June 2011: UK government response to the Humanitarian Emergency Response Review

A word from Ross Mountain

Yesterday, the UK Secretary of State, Andrew Mitchell, responded to Parliament on the government’s reaction to the Humanitarian Emergency Response Review (HERR), an independent analysis of the emergency response dimension of the United Kingdom’s humanitarian aid, led by Lord Paddy Ashdown.

As the Director of the Review team I was grateful to learn that Minister Mitchell has fully endorsed the approach of the Report and accepted the quasi-totality of the recommendations. This will mean a significant reshaping of the UK’s humanitarian policy, and indeed of their overall development strategy in vulnerable countries. It can also be expected that the new approach announced by the Secretary of State will positively impact the humanitarian system at large.

The clarity with which Minister Mitchell has endorsed the fundamental humanitarian principles and emphasized that assistance will be  guided by “need and need alone” is especially important at a time when a number of donor governments have been giving in to the temptation to seek to serve other ends with their humanitarian assistance.

Considerable interest in the issues and proposals developed in the HERR has been expressed not only in the UK but also internationally amongst other major donors and the UN system. A number of the ideas relating to how the UN system performs have been taken forward by Valerie Amos, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, as the Inter-Agency Standing Committee looks at issues of leadership, humanitarian reform, cluster strengthening, and so on.

Many other OECD donor governments have also exhibited keen interest in the approach and recommendations of the HERR, and not only in Europe. On a recent visit to the US to inaugurate a DARA US board, it was encouraging to note that the HERR report has had resonance with senior USAID and US government officials.

Significant interest by US audiences was also shown in DARA’s work to promote effective humanitarian assistance through the Humanitarian Response Index, systemic evaluations, disaster risk reduction and climate vulnerability- activities that closely relate to the key HERR themes of anticipation and building resilience.

Productive meetings were held with USAID, the Global Facility for Disaster Risk Reduction and Recovery at the World Bank, Interaction, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Modernising Foreign Assistance Network, and staff of congressional committees amongst others.

With its new US Board, DARA is committed to expanding our engagement and building strategic partnerships with USAID, US based humanitarian organizations, think tanks and foundations.

A new proposal to DARA arising from work promoting Good Humanitarian Donorship principles amongst OECD governments has been to consider the development of similar guidelines for philanthropic foundations and corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes.

We will continue to explore ways to be helpful to the humanitarian community in improving the benefits of available assistance to those in need.