Addressing corruption risks in the humanitarian sector requires open and collective engagement

Issued by Transparency International Secretariat

Transparency International today called on all humanitarian actors to strengthen efforts to enhance transparency and accountability in humanitarian responses to ensure humanitarian aid is distributed in a fair and rapid way without corruption. A more open internal and inter-agency dialogue on the risks of corruption in humanitarian operations is key for addressing corruption risks.

The new Collective Resolution to Enhance Accountability and Transparency in Emergencies: Synthesis report, developed in partnership with Humanitarian Outcomes and Groupe URD, compares the challenges that humanitarian aid actors face in four different complex humanitarian contexts: protracted conflicts in Afghanistan and Somalia, sudden onset disasters such as the Ebola crisis in Guinea, and the response to the Syrian refugee crisis in Lebanon.

The study shows that corruption risks exist across the entire programme cycle of humanitarian aid with slightly different emphasis depending on the context and nature of the response as well as the type of actors involved. Where high levels of insecurity exist, risks include the process of negotiating conditions for access, identifying local partners, and the selection and targeting of aid recipients. Other more common risks include procurement, especially in the awarding and pricing of contracts, and human resources, particularly nepotism and cronyism in recruitment.

Across all contexts, there were challenges in engaging with the affected population, which impacts the type of information an organisation might receive on the quality of programmes and the related risks of corruption, including gate-keeping, favouritism and other forms of abuse.

These practices are not specific to a particular type of organisation (national or international). Humanitarian resources are not only diverted by governmental actors and national NGOs, but also as a result of the practices of international agencies.  

While commendable and important initiatives to reduce corruption risks and improve aid integrity are being implemented, there is a need to re-double efforts. A collective, strategic effort to bring about change as well as more open and frank discussions at global and country levels on corruption risks are necessary. In particular, Transparency International makes the following recommendations:

Humanitarian aid agencies should:

Donor agencies should:

Inter-donor and inter-agency fora should:

Host governments should:


Note to editors: Click here to download the full report. Funded by the European Commission's humanitarian aid department, this report is part of a series of four case studies looking at corruption risks in the delivery of humanitarian assistance in complex emergencies as well as recommendations on how to prevent corruption. Case studies on Somalia, Guinea, Afghanistan and Lebanon are available online.

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