This briefing paper presents the findings from our research on the use of multi-sectoral needs assessments in Southern Sudan. It is one of two case studies that we conducted (the other being the initial response to the Haiti earthquake 2010) in order to examine how evidence on the scale and severity of humanitarian needs is generated and the ways and extent to which this evidence is used by humanitarian agencies and government donors in their decision-making processes.
This paper examines the ways in which evidence demonstrating the scale and severity of humanitarian needs in Southern Sudan is generated and used by the three largest sources of humanitarian funds – the US, the EC and the Common Humanitarian Fund (CHF) – to prioritise funding to meet humanitarian needs. The paper also looks at some of the other considerations and influences that donors weigh in their decision-making processes and where some of the major obstacles to funding in accordance with needs lie.
The ability of donors to fund according to assessed needs is constrained by the limited availability of objective and comparable evidence about humanitarian needs, but that is only part of the story.
Each of the three donors considered in this analysis attach different weightings to objectivity of evidence, reliance on organisational experience and judgement and transparency of decision-making. Irrespective of the different decision-making criteria and processes developed, the bottom line – simply how much money they each have to allocate each year – has the most important influence on how widely their definition of needs is drawn and therefore on which activities get funded.
The artificial distinction between humanitarian and development programming and funding streams, combined with a generalised failure to achieve significant progress in basic infrastructure and service delivery of non-humanitarian aid, has contributed to the creation of an artificial competition for humanitarian funding and to manipulation of the presentation of humanitarian needs to match donor preferences.
Better evidence of the scale and severity of humanitarian needs and greater transparency in information exchange on humanitarian needs are crucial to promote more equitable funding decisions. To achieve this requires greater commitment and investment across the humanitarian community, as well as a shared technical and conceptual language with which to measure and talk about humanitarian needs.