The research and analysis within GHA Report 2012 reveals how the international response has coped with recent disasters and gives us cause for concern about the ability of the humanitarian system to respond and adapt to an unpredictable and risky world.
The good news is that the number of people affected by humanitarian crises and the number of people in need of assistance both went down in 2011. Humanitarian funding also reduced in 2011, but remained above 2009 levels, at US$17.1 billion.
But while the major proximate causes of disasters appear to have abated somewhat in 2011 (there were fewer natural disasters and the incidence of conflict has been on a downward trend for almost a decade), the major global vulnerabilities of climate change and economic volatility remained a present threat, with food and energy prices remaining high and subject to volatility into 2012. And in reality, we still know very little about the real number of people affected by crises or in need of assistance.
The international financing response to the crises considered of the highest priority for international response in the UN’s consolidated appeals process (CAP) fell 38% short of the financing requirements in 2011, despite a substantial reduction in the amount of funds requested. This is part of a longer-term downward trend, and in 2011, the unmet financing needs were at their widest for a decade.
In addition to the financing response falling further short of needs, the international response to the major crises of the last two years have also exhibited some concerning tendencies in the proportional allocation of funding in accordance with assessed needs, and in the timeliness of response.
The distribution of humanitarian funding has been relatively stable for a number of years. Sudan was the leading recipient for five consecutive years between 2005 and 2009. But all that changed in 2010 when Haiti and Pakistan received large volumes of funds which had far reaching effects on the distribution of funds among other recipients. Funding for these emergencies does not appear to have been entirely additional.
The data suggests that the major emergencies of 2010 attracted funding at the expense of smaller scale, less high profile emergencies. The top three recipients typically receive around 30% of the total funds to recipient countries but in 2010, this jumped to 49%. All other recipients saw not only their shares of the total, but the collective volumes they received also fell. Consolidated appeals, which represent the needs of chronic complex crises, saw an 11% drop in their proportion of funding requirements met in 2010, and many appeals reported having greater difficulties attracting funding in the first half of the year, which in some cases meant programming ambitions were scaled back.
In 2011 we saw another worrying example of the limits of international response in responding to meet humanitarian financing needs, when donors showed a lack of willingness to respond to an assessment of needs that focused on risk and likely outcomes rather than manifest humanitarian needs, at great human and financial cost. Clear evidence that a crisis was building in the Horn of Africa and calls for donor support were not responded to until the crisis had already escalated to huge proportions. By June 2011, only 28% of the financing requirements in the UN consolidated appeal for Somalia were met. A few weeks later, famine was declared and funding began to flow quickly to the appeal.
Not only do we need more comprehensive, comparable and timely information on humanitarian needs, we also need a shift in mindset towards incorporating risk and probability of disaster into our assessment of crises and the need for response if we are to respond effectively, proportionately and in a timely fashion to slow-building complex disasters, which look to be increasingly likely to occur in areas such as the Sahel and Horn of Africa.
The emphasis on where we place our financing investments to deal with humanitarian crises similarly requires a major rethink. Building greater resilience to crises is the most efficient and cost-effective way of preventing suffering and protecting livelihoods, yet we currently still only spend 4% of humanitarian aid on disaster prevention and preparedness and less than 1% of development aid between 2006 and 2010.
GHA Report 2012 presents transparent and reliable analysis of how the international response has measured up to the scale of global humanitarian crises, and is an essential resource for all those working to address humanitarian crisis and vulnerability.