Each year, 19 August marks World Humanitarian Day – a tribute to the work of humanitarians worldwide and to those that have lost their lives working or living in conflict and crises. This year’s campaign asks sponsors to choose a word that represents something they feel the world needs more of, by completing the phrase, ‘The world needs more…?’
The Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) programme is proposing that ‘the world needs more accessible information’.
For GHA, accessible information on humanitarian funding is essential in order to understand how much is going into the system, which in turn will enable a more robust assessment of outcomes. The world needs more accessible information in order to:
- identify the level and type of needs;
- improve planning and coordination;
- know how much assistance is being given from a variety of actors and providers;
- know where it is going and when it will arrive.
Accessible information is therefore central to any successful response. However, it is not just financial information that is important. For example, those awaiting assistance following a sudden onset disaster, such as the Pakistan floods in 2011, require information in order to know where they must travel to receive assistance.
The 2008 BBC World Service paper ‘Left in the Dark’ highlighted that information was an essential need and that “people need information as much as water, food, medicine or shelter. Information can save lives, livelihoods and resources. Information bestows power” (IFRC World Disasters Report, 2005).
Information must be accessible, standardised, comparable and timely. Through our work we try to present an overview of humanitarian financing from a range of different donors in order to show trends in humanitarian assistance. Our analysis captures information on NGOs, UN agencies, national governments, donor, individual and private organisations and foundations. However, this is only part of the picture – we still can’t accurately say how much money is being spent on humanitarian crises.
In our recent GHA Report 2013 we highlighted a number of examples of where insufficient and/or poor quality data made analysis difficult.
- Private giving. While most of the world’s main government and institutional donors report their humanitarian funding through the OECD DAC and the UN OCHA FTS, private funding is not reported to any central data source. GHA’s research suggests that private funds contribute over 25% of all global humanitarian financing, but without access to reliable, quality and timely data that is directly comparable to the reporting of government and institutional donors, it is impossible to put these resources into context and to get a full picture of humanitarian financing.
- Disaster risk reduction (DRR). Spending on DRR is particularly difficult to track – there is currently no code to track these finances, so we do not know the true extent of the investments. DRR spending is sometimes captured as disaster preparedness and prevention (DPP), of which US$532 million was reported by OECD DAC donors in 2011. However, this only represents 4.7% of total humanitarian assistance. We expect the figure to be far higher and better data, which is more accessible, will help build a more accurate picture of DRR spending.
World Humanitarian Day is an important time to reflect on the challenging, and often dangerous, work that humanitarians undertake the world over. But it also offers us an opportunity to look forward and think about what we can do to improve the global humanitarian response. More accessible and useful information should inform evidence-based decision making and, ultimately, improve response.