I attended Arcadia’s first annual conference in Bucharest, Romania on 25-26 November 2010. The conference, ‘Development, Trade and Foreign & Security Policies: How Can Emerging Donors Make a Difference?’ generated interesting discussions from practitioners and academics on the growth of contributions from new donors, their different priorities, the role of smaller regional donors, the impact of the private sector and the effects of migration and trade.
I gave a presentation on ‘non-DAC donors: humanitarian aid and the transparency of aid information’ which provided an overview of global humanitarian aid flows, analysed government donor contributions (both DAC and non-DAC) and then focused specifically on a subset group of non-DAC donors from the region (Turkey, Czech Republic, Poland, Malta, Slovakia, Romania, Cyprus, Hungary, Estonia, Slovenia, Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Albania, Macedonia). The regional subset group includes the EU12 new member states and four other donors in the region.
Humanitarian aid contributions from the regional subset of donors are individually quite small. Between 2000 and 2009, as reported to the United Nations (UN) Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial Tracking Service (FTS), the Czech Republic gave US$29 million, Poland contributed US$18 million and Romania gave US$10 million. However, collectively, contributions from these donors could be considered to be significant. For example between 2000 and 2009 this group reported US$238 million and in 2005 contributions from the regional subset group made up 20% of total reported contributions, the majority of which was for the tsunami (see figure 1).
Figure 1: Comparison of humanitarian aid contributions from regional donor subset, Russia, the Gulf States and ‘other’ non-DAC donors (that have reported to the FTS). [Source: Development Initiatives based on UNOCHA FTS]
The presentation also focused on the underreporting of non-DAC donor humanitarian aid. GHA has relied in the past on data from the FTS to analyse non-DAC donor humanitarian aid flows. However, some non-DAC donor’s report their humanitarian aid to both the FTS and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC). A comparison of both databases shows that not all humanitarian aid from some donors is captured in the FTS which might be explained by the voluntary nature of reporting. For example, Turkey reports to both databases yet total volumes of humanitarian aid reported to the FTS between 2000 and 2009 were US$134 million compared to nearly five times more that was reported to the OECD DAC in the same period, US$607 million (see figure 2).
Figure 2: Turkey’s humanitarian aid contributions as reported through the FTS and the DAC database. [Source: Development Initiatives based on UNOCHA FTS and OECD DAC data]
Whilst this comparison is useful for donors that do report the OECD DAC such as Turkey, the Czech Republic and Hungary, it highlights that data reported to the FTS for other non-DAC donors is seriously underreported.
The presentation closed with a discussion on what smaller non-DAC donors, such as Romania, can do – resulting in more questions than answers! For example should they diversify or conform to the way DAC donors give humanitarian aid? Smaller donors have smaller aid budgets and often concentrate their humanitarian aid on fewer recipients that are regionally focused, such as neighbouring countries. Is this the ‘right or wrong’ approach? One could argue that because Romania is a country with an evolving aid profile, that has been both an aid recipient and an aid donor, that it should respond to emergencies regionally, rather than channelling funds to Africa where they have no in-country presence. In addition, many non-DAC donors do not have a separate humanitarian aid policy and some, like Saudi Arabia, do not make the distinction between aid and humanitarian aid – but does this actually matter? It is clear that in some instances, the relief-development divide has been ineffective and that coordination and communication between the humanitarian and development world has been insufficient. If non-DAC donors place less distinction between relief and development, and adopt a more organic process, then the transition might be more effective.
Another recommendation was for non-DAC donors, especially smaller ones, to take collective action. Individually, humanitarian aid contributions from smaller non-DAC donors are quite small, whereas collectively these contributions are more significant. A collective and regional response to humanitarian crisis might be more productive. In addition, smaller donors might want to channel funds through multilateral mechanisms.
It is clear that non-DAC donors should learn lessons from each other because many of them have been in the unique situation of being both a donor and recipient of aid. As a result they each have a lot of experience in administering aid internally and externally which could help shape a new humanitarian aid architecture.
My final recommendation was for non-DAC donors to report better data on humanitarian aid. Current data on humanitarian aid from non-DAC donors is severely underreported, as the comparison of FTS and DAC data shows for Turkey. Without a clearer idea of how much humanitarian aid donors give (both DAC and non-DAC) we are unable to assess properly the outcomes and the effectiveness of that aid. The GHA programme would encourage all donors to take three steps to better aid data:
- Report: in any format, such as an annual report or a pdf, on the donor’s website.
- Report well: with more disaggregated information, such as aid and humanitarian aid, in machine readable format such as an excel spreadsheet.
- Report to a standard: such as the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI)