The GHA Report 2012 was featured in the latest webcast from Harvard University’s Advanced Training programme on Humanitarian Action (ATHA). The report was used as a focal point for wider discussion on the capacity of current funding systems to meet humanitarian needs. The three panellists, Tasneem Mowjee (policy2practice), Robert Smith (UN OCHA) and Julia Steets (GPPI) provided their expert insight into the capacity of the current funding system to meet humanitarian needs and the potential of new donor groups to address some of the current and future challenges the system is likely to face.
The presentations provided a useful summary of the main findings of the GHA Report 2012, descriptions of existing pooled funding mechanisms, a background to the consolidated appeals process (CAP) and insight into some of the current aid practices of non-DAC donors (donors outside of the Development Assistance Committee, also known as non-traditional donors) – United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and China. These were put into the context of a wider discussion around the current and potential impact of non-DAC donor countries on the current humanitarian system.
Some of the key themes that emerged from the discussion are outlined below.
The emergence of non-DAC donors
With DAC donors’ budgets increasingly tightened, there is a hope/expectation that non-DAC donors might fill any potential funding void (this hope is not founded on solid evidence of possibility).
The emergence of new actors has created some uncertainty; they may pose a fundamental challenge to the way in which the humanitarian system is run, which may conflict with current principles. In the past these donors have not given to traditional humanitarian actors such as UN agencies and NGOs or been strongly involved in existing forms of coordination.
At first glance the financial contribution of non-DAC donors looks small in comparison to overall figures from DAC donors. However when you look at funding to individual crises non-DAC donors’ contributions are often significant. For example, in response to crisis in Somalia last year both Saudi Arabia and Turkey were amongst the six largest donors. Saudi Arabia also gave the single largest contribution to the Haiti emergency response fund (ERF) in 2010 (US$50 million). One should bear in mind that current estimates of non-DAC donors’ financial contributions are likely to be inaccurate due to a lack of quality data.
Non-DAC donors’ use of pooled funding mechanisms
Pooled funds can be attractive for non-traditional donors as they reduce administrative costs by enabling donors to give in one lump sum rather than managing several grants. They can also reduce the burden of accountability and oversight for donors who might not have any country presence in the emergency area. Non-traditional donors are engaging with pooled funding mechanisms. In 2010 31 non-DAC governments chose to channel their humanitarian aid through ERFs, a considerable increase on previous years. In 2010 the top two donors to ERFs were not members of the DAC; Saudi Arabia contributed US$50 million and India US$20 million to the funds respectively. This meant that non-DAC governments were responsible for almost 60% of funding to ERFs that year (see GHA’s ERF profile). However, non-traditional donors continue to face challenges in accessing pooled funds. Engagement is needed with non-DAC donors around how they can benefit from using pooled funding mechanisms.
Non-DAC donors and the UN consolidated appeals process (CAP)
The CAP provides a useful process for planning, budgeting, raising funds, and monitoring collective action in a major crisis. The number of countries coordinating and presenting projects within the CAP has increased. Non-traditional donors are engaging more with the multilateral system, but they also have their own partners and priorities and the system needs to attune itself to that. The CAP needs to consider that humanitarian action and funding is no longer the exclusive domain of a few major western donors; they must adapt to these new actors.
Increasing need to understand non-DACs’ policy and practice
There is a hope that new actors will not only contribute financially but also bring with them new approaches that might have positive effects. Geographically and culturally they may be better placed to respond and may communicate more effectively with affected communities. They may also have less baggage attached to their response (i.e. no colonial past) and possibly be more risk averse. Again this is based on limited knowledge, evidence and engagement. There is an ever-increasing need to understand how these new ‘non-traditional’ donors operate if they are to play an increasingly prominent role in shaping the future of the humanitarian system.
For further in-depth analysis of non-DAC donor development and humanitarian financing read GHA’s report “Non-DAC donors and humanitarian aid – shifting structures, changing trends”.
To find out more about ATHA and up-and-coming webcasts see the schedule on their website here.