Syndicate content

Global Development

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.