Report denounces humanitarian aid ‘politicisation’, lauds EU


Humanitarian aid coming from EU member states is becoming increasingly driven by politics, making multilateral donors such as the EU more apt at addressing recipients' needs, according to a report presented by a UN official on Tuesday (7 December).

Humanitarian aid distributed by the European Commission was ranked 6th place out of 37 from a list of donors who signed up the principles and Good Practice of Good Humanitarian Donorship, established in 2003.

According to that ranking, the only EU member states that provided more effective aid were Denmark, Ireland and Sweden.

The report was presented by the UN's deputy special representative to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ross Mountain, who is also director-general of Development Assistance Research Associates (DARA).

The organisation asked 475 senior representatives of aid organisations receiving funding from governments and the EU to rank donors according to the 23 agreed principles for aid effectiveness.

Commission scores well

Amongst the main findings of the report was that governments were increasingly linking their aid to political objectives rather than the needs of recipients.

Aid used by national governments to try and win over "hearts and minds" in Afghanistan was highlighted as an example of political goals clouding aid effectiveness, as aid organisations were facing increased chances of coming under attack there.

Speaking to EURACTIV, Mountain said that the "politicisation" of aid was "far more a phenomena of bilateral policies" than that of the multilateral EU, the world's largest aid donor.

"[The Commission's DG] ECHO has done well, being able to avoid some of the pitfalls of governments who are engaged in different conflicts with very specific foreign policy concerns," he said.

Another finding was that donors were failing to improve transparency around their funding and address vulnerability to climate change as an aid issue.

Unlike several member states providing bilateral aid, the Commission's aid website features a breakdown of its spending – on average €640 million each year – and received above-average marks for aid directed at "prevention and preparedness," including towards climate change.

However, the Commission's DG was perceived by aid workers as being the donor offering the least flexibility with its funding, which was often cited as a downfall to multilateral aid.

'Je donne, donc je suis'?

Several donors scored badly in the report with regards to providing support for risk mitigation against natural disasters.

Protection is "certainly more effective" than responding to them afterwards, but longer-term development aid "doesn't capture the public imagination" as much as humanitarian aid, Mountain explained.

Indeed, the issue of visibility is seen as potentially being "an affront" to aid effectiveness, as it can be "demeaning" for the recipient to be seen to need aid from abroad, according to the UN official.

Rather than concentrating on "labelling" aid, "local capacity should be used as much as possible to avoid building white elephants that are not sustainable in the long-term," Mountain said.

Despite representing a complex picture and all aid provision being relative to other criteria, the report's ultimate objective was announced as being to try and help those working on the frontline of aid provision.

"We hope that the criticism that comes out of the report serves as a basis for strengthening the work of humanitarian aid workers," Mountain underlined.

To read the interview in full, please click here.


  • 29 Nov – 1 Dec 2011: 4th UN High Level Forum on aid effectiveness to be held in Busan, Republic of Korea.

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