Saving lives: fighting corruption in humanitarian assistance

Saving lives: fighting corruption in humanitarian assistance

Humanitarian assistance is a lifeline that brings food, shelter and other basic services to people who need it most. Whether war, famine or natural disaster, corruption in humanitarian work can mean the difference between life and death.

Relief is delivered in challenging environments, in the midst of conflict and where natural disasters have stretched or overwhelmed national capacities.

The injection of large amounts of resources into resource-poor economies where institutions have been damaged or destroyed increases the opportunities for the abuse of power. There is often pressure to disburse aid rapidly, and there are immense organisational challenges in suddenly expanding the scope and scale of programme delivery.

Often the countries in which the majority of humanitarian aid is delivered already suffer from high-levels of corruption prior to an emergency.

Corruption is not only confined to financial mismanagement and fraud. Power can also be abused in many other ways, such as nepotism/cronyism, sexual exploitation and the diversion of aid resources to non-target groups, causing disastrous and long-term effects on the humanitarian mission.

More than 30 per cent of development aid failed to reach its ‘final destination’ due to corruption.

– UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon

 

An estimated 102 million people need humanitarian assistance, but corruption means many people who most need help miss out.

What can be done?

Detecting and preventing corruption in relief processes is critical for relief efforts to have the maximum effect and truly help those in need.

Transparency International’s Handbook of Good Practice: Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Operations offers a menu of best practice tools for preventing and detecting corruption in humanitarian operations.

Developed together with seven humanitarian aid agencies, it covers policies and procedures for transparency, integrity and accountability, and shows how to tackle corruption risks from procurement and transport to human resource management and accounting. 

While the effect of a single diversion of relief goods may not even show up in aid agency accounts, it can be devastating for the person or family for whom the relief resources can make the difference between survival and starvation, dignity or desperation.”

– Roslyn Hees, co-author of the Handbook for Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Operations

The handbook has been revised to address different challenges facing the sector and new ways of delivering humanitarian aid that have emerged in the past few years. New tools look at: Communication with Disaster-Affected Communities; Reputation Management; Remote Management; Cash as an Alternative; Construction and Reconstruction; and Information and Communication Technology. 

Aimed at managers and staff of humanitarian agencies, both at headquarters and in the field who work on the front line of aid delivery, the handbook can also be used to help governments understand the problems inherent in aid delivery and take steps to address them.

Transparency International Norway is working together with the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to develop online (and offline) training modules for humanitarian agency staff based on the handbook.

Humanitarian Aid Integrity Network

Transparency International’s Humanitarian Aid Integrity Network, led by Transparency International Kenya, engages with and provides relevant support and training to governments, humanitarian aid providers and affected populations.

Transparency International Kenya is currently testing a complaint mechanism that provides affected populations with a coordinated system to report any grievances, including corruption, in the delivery of aid and basic services.

Implemented together with 40 partners from state institutions, county governments, international and local humanitarian agencies, the mechanism also acts as a referral system to all humanitarian aid providers involved and is accessible via the internet, SMS and in person. By training men and women at the local level to become social auditors and conduct social accountability assessments enables these communities to monitor aid delivery and report suspected corruption. Download the handbook here.

For any press enquiries please contact press@transparency.org

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