GLOBAL: Insights into the ever more complex aid system

Humanitarian aid rises incrementally, with occasional bigger spikes caused by high-profile disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami (file photo) /IRIN

As the humanitarian “system” becomes more complex, with new actors and overlapping mandates, different definitions of humanitarian aid, and ever-more ambitious goals, humanitarian aid watchdog Development Initiatives outlines some of the needs, responses and funding trends over the past decade in its 2010 Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) report.

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Here are some of the findings:

Private funding the rising star

NGO Médecins Sans Frontières received US$845 million of private funding in 2009, making it equivalent to the fourth largest donor country.

The total support received outside the UN-NGO Haiti earthquake flash appeal was three times the funding within the appeal, and exceeded total appeal requirements.

“Since 2005 there have been a lot of initiatives to bring the humanitarian system together – but what about the actors that remain outside?” asks Jan Kellett, programme leader of the GHA. “There are some very significant non-DAC [OECD member countries’ Development Assistance Committee] donors; and private funding allows NGOs to choose where to spend the money in a more flexible way, which can be problematic for the system as you wouldn’t know what is met and what is not.”

Humanitarian assistance was up US$3.1 billion in 2009 compared with 2006, despite an 11 percent drop in reported government aid in 2009; private contributions increased by 50 percent since 2006, reaching $4.1 billion.

Since 2000, year on year, humanitarian aid has accounted for on average 8.35 percent of DAC governments’ official development aid.

Several high-profile disasters have caused humanitarian aid spikes, following which aid then dipped but not to pre-spike levels. These include: Kosovo (1999), Iraq and Afghanistan (2003), the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Kashmir earthquake (2005); and smaller spikes for Afghanistan and Ethiopia in 2008.

Non-traditional donors” – governments outside DAC, gave US$224 million in 2009 – a sharp drop from the $1.1 billion in 2008 which had been largely due to Saudi Arabia’s contribution to the World Food Programme (WFP) for the food crisis.

Saudi Arabia was the largest non-DAC donor in 2009, giving $51.8 million; followed by United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and the Russian Federation: top recipients were the occupied Palestinian territory, with $99.7 million; followed by Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Response to conflict the priority

Some 71 percent of aid in 1999-2008 was spent in conflict-affected states. The top five recipients of government and private humanitarian aid in 2009 were Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Somalia, Ethiopia and Zimbabwe.

Non-humanitarian donor spending on conflict-resolution and peace and security-related activities increased 20-fold between 1998 and 2008, particularly in the areas of peacebuilding and security sector reform, compared with the doubling of humanitarian assistance over the same period.

Some 34 national militaries deployed troops to the Haiti earthquake response.

Peacekeeping costs and personnel numbers hit an all-time high in 2009 with $7.4 billion going to UN peacekeeping missions, funding 98,000 personnel; while there were 112,000 non-UN peacekeepers, according to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

Eight UN peacekeeping missions are currently operational under civilian protection mandates, with the authorization to “use force to protect civilians under imminent threat of physical violence”. The largest UN peacekeeping missions are in Sudan, DRC, Liberia, Lebanon and Haiti.

“A major finding is that unless we understand the full complexity of all actors and money, then we cannot implement [humanitarian assistance] correctly,” said Kellett. “Humanitarian aid does not exist in a silo and cannot become an isolated thing in itself.”

Measuring need still not accurate

It is very hard to gauge to what degree aid meets needs as there is still no uniform, thorough, objective way of measuring needs, says the GHA.

Most needs assessments are still kept private.

The UN-led Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) is still often viewed as a sign of needs, but rather: “[It] highlights what organizations present in the country feel they could do with programming they believe they could undertake for the people they believe they could reach. The true scale and severity of need remains out of reach [of the CAP].”

Many humanitarian needs are not included in CAPs. In 2009 $7 billion was spent inside the UN appeals process, while more than $4.1 billion of other humanitarian aid came in; and the unmet part of the appeals was $2.7 billion.

Who gets what?

Aid to victims of the 2004 tsunami was on average $2,670 per capita; Haiti $993; and DRC $58 (a 10-fold increase on the previous decade in the case of DRC)

Aid for all sectors has increased in line with overall humanitarian aid increases. Food aid has gone up four-fold in the last decade, while low-funded sectors include mine action, coordination and support services, and protection.

Protection doubled to $385 million between 2003 and 2009 but is still consistently underfunded. International response to natural disasters remains reactive rather than proactive, and prevention and preparedness still struggle to receive due attention and funding; as does education.

Over the last three years, 60 percent of DAC donor aid has been channelled mainly through UN agencies; just under 25 percent went to NGOs and civil society organizations; 0.4 percent to NGOs in developing countries; 0.2 percent to the International Movement of the Red Cross and Red Crescent.



[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]