Development Initiatives has just published its latest Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) Report for 2011. As expected, the GHA Report provides a wealth of data on humanitarian financing: who has given, what amounts, and for which crises. The report itself is a valuable reference tool for anyone interested in trying to discover how OECD/DAC governments allocate their humanitarian assistance. DI has done a great job of trying to untangle the often messy, contradictory and difficult to find data, and presenting it in a simple, visual manner.
From our own experience with the Humanitarian Response Index, the task of compiling and analysing this data is monumental, and it’s no surprise, therefore, that Development Initiatives is a leading voice in efforts to increase aid transparency and for better standards for reporting humanitarian aid flows. Improving government aid transparency is a critical step towards being more accountable to crisis-affected populations, but it also makes sense, as the GHA Report points out, for ensuring that aid resources can be used more effectively and efficiently. If you don’t know what resources are available, it’s difficult to plan how they can be used to greatest effect. To their credit, some governments are making efforts to improve transparency through initiatives like the International Aid Transparency Initiative, but much of the focus has been on official development assistance (ODA), and not humanitarian assistance. Until all governments take this commitment seriously, we will continue to need the GHA Report as a reference on the current status of humanitarian assistance funding.
But for me, the real value of the report goes beyond the simple publication of data on governments’ humanitarian assistance. This year´s report adds new dimensions to help understand and contextualise where humanitarian assistance fits in relation to other important financial flows, such as ODA, peace-keeping or domestic remittances. Too often, humanitarian assistance is seen in isolation from other programmes, which means that there are often gaps, overlaps, and duplication of programmes and expenses, and missed opportunities at the field level to plan interventions more effectively. What is worse, as the report highlights, the list of top 20 recipients of humanitarian assistance – including Sudan, OPT, Iraq and Afghanistan – have not changed significantly in the last decade, which raises the question about what the results of all the combined aid flows have been in terms of addressing the root causes of vulnerability and building resilience. It also suggests that the short-term planning and funding cycle that is characteristic of government humanitarian assistance, needs to be adjusted to reflect reality.
The obvious example of the lack of harmonisation is investments into disaster risk reduction – consistently highlighted as a priority for donor governments in the aftermath of major natural disasters like Haiti or Pakistan, and an integral part of the Good Humanitarian Donorship principles. For the first time, DI has attempted to pull together data from both humanitarian and development assistance sources to show what the actual investment is. The conclusion is one that should be no surprise to anyone grappling with the issue – DRR funding is less than 0.5% of ODA and only 1% of humanitarian assistance.
Philip Tamminga is Head of the Humanitarian Response Index (HRI) at DARA.