Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD)

Since the end of World War II, donors in the development field have worked together to define good practices and promote aid coordination. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), established in the 1960s, provided one of the main forums for this work with the aim of collecting accurate and comparable data reporting by its members on aid to developing countries. DAC comprised a wide range of partners and state actors who agreed on principles and practices to improve the effectiveness of development. In addition, several national governments institutionalized aid delivery mechanisms for development including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), and the Agence Française de Développement (AFD). However, the committee did not address the delivery and effectiveness of humanitarian aid.

As conflicts and natural disasters increased from the end of World War II, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), the Red Cross and United Nations (UN) agencies involved in humanitarian assistance created their own specific guidelines. In the wake of the fractured response to the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, the humanitarian community undertook the important work of defining their responsibilities under international law, and setting standards against which they could be accountable. The outcomes of this work included the Code of Conduct for Disaster Relief and the SPHERE Project (2000). However, the pivotal role of donors in providing effective and accountable humanitarian assistance remained outside the scope of this work.

A meeting organized by the Government of Sweden held in Stockholm in 2003 brought together donor countries, UN agencies, NGOs and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement. The actors agreed on a set of 23 principles and practices of humanitarian which provided a framework to guide humanitarian aid and a mechanism to encourage donor accountability. The overall scope aimed to enhance effectiveness of donor activity to beneficiaries by focusing on funding, coordination, and monitoring and evaluation.

The Stockholm meeting led to the Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) initiative, which provided an informal forum for donors to discuss best practice in humanitarian financing and other shared concerns. Under the GHD framework, participating donors have filled a crucial gap in humanitarian coordination resulting in the consensus of a comprehensive agenda for good humanitarian donor policies and practices, which have now become the norm. The framework has provided a valuable platform for dialogue and an important mechanism for advancing policies and practices.

As a result of the GHD initiative, several outcomes have been achieved through donor efforts with the support of humanitarian partners:

  • A common definition of humanitarian assistance for statistical purposes was developed thus allowing more accurate reflection of humanitarian commitments within the OCHA managed Financial Tracking Service (FTS) and in OECD/DAC statistics. There is now better use of, and support for, global financial tracking systems reflecting more trust in the same;
  • Significant achievements have been made, in partnership with implementing agencies, on the development and use of harmonized reporting;
  • While still posing enormous challenges, there have been concrete steps towards advancing the commitment to, knowledge on, and support for frameworks that allow better needs-based allocations of humanitarian assistance;
  • Predictable and flexible mechanisms for humanitarian financing are now well established including the CERF and various country level pooled funds, and several GHD donors have similarly adapted their mechanisms for financing NGO and Red Cross partners to reflect their GHD commitments;
  • There is now better articulation of humanitarian objectives and policy amongst donors individually and collectively (as per the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid which is clearly aligned with GHD);
  • There is now greater recognition of the role that effective partnerships play in humanitarian response and the GHD framework has provided an important boost to the unique leadership and coordination role played by the UN in humanitarian response;
  • The GHD framework has provided a useful framework for assessing donor performance through the annual Global Humanitarian Assistance reports and via the GHD aligned Humanitarian Assistance Framework within the OECD/DAC’s Peer Review.
  • GHD has served as an important basis upon which donors have shared learning and developed norms for good practice through joint evaluations, commissioned studies, training, and dialogue.

Commitment of donors has increased significantly since GHD’s inception in 2003: 16 countries and the EC endorsed GHD, since July 2010 membership has risen to 37. Although a significant number of issues addressed by the GHD framework are not new, reaching consensus and commitment by more donor countries provides critical support to the overall aim of donor accountability to beneficiaries.

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