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The good humanitarian donorship principles say donors must invest in prevention and risk reduction

Posted by African Press International on November 11, 2009

GLOBAL: Mixed scorecard for donors

Photo: Naresh Newar/IRIN
The good humanitarian donorship principles say donors must invest in prevention and risk reduction to minimize the human cost of disasters (file photo)

DAKAR, – The worlds wealthiest donors do not put enough into helping communities prevent and prepare for disaster, says the non-profit DARA International, in its third annual rating of donors on quality and efficacy of humanitarian aid.

Using the principles donors adopted in the 2003 good humanitarian donorship (GHD) initiative, the Humanitarian Response Index assesses donor performance in assisting people affected by crises.

Released on 10 November, the 2009 HRI says wealthy countries support for prevention remains weak, while disasters many climate-related and conflicts mount.

The good donorship principles stress the need for donors to invest in prevention and risk reduction to minimize the human costs of disasters, DARA (Development Assistance Research Associates) says. Countless lives and livelihoods could be saved if the international community made a concerted effort to prevent human suffering through better preparedness measures.

HRI rankings
Norway Sweden



European Commission




United Kingdom


New Zealand



United States










A serious shift in donor policy and practice is needed to scale up support for conflict and disaster prevention and risk reduction efforts at the community level, the report says. This requires new funding, DARA executive director Silvia Hidalgo told IRIN.

Many aid experts say preparedness often falls through the funding cracks not a top priority in emergency relief operations or in long-term development.

Hidalgo said donors must create more flexible funding pools in order to address prevention. [Prevention] is too weak right now and it has to be everyones [humanitarian and development actors] business to engage in it.

Per Byman, head of the humanitarian team atthe Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida), agreed that donors do not support disaster preparedness to the extent necessary, but said it must be incorporated into development.

The main challenge is to make disaster preparedness an integral part of development, not humanitarian response, Byman told IRIN.

He agreed that disaster risk reduction (DRR) must be integrated into humanitarian work. But in order to reduce poverty and reach the Millennium Development Goals [disaster preparedness/DRR] must be an integral part of development programmes and integrated into poverty reduction strategies.

DARA notes the continued gap in donor support for the transition from relief to recovery and development. Humanitarian assistance should include long-term strategies for both DRR and climate change adaptation, the HRI report says.

Other serious gaps in how the international community deals with crises, according to DARA, are in ensuring access to at-risk populations and boosting the capacity of local organizations.

Tough environment

DARA looked at 22 donor governments and the European Commission, which together provided about US$10.4 billion in humanitarian assistance in 2008 to help some 250 million people affected by crises.

Good donorship
Disasters where donors displayed greatest adherence to good humanitarian donorship principles were in East Timor, Sri Lanka, followed by Chad, Georgia, Colombia, and Afghanistan

Disasters where donors showed least adherence were inSomalia, Democratic Republic of Congo, China, the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Haiti

Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden are the most generous donors in terms of humanitarian assistance against gross national income

2009 HRI

This is far less than required to meet humanitarian needs, DARA said, noting that in late October the UN alone reported a $3.6-billion funding gap for humanitarian programmes covering 43 million people.

DARA said the global economic crisis has led to an unprecedented shortfall. The report said donors and humanitarian agencies faced increasingly complex and difficult working environments, with the scale of disasters rising, security problems reducing humanitarian space and staff and budget cuts limiting capacity.

The HRI 2009 ranks donors on five “pillars”: responding to needs; prevention, risk reduction and recovery; working with humanitarian partners; protection and international law; and learning and accountability.

DARAs Hidalgo noted some progress in coordination. Donors are engaging more with each other than they were in the past and have become more oriented to accountability drives like Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance (ALNAP), she said.

But knowledge among donors of the GHD principles and how to uphold them slipped over the past year, she said.

Good gauge?

Some donors have been critical of the HRI approach. Sidas Byman told IRIN that while it is important to look at donors in terms of the GHD principles, the naming and shaming mode is not the best way to go. “We prefer to address GHD issues in bilateral discussions or through joint action within the GHD Initiative.”

He added: We have doubts about the methodology [of the HRI] and about whether the report is an accurate representation of all aspects of humanitarian aid.


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