The role of donors in enhancing quality and accountability in humanitarian aid

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by Corinna Kreidler , ECHO

The fact that the international humanitarian system is not delivering the quality of aid it is supposed to pushes all of us to look at what has to change. This article focuses on what donors can do to improve the quality of humanitarian aid. Donors have various roles within the accountability chain. First, there is accountability to donors: recipient agencies are accountable to donors for how the funding received is spent. This gives donors the leverage to insist that quality aid is delivered with the funds provided. Second, there is accountability through donors: the collective pressure donors can apply to other stakeholders, such as national governments and UN agencies. Finally there is accountability by donors: initiatives that look at quality and accountability within donor organisations themselves.

Donors are a key link in the accountability chain, and stakeholders expect donor representatives to ensure that action is taken when the humanitarian system does not perform well. However, most donor agencies are part of their government’s foreign ministries, so they can only put pressure on recipient governments if this is in line with their own government’s foreign policy priorities. Hence, it is important to take a closer look at what donors can and cannot influence – and what tools they have at their disposal to enhance the accountability and quality of humanitarian aid. This article uses the example of DG ECHO, the European Commission’s Department for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection, currently the largest humanitarian donor in the world, accounting for some 40% of total humanitarian spending in 2010.

ECHO/Malini Morzaria

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