Natural disasters are intensifying, warring parties are trying to exert more control over aid groups, and reporters and other observers are stepping up their criticism of how relief organizations operate after emergencies.
Those are among the central challenges facing humanitarian organizations, as outlined in a new report, “At a Crossroads: Humanitarianism for the Next Decade,” released by the U.K. branch of the aid group Save the Children.
To respond, donors need to recognize that climate change, population growth, and urbanization mean that more people are vulnerable to natural disasters, the report says. It urges donors to support efforts to protect communities from natural disasters and help aid groups strengthen their ability to respond.
Political and societal trends, such as the fight against terrorism and the involvement of the military in providing humanitarian relief, endanger aid groups’ independence and impartiality, the report says. It recommends that nonprofits do a better job of training employees in how to remain impartial during a crisis.
The report also grapples with growing criticism of aid groups and how they operate. Humanitarian groups are being battered by criticism over a lack of coordination in Haiti, the report says, and over choices they have made in war zones such as Afghanistan.
One way to respond, the report says, would be for aid groups to become more professionalized. Standards exist now for aid workers, such as an international code of conduct. But perhaps more needs to be done, the report says. It suggests creating an international professional organization for aid workers and developing a certification system. The report also urges aid groups to be more open about how they spend donations.