In DAC reporting, humanitarian aid is a sector of ODA that aims specifically to “save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain and protect human dignity during and in the aftermath of emergencies.” It includes: disaster prevention and preparedness, reconstruction relief, relief coordination, protection and support services, emergency food aid and other emergency/distress relief. This strict definition of humanitarian aid, which is governed by the principles of neutrality and impartiality, marks it out from development aid, which can be subject to some conditionality.
While humanitarian aid is traditionally seen as short-term, other ODA sectors (sometimes referred to as ‘development assistance’) such as governance, growth, social services, education, health, and water and sanitation, are seen as sustainable, long-term and poverty-reducing. Since 2000 the humanitarian share of ODA has ranged from a low of 7.5% in 2001 to a high of 10.2% in 2005.
Annual fluctuations in humanitarian aid expenditure can be more extreme than for other types of ODA since they will reflect donor responses to sudden onset emergencies as well as to ongoing ones.
DAC-reported humanitarian aid includes expenditure on: emergency response (material relief assistance and services, emergency food aid and relief and coordination services); reconstruction and rehabilitation; and disaster prevention and preparedness.
But although the humanitarian aid expenditure reported to the DAC includes governments’ expenditure through NGOs, multilateral UN agencies and funds, public private partnerships and public sector agencies, it does not take account of DAC donors’ core, totally unearmarked contributions that are made in the form of multilateral ODA contributions to UN agencies with almost uniquely humanitarian mandates. In order to calculate DAC donor humanitarian aid expenditure, we add:
- humanitarian aid as reported in DAC1 Official and Private Flows, item I.A.1.5 (net disbursements)
- total ODA disbursements to UNHCR, UNRWA and WFP, as recipients, reported in DAC2a ODA Disbursements
- we do not include all ODA to WFP but apply a percentage in order to take into account that WFP also has a ‘developmental’ mandate
- humanitarian aid reported to UNICEF, UNFPA, UNDP and ‘Other UN’ in DAC2a tables is also included in our calculation.
Humanitarian aid data for 2009 is preliminary. Data on multilateral ODA to UNHCR, UNRWA and WFP for 2009 will not be published until December 2010. Our figure is therefore estimated, based on 2008 data (Source: OECD DAC)