Unsustainability of world humanitarian aid system


Among global financial crisis, changes of economies, uncertainty on new emergencies and new categories of victims (as climate change refugees) are all signs that the current humanitarian aid system is threaten and need to be addressed from a different perspective, codes and principles than in the past.

In the current global system, in which the interconnection of finances, economics and politics impacts all layers of the society, the humanitarian aid sector is still keeping the same models of political and finance behaviour, even after the global financial crisis. New strategies models need to be implemented.

Stages like refugee crisis in Italy or Asia are showing the need of new approaches and joint action. Is in this sense that the European commission takes the first step towards a global approach on migration crisis, aware of the need to face emergencies in a global or at least regional strategy.[1]

We are facing the challenges of a new world structure in which developed, developing and emerging countries are in fuzzy categories. Index of poverty –main indicator of a country´s development – and child poverty has changed to the point that becomes an issue also in developed countries. By the contrary, developing countries has achieved high rates of economic growth as a difference for the so-called developed. How humanitarian aid fit in this new stage? Slow levels of growth and in-depth stagnation from developed countries have a direct impact in the global humanitarian action by important cuts of aid funds. Which leads directly to the conclusion that humanitarian aid, as it´s currently structured, is not financially sustainable for the next decades. According to a report, the impact of financial crisis in humanitarian aid budgets from main donors countries has been reduced in a 11% between 2011 and 2012, which represents from 9.600 to 8.600 millions of euros.[2]

European Union finance humanitarian aid by ECHO, and deliver 50% of world aid funds, but under current financial impacts how could we rely on this budget for the future? Present budgetary restrictions, are pushing member states  to bring down their annual contributions to the EU.

“Cuts done to the European Commission budget would leave EU unable to pay outstanding bills and those that would arise in the course of 2015 budget. The spending on development aid and humanitarian aid will be the hardest hit by these proposed cuts. The specifically budget on development aid will soak up a large part of these cuts, losing 192 million euros; 12% of its funding”. This cut will worsen the budget situation next year, all the more because the 2015 budget will be partly consumed by the unpaid bills from 2014, which already represent 36% of the current EuropeAid budget.” [3] However, humanitarian aid budget represents less than 1% of the total budget of the EU (almost 2 euros per citizen) [4]

Financial aspects are not the only negative forecast, we are facing one of the most important challenges for the humanitarian world that is uncertainty and complexity that do not allow accurate forecast and allocation of resources. ECHO allocates only 1% to disaster preparedness. Under climate change threats this average is far for acceptable and represents one more factor of the unsustainability of the humanitarian aid performance in itself.

The uncertainty for new kind of emergencies as climate change brings makes humanitarian sector more vulnerable and in some cases unable to face an effective and accurate response.

This is precisely the big challenge for the next decades: the capacity of governments and agencies in managing effectively with uncertainty.

One of the leading principles of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, and others humanitarian aid organizations is: independence. This principle has been created under different frameworks and world realities. In the past, to be adjunct organisms from governments that coordinate humanitarian aid activities were enough effective. Under current challenges is imperative to be revised and adapted.

Only by a full integration on the national and international financial and political map is that humanitarian aid could sustain an effective response. Is precisely for the goal of “alleviating human suffering” that is imperative to serve a global economic-financial goal on sustainability. The only way to work towards that path is first to be sustainable at an organization level.

Is not enough to coordinate action but also to unify criteria’s, approaches and budgets going beyond independence. Governments are not independent anymore but just a gear of a wider and more complex international structure. How humanitarian aid organizations could be different? A global world is based on interconnected roots in which humanitarian aid is an essential part of this system and need to build their strategy in a sustainable and integrated global focus. Global sustainability particularly on humanitarian aid, implies resignation in certain aspects of it´s independence, and at the same time it also helps to build resilience on the organization in itself.

The principle of independence needs to be revised and adapted to these new frameworks to make humanitarian aid action sustainable for the next decades.

[1] http://bit.ly/1Bw824e

[2] http://bit.ly/1H3aVfa

[3] http://bit.ly/1u99ODH

[4] http://bit.ly/1fmYJ2h

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