Key Findings

Unfortunately, our findings for the 2011 edition of the Humanitarian Response Index confirm that the issues raised in previous editions largely persist. The ability of the humanitarian sector to deliver assistance has improved over time, but progress in consolidating good donor practices and reforming the sector has been limited. Based on the experience and findings of five years of HRI research, our conclusion is that most donors have not significantly altered their approaches in order to apply good practices, and the pace of reform efforts is too slow for the humanitarian sector to be able to adequately meet current needs, much less prepare for, anticipate, mitigate and respond to a trend of increasingly complex crises in the coming decade.

Key findings:

Gender is a low priority for many donors and actors, leaving gaps in responses

  • The HRI research shows that while the majority of donors include gender in their policies, their funding is not always allocated towards projects that incorporate adequate gender analysis, and few donors actually monitor and follow up on how gender is addressed in the programmes they support. Donors have enormous potential to ensure that aid is not discriminatory and meets the different needs of women, men, girls and boys equally.

Prevention, preparedness and recovery disregarded in aid efforts

  • The response to crises like the Haiti earthquake, Pakistan floods or drought and famine in the Horn of Africa show the human consequences of a lack of sustained commitment by donor governments for prevention, preparedness, risk reduction and long-term recovery efforts. Too often, these activities are not prioritised by donors, resulting in missed opportunities to save many more lives through strengthening local capacity and resilience. This is a critical pending task for all donor governments.

The current aid reform agenda is insufficient to tackle current and future needs

  • The HRI 2011 research suggests that efforts to reform the humanitarian system are generating slow but uneven progress in improving humanitarian assistance. Nevertheless, after five years of HRI research, the gaps are essentially the same as when the reform process began, and the pace of reforms may not be quick enough to match increasing needs and a rapidly changing aid context, much less respond adequately to future challenges. Donors should actively work towards an ambitious programme to strengthen the capacity of the sector to anticipate and adapt to future needs and challenges.

Donor transparency and accountability is weak

  • Donor governments are not as transparent and accountable as they should be, especially towards the crisis-affected populations. As the HRI research shows, decisions around aid allocations are not sufficiently transparent, nor guided by humanitarian objectives, and accountability is still largely conceived as an exercise on fiscal management and control of the partners they fund, rather than on meeting the needs, priorities and aspirations of affected populations as the primary stakeholder in any aid efforts. By making aid transparency and accountability towards affected populations the cornerstone of their assistance, donors would have greater assurance that their aid contributions and the work of all actors are effective in meeting needs.

Politicisation of aid continues to deny millions access to aid

  • The HRI 2011 research shows that many governments’ political, economic and security agendas continue to undermine the ability of humanitarian organisations to access vulnerable populations and provide aid without discrimination. Keeping humanitarian assistance focused exclusively on meeting needs and independent of other objectives is the only effective way to ensure donors’ contributions have maximum benefits and impact in relieving human suffering. Donors also need to step up their support for concrete measures to ensure all actors comply with their responsibilities to ensure safe access and protection of civilians.

The HRI donor classification is based on an analysis of donor performance against 35 quantitative and qualitative indicators of donor practices, aligned to core concepts contained in the Declaration of Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD). This statistical classification looks for relationships and patterns among donors based on their scores against the HRI’s 35 indicators. The 23 OECD/DAC donors are classified into three categories based on their performance in the five HRI pillars:
• Group 1: Principled Partners
• Group 2: Learning Leaders
• Group 3: Aspiring Actors
Similar to the findings from previous HRI reports, in general, all donors scored well for the indicators in Pillar 1 (Responding to needs), though the concern about politicisation of aid featured prominently in many of the crises studied. Collectively, donors scored lower in Pillar 2 (Prevention, risk reduction and recovery) and Pillar 5 (Learning and accountability). Both pillars include indicators around greater participation and ownership of affected populations in the design and management of programmes, and longer-term approaches to build capacity and resilience.

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