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What needs to change in disaster interventions?

It is widely accepted that the humanitarian sector has some key issues to address:

  • The power is held by a small number of large international institutions
  • Humanitarian action is often reactive and slow to reach people in need
  • Too many rules make it hard for aid agencies to be flexible (Start Network, 2018, p. 11)

The Global Humanitarian Assistance Report (Development Initiatives, 2015, p. 5) found that in 2014 only 0.2% of humanitarian funds were allocated directly to local actors. We’ve seen how engaging locally and adapting to meet local needs improves the targeting and effectiveness of disaster interventions.

Disaster risk reduction interventions have come in for less criticism than humanitarian action, but DRR also exhibits weaknesses. There can be limited access to long-term funding, and weak local needs assessments mean priorities and objectives of interventions are poorly conceived and the baseline for evaluation is poorly defined. As with humanitarian interventions, DRR suffers from the imposition of external ‘rules’ that may prevent interventions from effectively meeting the evolving and dynamic needs of local people.

These challenges clearly have implications for evaluation and accountability. The later courses in this master’s module focus on how operational organisations working to reduce and manage disaster risk can perform most effectively to deliver better interventions.

The capacity implications of better evaluation and increased accountability across the disaster sector have been seen in the growth of international financial and audit teams, technical advisers and rapid deployment surge teams. However, to align to the aspirations of the Agenda for Humanity (2018), much more attention needs to be given to extending the capacity of local organisations.


Development Initiatives. (2015). Global humanitarian assistance report 2015. https://devinit.org/resources/gha-report-2015/

Start Network. (2018). Start Network annual report 2018: A new era of humanitarian action. https://reliefweb.int/report/world/start-network-annual-report-2018-new-era-humanitarian-action

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This article is from the free online course:

Disaster Interventions and the Need for Evaluation, Accountability and Learning

Coventry University