of the number of units to be analysed and classified. The scope of analysis should be adjusted based on what is affordable and feasible.
  • The IPC is not a guarantee that the requisite action will follow. The IPC is a basis for providing information for decision-making, but decisions taken as a result of IPC classification are a separate and distinct process.