Report on State of the Humanitarian System: Politicization of Aid Disrupts Aid Delivery

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August 8, 2012

The politicization of aid delivery in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Somalia disrupted and delayed “effective support to vulnerable populations,” says a July 2012 analysis of the humanitarian responses to crises and emergencies between 2009- 2011. Restricting movements and activities of aid workers, imposing security measures that jeopardize perceptions of NGO neutrality, and hindering humanitarian negotiation by prohibiting most contact with groups formally listed as a “terrorist,” are just some examples of how donor countries impede humanitarian action, says the report.   The report noted that funding is often not impartial and made on the basis of humanitarian need alone.

Produced by the Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance (ALNAP), the report’s findings are based largely upon survey responses from hundreds of aid workers, donors and aid recipients around the world. Most of the aid recipients surveyed by ALNAP and its partners felt that the best way in which humanitarian organizations could improve is to “be faster to start delivering aid.” When asked what is the biggest problem or weakness hindering effectiveness, nearly a quarter of aid workers polled responded “limited access due to restrictions by host government authorities.” In 2009-2010 the international humanitarian system responded to 103 natural disasters and 43 complex emergencies in developing countries, according to the report’s data. 
ALNAP also notes that “risk aversion and compliance culture inhibit good leadership.” It identifies emerging trends in the humanitarian system:
“Changing environmental and political climates mean that we are faced with new and different types of disasters. The rise of Southern NGOs and governments seeking to play a greater role in disaster preparedness, response and recovery is likely to generate a wider range of voices around the table. Longer-term development agendas and disaster preparedness/recovery programming is increasingly overlapping with ‘traditional’ disaster relief functions. If humanitarian organizations simply continue with business as usual without a serious reality check, they are in danger of becoming irrelevant or poorly adapted to this changing world.”
ALNAP is made up of humanitarian organizations and leading experts from international and national NGOs and NGO networks (e.g. Oxfam, DARA), UN agencies, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and academic and other research institutions.