Caution: Aid Re-Construction Zone
With problems on the rise ‘at home’, criticism of foreign aid is stronger than ever. At the same time, humanitarian needs are growing, and far outpacing the funding requirements and government commitments needed to address the short- and long-term consequences of crises. What lies in store for aid organisations?
21 septembre 2017
The IARAN (Interagency Regional Analysts Network) recently published a report on the future of the aid sector to 2030. The study looks at the sector from a bird’s eye view – identifying 24 trends, outlining 4 scenarios, and grouping likely crises into 9 categories. Through this analysis it is clear that traditional aid organisations are inadequately equipped to deal with the crises and environmental challenges of tomorrow. The report serves as a wake-up call, but also as a practical manual, for organisations willing to anticipate and adapt in order to survive through to 2030.
Road blocks ahead
The next 13 years will see an increase in humanitarian needs. In certain parts of the world, fragility and vulnerability will intersect, making life for many harder than ever before. Regions facing protracted crises today will be on the frontline of climate change. Its associated issues: natural disasters, water scarcity, land degradation, conflict over resources, uncontrolled population growth, rapid urbanisation, dire poverty and food insecurity, power vacuums at governance levels, and arguably most importantly, widespread and protracted violent conflict—will further weaken these states, contributing to an expanding refugee crisis. We have only seen the tip of a growing iceberg in 2017.
In an era of widespread interconnectedness, the threat of past, present and future diseases loom. In donor nations, significant inequality, radicalisation and terrorist attacks will continue to increase, and as a result, developed nations will likely continue to turn in on themselves, favouring nationalist parties, protectionist policies and decreased foreign aid.
Conventional humanitarian organisations are unaware of how the sector is rapidly changing. The private sector is encroaching (efficiently), military organisations are increasingly involved in aid delivery, humanitarian workers are being violently targeted, religious NGOs are gaining a market share, new donors and ways of giving are shaking things up, and traditional humanitarian principles are increasingly being challenged by non-traditional humanitarians. Intended beneficiaries also far outpace humanitarians in their use of ground-breaking, efficient and cost-effective technology.
Though it may seem so, the outlook isn’t unavoidably bleak. The aid sector is today at a critical juncture: it can acknowledge the change taking place and seize opportunities in order to build a more inclusive and effective system for the future.
If it’s broke, fix it.
3 words for large international aid organisations: localise, optimise and strategize.
If International Non-governmental Organisations (INGOs) mean what they say—existing solely to work themselves out of job—then they should live by this. However, they probably thought that working themselves out of a job would mean the world’s problems were solved, not that other actors would side-line them. Parts of their job are already done better by other types of organisations – private companies, the military, crowdfunding platforms, citizens’ solidarity movements, local responders, faith-based organisations and diaspora communities.
Decentralise, truly shift power to local staff and local entities. Stop being top-down. Act as an equal to ‘implementing partners’, by putting them in the lead; and move support functions (e.g.: logistics hubs) closer to crises.
INGOs also need to think about what they’re really good at, and focus on that. INGOs have a huge amount of skills and experience that they can contribute to the system, like any good business, organisations should analyse what they do best, and do more of that, better. If it’s fundraising or advocacy, then energy should be focused there. If it’s technical know-how, invest. If it’s an unglamorous support function, then humanitarians of the future will have to live with a life less extraordinary. If there isn’t an added value, be humble, shut shop.
And most importantly, organisations must look ahead. What’s coming your way? If you’ve thought about this, you’ll be more ready. Investing in the future is the only way to see what’s coming around the bend, and adapt.