In recent years, there has been an interesting shift in the dynamics of donor-recipient roles. The blurring of the divide has seen ‘traditional’ aid recipients become donors and ‘traditional’ donors become aid recipients.
Government donor contributions to the Haiti emergency response fund (ERF), which was set up in response to the earthquake in 2010, provides a sound example of changing patterns in donor behaviour. Firstly, the top two donor governments contributing to the ERF were ‘emerging’, ‘non-traditional’ or ‘non-DAC’ donors (we refer to the term ‘non-DAC’ because these donors are not members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC)). Saudi Arabia was the largest government donor contributing US$50 million followed by Brazil, US$7.5 million. Secondly, a number of African countries that are usually recipients of aid appeared amongst the top ten donor governments giving aid to the ERF. These donors included Equatorial Guinea, US$2 million, Nigeria, US$1.5 million, Gabon, US$1 million, Tunisia, US$1 million and Algeria, US$0.5 million (GHA Report 2010, pg 49).
Whilst aid recipients become aid providers, the opposite is also true – ‘traditional’ donor governments have become recipients of aid. For example, in 2005, Qatar responded to hurricane Katrina by pledging US$100 million through the Qatar Katrina Fund, for health, education and shelter projects in the affected areas of the United States (US). Aid from Qatar to the US demonstrates that the donor-recipient divide is constantly evolving. For example, until recently some DAC donors were recipients of aid. Portugal became a DAC donor in 1991, when it was removed from the recipient list and Greece became a DAC donor just over ten years ago in 1999. In addition, global economic dynamics are shifting. The recent global financial crisis has demonstrated that DAC donor governments are not immune from shocks, and have come under increasing financial pressure, in the case of Greece resulting in a bail out from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Could it be the case, that in years to come, some DAC donor countries will become major recipients of aid? Or will it be just certain special cases, the massive hurricane or an overwhelmingly devastating earthquake?
China and India are emerging as major economic players. Only last month China became the second largest economy in the world (Guardian). This shift has serious implications, not only could China and India become the leading aid donors but they could also lose their status as aid recipients. For example, Andrew Mitchell recently announced that UK aid to China and Russia will be ‘phasing out’ (DFID).
From the position of the affected person in a crisis situation, whether that person is from Pakistan or the US, it is not who gives the money (Qatar, China, India or the UK) but how and when it will be delivered. We believe it is important to understand the complexity and diversity of donors in an ever changing world of shifting relationships. However, we also consider it important that donors publish their humanitarian aid data to enable us to understand who is giving what and when. For example, in addition to contributing funds to hurricane Katrina, Qatar was “transparent through the entire process, publishing extensive project descriptions, maps, and audits of their work” (AidData). The transparency of aid information, from all donors, is key.