Role of Non-traditional Donors in Humanitarian Action: How Much Can They Achieve?

Fig. 7.1
The top three humanitarian aid recipients of selected “non-traditional” and “traditional” donors in 2012 and 2013. Source: Financial Tracking Service, 30.06.2013, No data—when less than three recipient countries indicated in FTS. oPT occupied Palestinian Territories

Analysis of “non-traditional” donors humanitarian flows in a longer time perspective, as undertaken by Development Initiatives (Smith 2011, p. 18), indicates that several countries have a stable position among top recipients of “new” donors’ humanitarian aid, however the majority of recipients appear only once or twice in these statistics, which further compounds the irregular pattern of their decision-making. One of the explanations can be that “new” donors predominantly respond to arising or aggravating crisis situations, notably natural disasters, less frequently focusing on protracted crisis, which require multi-year donor engagement. Although the “traditional” and “non-traditional” donors’ choices of key recipients of humanitarian aid do not seem to converge, it can be noticed in Fig. 7.1 that in 2012 and 2013 the Syria crisis appears to be of particular interest for many representatives of both donors groups.

It can be also noted that United Nations funding priorities, formulated by means of Consolidated Appeals (CAP), are not necessarily indicative for “emerging” donors’ decision making processes, as they tend to provide the bulk of their assistance to recipient countries not covered by the CAP (e.g. Russia’s funding to Central Asia or South Africa’s funding to Cameroon).

The last remark has much to do with another trend of “new” donors’ allocations linked to the channels and modalities of aid. In many of the studied articles it is observed that, with the exception of EU-13 donors, who provide a large portion of their aid through contribution to the EU budget or contributions to the UN agencies, and South Africa, “new” donors generally have a preference for bilateral channels using government-to-government and in-kind aid approaches. The reasons cited in the literature are multifold—e.g. higher visibility of bilateral cooperation, strengthening friendly relations with an affected country through humanitarian assistance or insufficient understanding of multilateral funding instruments.

Working with NGOs and the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movements is very much dependent on a particular “non-traditional” donor country humanitarian aid system. There are examples of exclusion of these partners from humanitarian funding abroad like in India (Meier and Murthy 2011, p. 14). Apart from support through multilateral channels, Czech Republic, Poland and Turkey rely to a significant extent on non-governmental organisations operating in crisis-affected regions and obtaining government funding (e.g. Czech People in Need, Polish Humanitarian Action or Turkish IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation). Furthermore, it is characteristic of Gulf States and Turkey to provide resources to the plethora of Islamic charity organisations, whose achievements and methods of work are mostly unfamiliar to Western actors. Saudi Arabia provides large amounts of funding to the national Red Crescent Society and is capable of mobilising outstanding funds from private sources in Public Campaigns (Al-Yahya and Fustier 2011, pp. 13 and 14).

It is hard to deny that the “new” donors’ preference for bilateral channels is being gradually balanced by the increased involvement of some of them in the multilateral humanitarian system. The UAE seem to be the most prominent example of profound engagement in not only bilateral but also multilateral humanitarian action, both at field and policy level. It is one of very few non-DAC donors present in the donor support mechanisms, i.e. one of three non-DAC donors (along with Russia and Poland) participating in the OCHA Donor Support Group and the only one in the UNHCR Donor Support Group. It organised a series of high-level humanitarian conferences called the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference & Exhibition (DIHAD).

Another example of “non-traditional” donors’ engagement with multilateral humanitarian aid system is presented by Kuwait, which hosted—in cooperation with the United Nations—the International High-Level Humanitarian Pledging Conference for Syria on 30 January 2013. During the conference, Amir of Kuwait, His Highness Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah announced Kuwait’s pledge of US$300 million, which has been duly committed through multilateral channels (including over 90 % of this sum to UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, WHO, ICRC, UNRWA and Syria Emergency Response Fund managed by OCHA), making Kuwait the sixth largest humanitarian donor in the first half of 2013 and the largest non-DAC donor within the same period (OCHA Summary Report).

To some “emerging” donors providing humanitarian aid through UN pooled funds appears to be useful way of responding to an emergency, when they do not possess in-depth knowledge, close relations or diplomatic representation in an affected state. It can also be helpful in avoiding administrative burden connected to the bilateral projects. These might be the reasons for the Haiti Emergency Response Fund being so popular with non-traditional donors in 2010, when such countries as Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Tunisia, and the Republic of Congo featured among the top donors to the pooled fund.

The trend of growing recognition of multilateralism is taking place not only because some “emerging” donors see it as advantageous, but also because of systematic and increasing outreach efforts by international humanitarian agencies as well as established donors to build partnerships with their aspiring counterparts. Endeavours to involve “new” donors include both fundraising by UN agencies and high-level collaboration and policy dialogue. Promotion of international financing mechanisms, such as OCHA-managed pooled funds, has been one of the outreach strategies (Harmer and Martin 2010, p. 9). In particular, the success of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) established by OCHA in 2006 is worth highlighting, as it received support from an exceptionally numerous group of 126 UN Member States. Other attempts to broaden the donor base comprise the creation of liaison offices (e.g. OCHA Gulf liaison office in Abu Dhabi), the organisation of “partnership seminars” (e.g. UN OCHA outreach meeting in Warsaw in 2010), and giving more visibility to “new” donors’ contributions or adjusting geographical representation of the staff.

“Emerging” donors tend to have preferences or prejudices against selected humanitarian organisations, which is not unusual among well-established donor governments either. WFP has succeeded in establishing a very good partnership with Brazil, a “new” donor specialising in food assistance, bringing about a tangible result in the form of The WFP Center of Excellence against Hunger

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