workers have long sought to spark reform within a sector resistant to change —
one guided by bureaucratic international bodies criticized for being far
removed from the people they’re designed to serve.
from an aircraft humanitarian supplies
for Typhoon Haiyan
victims in Guiuan, Philippine
Now, with the
World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, less than a year away, U.N.
officials are taking a critical look at humanitarian finance mechanisms in an
effort to redefine how humanitarian aid is designed and implemented.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month appointed a high-level panel on
humanitarian financing that will analyze funding gaps and inefficiencies and
submit recommendations for reform in November.
the key to meaningful change?
For at least
a decade, humanitarian professionals have grappled with how to shorten country
dependence on humanitarian aid, how to bolster local capacity for emergency
response and how to bridge the gap between humanitarian and development work.
efforts to spur significant change in the humanitarian sector — to guard
against local reliance on multilateral and bilateral emergency funding — such
challenges remain all too visible when disasters strike.
For the first
time this year, total multilateral humanitarian funding requests could cross
the $20 billion mark, said Hansjoerg Strohmeyer, chief of the policy
development and studies branch at theU.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian
Affairs, this week in Washington, D.C..
from just $3 billion 11 years ago, the U.N. official added.
aid … has become an internationally organized safety net for millions of
people,” Strohmeyer said, speaking on the occasion of the Emerging Humanitarian
Frontiers Conference at theAmerican Red Cross headquarters.
secretary-general noted last month that the number of people in need of
humanitarian assistance has more than doubled since 2004 to over 100 million.
alone, the number of internally displaced persons was 11 million — more than
the population of New York City, Strohmeyer added.
average humanitarian appeal is now up to seven years, according to the U.N.
“We need to
be, from the outset, much more outcome and exit driven,” Strohmeyer said. “We
have to redefine success. Success is not every year to generate more money and
more services for the same people. That’s perpetuating [dependence].”
Strohmeyer, financing is one critical component for much-needed shifts in
financing can affect some of that policy change that I don’t believe the system
itself … is capable of,” Strohmeyer told Devex.
official likened the current method of financing to a “junkie-dealer”
relationship between humanitarian agencies and donors — a system that fosters
too many vested interests and makes reform difficult to achieve despite
widespread recognition of the need for a different approach.
explained that the current humanitarian finance model provides funds for
international organizations on behalf of a country, but that the country itself
gets nothing. Strohmeyer also highlighted the fact that there is no
conditionality on the funds — no requirement to have an exit strategy or a
multiyear plan. For Strohmeyer, such a model is not sustainable.
senior adviser for humanitarian policy and complex crises atThe KonTerra Group, echoed this sentiment
— stressing new risk factors that are adding to the demand for humanitarian
aid, such as climate change, urbanization, pandemics and terrorism.
factors] are resulting in vastly increased vulnerabilities and needs, which we
can’t meet by continuing business as usual. They’re straining our capacities,
our credibility and our financing,” Fisher said during Monday’s conference.
needed, according to Strohmeyer, are new financing facilities that provide
accessible funds not only to international organizations, but also to local
civil society and to local first responders. Such a model jives with the widely
recognized idea that resilience building post-disaster or conflict requires the
heavy participation of local partners. This isespecially evident now in Nepal as
that country rebuilds following a massive earthquake in April.
should also be attached to humanitarian funds, according to Strohmeyer, in
order to ensure a multiyear strategy and an exit strategy.
suggested that theUnited Nations would consider working
with theWorld Bank to collaborate on such
the broader community of development professionals should play a role in
communicating the capacities of local responders to deal with crises before
“We must find
a way of persuading our development colleagues to catalog — before crises break
out and as part of their standard operations — the capacities of [local
organizations] … and to identify their needs for support and to strengthen
their capacities,” Fisher said.
how it’s accomplished, strengthening and understanding local resilience to
crises could fundamentally change how humanitarian aid is carried out.
international humanitarian community starts to get a better handle on such
local capacities, we’ll be better able to distinguish where and how we need to
intervene when crises arise,” Fisher said. “Perhaps in a major way. Perhaps in
a lighter supportive role. Perhaps not at all.”