When hundreds of aid officials, NGO workers, and diplomats gather in Geneva, you can be sure of one thing: there’ll be publications and PDFs galore.
The Grand Bargain
The “Grand Bargain” is a flagship package of reforms involving the big aid agencies and donors. The participants commissioned an independent annual report on progress from the Overseas Development Institute. The uptake of cash-based aid is going well, but overall it presents a mixed picture of the other eight “workstreams”.
A go-to annual survey of humanitarian spending is published by Development Initiatives. The UK-based group parses data from the UN, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and NGOs to produce the Global Humanitarian Assistance report. The full publication will be out later in the year – but the preliminary numbers show a record $28 billion went to emergency relief in 2018.
Aid worker security
South Sudan had most recorded attacks on aid workers last year, according to an annual review from the Aid Worker Security Database. This year’s report provides more analysis on sexual and gender-based violence. According to Humanitarian Outcomes, a consultancy group, “aerial bombardment” was the most prevalent form of violence for aid workers in Syria.
Aid recipient survey
Do people in need get what they need? What do the “end-users” of aid think of the support they get? One source of answers is a series of polls by Ground Truth Solutions, who surveyed people receiving assistance in 2018 in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Haiti, Iraq, Lebanon, Somalia, and Uganda. One finding: Haitians appear a lot more satisfied with the services they get than the other countries.
Building on the Ground Truth research and other analysis, the OECD released a 69-page report, “Lives in Crises”, which calls for a “customer-driven” response, better linkages between development, peacebuilding, and humanitarian aid approaches (a.k.a. the “nexus”), and reveals wide gaps between what aid workers think they are achieving and what their clients say.
Following the local aid money
Big donors and big agencies vowed to “localise” by channelling a quarter of funding through local institutions. A new analysis of Grand Bargain signatories by Local2Global Protection found the target a long way off, with about 14 percent reaching local actors by any route, however circuitous.
Local reform update
“Localisation”– the shifting of resources and influence from international aid agencies to homegrown channels in affected countries – isn’t just about money. It’s also about not poaching staff, sharing credit, and helping with overheads. Charter4Change is a coalition of NGOs committed to localisation, and about 30 of its international members have pooled their progress into a 2019 annual report.
The ECOSOC resolution
The UN’s annual meetings on humanitarian issues in Geneva were the main diplomatic focus last week, and its deliberations ended with a resolution on humanitarian issues. The ECOSOC document is largely a boilerplate restatement of general principles. Some fresh material was inserted on current issues, including migration, but the negotiations were overshadowed by a unsuccesful US attempt to insert anti-abortion language.
It was The New Humanitarian’s investigation with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that uncovered sexual abuse by aid workers during the Ebola response in the Democratic Republic of Congo and led the World Health Organization to launch an independent review and reform its practices.
This demonstrates the important impact that our journalism can have.
But this won’t be the last case of aid worker sex abuse. This also won’t be the last time the aid sector has to ask itself difficult questions about why justice for victims of sexual abuse and exploitation has been sorely lacking.
We’re already working on our next investigation, but reporting like this takes months, sometimes years, and can’t be done alone.
The support of our readers and donors helps keep our journalism free and accessible for all. Donations mean we can keep holding power in the aid sector accountable, and shine a light on similar abuses.