Syndicate content

aid

Aid agencies must listen to the people they're helping

Nicholas van Praag's picture
Some camps for those displaced after the Haiti earthquake had suggestion boxes, and people responded with enthusiasm. Photograph: Ramon Espinosa/AP

The following post  first appeared in The Guardian's Poverty Matters blog.

Lord Ashdown's review of how the UK responds to humanitarian emergencies points to a major shortcoming in today's humanitarian aid system: the absence of a systematic effort to assess whether beneficiaries are satisfied with the efforts made on their behalf by UN agencies and NGOs.

Over the past five years, we have seen a marked increase in the focus on accountability in what is now a $10bn a year humanitarian industry. But there is no systematic approach to assessing humanitarian operations through the eyes of recipients. Running aid programmes without understanding how beneficiaries feel about them is to ignore the simplest test of client satisfaction. It is amazing that donors have been willing to make funding decisions without any customer input for as long as they have.

How to assist fragile countries challenged by weak governance

Nicholas van Praag's picture
 
      Alternative aid channels
 

The Democratic Republic of Congo is in the headlines again. This time it’s not about rape and escalating violence in the eastern provinces but because donors are threatening to withhold aid as fears grow about governance, particularly in the mining and energy sectors where many foreign companies compete for concessions.

For most donors, turning the aid tap on and off is a standard response to what they perceive to be poor performance or bad behavior on the part of recipient governments.

Given the pressures from their stakeholders back home, it’s no surprise. Cutting foreign assistance to errant governments is a blunt instrument but it sends a clear message.

In some places it may work. In fragile states, however, it can set things way back.

The risk of violent conflict correlates closely with poor governance and weak institutions. Tampering with the aid spigot can make matters worse for countries that need external support to restore confidence and create institutions that are better able to manage violence.

Research for the WDR shows that the volatility of aid to fragile states is far greater than flows to countries whose situation is less precarious. For example, aid from the World Bank and other donors to Burundi, Central African Republic, Guinea Bissau and Haiti has seen major swings, with donor allocations reflecting competing priorities and short-term deteriorations or improvements in governance.

Paul Collier: New rules for rebuilding a broken nation

Daniel Maree's picture

Like you, we sometimes spend our lunch-breaks catching up on old TED videos – especially when one of our Advisory Council members is involved!

Check out Paul Collier’s TED@State talk in which he explains the problems with current post-conflict aid plans, and suggests three ideas for a better approach.

 

WATCH:

 

 

Collier is Professor of Economics and Director for the Centre for the Study of African Economies at Oxford University. His work focuses on the causes and consequences of civil war, the effects of aid, and the problems of democracy in low-income and natural-resource-rich societies. He addition to serving as Associate Professor at the Université d'Auvergne, and Fellow of the Center for Policy and Economic Research in London, Collier is also a member of the WDR 2011 Advisory Council.

 

Inequality of mercy

Nicholas van Praag's picture
  

Waiting for the aid tide to turn
Photo © Wordpress

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called a special session of the UN General Assembly today to draw attention to the calamitous situation in Pakistan and the urgency of raising $460 million for flood victims.  The lukewarm response to the UN’s appeal (less than 40% pledged so far) compares unfavorably with the $1 billion committed to Haiti within 10 days of the earthquake last January.

The difference in the speed and generosity of the international response to these two humanitarian tragedies is stark. Why does one catastrophe strike a chord and win a boat-load of funding while another elicits compassion but little cash?

With 1,500 dead, 20 million people displaced, and millions of hectares of agricultural land underwater, Pakistan would seem to have a solid claim on international support.

We have heard many explanations for the disappointing response.  John Holmes, The UN’s emergency relief coordinator travelling with Ban Ki-moon in Pakistan last weekend, contrasted the drama of an earthquake or the tsunami with the ‘slow burn’ of this crisis, as the flood waters slowly engulf a fifth of the country.