Development Co-operation Directorate (DCD-DAC)
Imagining more effective humanitarian aid
On face value, the humanitarian system contains all the necessary assets for delivering an effective response, but it is not yet producing consistent, optimal results.
The humanitarian system is made up of many different moving parts, each with different comparative advantages, different interests and different capacities. These factors determine what individual agencies, states, and people can do or control, what they can influence, and where they are more effective as advocates. There are different assumptions about how the parts of the system fit together, and many different standards and principles to guide good practice. However, power dynamics – an unspoken but very real part of humanitarian action – coupled with a complex and constantly changing operating environment, and the lack of a common definition of success, often prevent the different parts of the system from working together in an optimal manner.
In addition, it is not clear whether the different actors that make up the system are ready for what will be, from all accounts, a very challenging and crisis-prone future.
This paper is intended to provoke debate, and stimulate further thinking and study, about humanitarian effectiveness, and what this will mean for donors and other stakeholders, in the run-up to the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.
Nevertheless, it has been interesting to note that the donors interviewed for this study – eleven major players in the global humanitarian system, who collectively provided USD 8.23 billion of funding in 2012 – are broadly aligned on what factors are important for humanitarian effectiveness, and on what needs to be done to increase effectiveness in the face of both recurring and new global and local challenges.