June 2012: Wide stakeholder survey on the value of the Humanitarian Response Index

A word from Ross Mountain: June 2012

In 2007 DARA created the Humanitarian Response Index (HRI) to appraise donor government efforts around the quality, transparency and accountability of their humanitarian aid against GHD criteria. The aim has been to encourage policy and practice improvement in respect of donor performance, including through the use of an annual ranking. We are conscious that a number of government donors consider the HRI ranking unhelpful and have questioned the methodology.

Given that our objective is to improve the impact of humanitarian aid for vulnerable populations suffering from crises and catastrophes, we are now moving ahead with a review of what we have learned so far-including the methodology of the index.

To that end, we are launching a wide stakeholder consultation with key partners to rethink the best way to improve the effectiveness and impact of humanitarian action. We would accordingly welcome your views on the value and utility of the HRI to date and how it can become a more effective tool for a systemic improvement.

Many issues identified by the HRI such as politicization of aid, prevention and preparedness, gender and needs-based responses have been part of the unresolved agenda for the humanitarian sector for too long now. Rather than continuing to expound on the problems, the focus needs to be on the reasons why these issues remain a challenge, and to identify practical solutions.

One thing we have discovered is that donor decision-making processes- whether that donor is a government, an NGO or a UN agency- are never quite as straightforward as policies and procedures might suggest.

For instance, government humanitarian aid agencies may be at the receiving end of undeserved criticisms which do not take into account a real understanding of the challenges they face when trying to ensure and respect humanitarian principles and apply good practices. What are the real barriers preventing donors from doing the right things? How do they know what should be done? What are the internal and external constraints they face? How do they measure their performance? It is not just a question of saying that donor governments could perform well if they just decided to, or if they had unlimited budgets and resources for that matter.

We want to have a greater understanding of the reasons behind “poor” decision-making, and also the reasons that lead to positive changes such as Australia expanding the thematic and geographical areas it operates in, or the United Kingdom undertaking a review process to transform its aid policy in crucial areas such as building resilience, promoting disaster risk reduction and protecting the non-political nature of humanitarian assistance.

These are questions and issues we hope to explore as part of our consultation and review process, and quite likely will form the basis of the next phase of the HRI, with a clearer focus on practical measures to address some of these fundamental challenges.

Please take some time to complete the survey. We also hope you will participate in other activities in the coming months.