28 March 2011


Today, the Humanitarian Emergency Response Review (HERR), an independent review commissioned by Andrew Mitchell and Chaired by Lord Ashdown, released its report. The Report contains 40 recommendations for DFID.

These 40 recommendations come under 7 headings:

  • Anticipation: develop a global risk register for DFID and others
  • Resilience: build resilience into core DFID business
  • Leadership: make sure the best leadership is in place in big crises
  • Innovation: particularly in mobile technologies, satellites and data management and display
  • Accountability: Support mechanisms to give recipients of aid greater voice
  • Partnership: create new donor partnerships with BRICS, Gulf States, private sector
  • Strengthen the humanitarian space: reaffirm principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality.

Five quick reactions from a quick read:

1. Anticipation. The report cites the example of Mozambique. In 2006 it asked the international community for 2 million pounds for flood preparation. It failed to get it. The floods came and the international system spent 60 million pounds. Stupid behaviour on the part of the international community, right? Difficult to say because there will be many more such pre-potential crisis requests to assess than there will be actual crises to respond to. Clearly the quality of the pre-potential crisis evidence is vital and this will have to be improved if confidence is to be built up. I would like to see routine evaluation of all crisis-predictive information--by organisation and by context so we know who to listen to and who to block out.

2. Resilience. Great, but what is stopping the linking of development and humanitarian spaces? We have been arguing for this for ever. Development generates risks that need to be anticipated. Humanitarian work knowingly and unknowingly opens and closes pathways for future development. For DFID--at least where it works in more fragile contexts-- the walls between these silos must be torn down. I would urge DFID to think more radically about how it organises itself to do this.

3. Giving aid recipients more choice and voice--great. DFID-- you should do this in your development programmes too.

4. Impact. Nice section, including the lack of drama in reporting a lack of drama. Showing something bad did not happen as a result of action is, at first glance, less compelling than showing something good happened. This tendency needs to be fought tooth and nail.

5. The messages in the HERR offer the potential of good connections with the BAR and the MAR: the bilateral and multilateral aid reviews. It would have been good to have had more connection pre-publication, so it is imperative to make connections now and in the future (see point 2).

In short, good report but it is clear to me that HERR needs HIM: Humanitarian Integration into the Mainstream of development. How to make it happen is another question, but this is a good start.
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Anonymous said...

Nore of these reports focus on grossly inadequate personel strategies of international agencies.

Quick change-over of staff and no follow through, therefore little accountability, is one of the main reasons emergency interventions in many fields, but espcially food security, are so weak. Also too many UN agencies are headed in the field by people who may be brilliant academically or in political circles but are unqualified to manage people.

Lawrence Haddad said...

I would agree that this is one of the elephants in the room...

i think the disconnect between professional advancement and the effectiveness of programmes managed by those individuals is very serious..