Africa: Top Aid Donors Score Badly in Responding to Crises
09 March 2012
London — Aid donors have failed to address long-standing systematic problems
in how they respond to disasters and emergencies, despite numerous
commitments to reform the international humanitarian aid system, according
to a new index that scores governments on the quality of aid provided.
Norway, Denmark and Sweden, all relatively small humanitarian aid donors,
are the top-ranking countries in the latest Humanitarian Response Index
(HRI), published on Wednesday by Dara, an international non-profit
organisation based in Spain.
The US, the world's largest donor of humanitarian aid, is near the bottom of
the league, along with Spain, Japan, Luxembourg and Italy.
In 2003, donors gathered in Stockholm, Sweden, to draft and endorse the Good
humanitarian donorship (GHD) principles to improve co-ordination among
donors, make funding more reliable and predictable, and help humanitarian
organisations better prepare for crises.
But Philip Tamminga, head of the HRI project, says the GHD's lack of clear,
measurable targets and indicators, as with the millennium development goals,
has meant there have been few tools to assess progress and hold governments
Meanwhile, donors have been able to apply different interpretations of the
GHD principles and implement different requirements, approaches and levels
The result is nearly a decade of patchy progress, according to the HRI,
which analysed 23 donors and how they responded to nine big humanitarian
crises in 2010.
Italy is ranked last in the league for failing to protect the neutrality and
impartiality of its humanitarian aid programme, for opting out of
accountability initiatives, and for not contributing its "fair share" to UN
and Red Cross appeals.
Japan received particularly low scores on support for efforts to improve
accountability and partner with local organisations. The US scored poorly on
indicators for supporting accountability initiatives and programmes to
reduce climate-related vulnerability.
The HRI report calls on donors to stick to the current reform agenda, but
warns that this might not be enough to deal with future challenges.
"Humanitarian needs and challenges will quickly outpace the ability of the
current system to address them - even when it works at its very best," said
Tamminga. "What is needed is a new reform agenda, but refocusing less on aid
delivery mechanics and more on how to anticipate, prevent, prepare for and
mitigate future crises."
Only 62 cents of every $100 spent on humanitarian aid programmes in 2005-09
went to disaster prevention and preparedness programmes, says the report.
Overall, less than 1% of all official government aid - both development and
humanitarian - went to such programmes.
The failure of donors and aid agencies to respond to crises before they
develop into humanitarian emergencies came into sharp focus last year with
the famine in Somalia. A recent Guardian analysis found more than 70% of
humanitarian aid for Somalia and almost 90% of mainstream US and UK media
coverage came after the formal UN declaration of famine on 20 July 2011.
This year, Oxfam and Save the Children said tens of thousands of deaths
could have been avoided if the international community had responded earlier
to clear warning signs of an escalating crisis in the region.
Australia and Germany are among the few donors engaging with disaster risk
reduction efforts, according to the HRI. The UK ranked among the top 10
Its new humanitarian aid policy is also an "enormously positive step", said
Tamminga. The new policy aims to improve the UK's response to "slow onset"
crises and build disaster risk reduction plans into all its country
programmes. The challenge, says Tamminga, will be translating this new
policy into sustained and systematic changes in how assistance is delivered
on the ground.
In November 2011, a largely positive evaluation of UK funding for climate
change resilience projects in Bangladesh said the programme failed to
sufficiently hold its partners - the World Bank and the UN Development
Programme - to account, and that delays and poor co-ordination meant only
£13m of the £75m allocated had been spent.
The HRI report warns that while more donors are referencing gender concerns
in their humanitarian policies, these issues remain largely absent in
project proposals and funding allocations, and few ever follow-up on whether
they are actually addressed in the programmes they support. "The message
from donors seems to be that gender is an important political commitment,
but not a practical priority in humanitarian crises," says the report.
Last week, the US Agency for International Development (USAid) said it would
work to address the unique challenges facing women in crisis and
conflict-affected environments, as part of its new gender policy.
But Tamminga says it would be wise to wait and see how this new policy is
implemented, monitored and evaluated, before claiming it as a success.
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Received on Fri Mar 09 2012 - 16:56:40 EST