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Eight reports from UN humanitarian week you ought to know about

Your handy list to the key ECOSOC publications

(Ben Parker/TNH)

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.

We’ve gathered our top eight here, but please contact us at [email protected] or @newhumanitarian and let us know what we’ve missed.

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”. 

Humanitarian spending

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.

Nexus knowledge

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.


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