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The need for improved humanitarian accountability

The humanitarian system is constantly changing. There are multiple stakeholders involved at different levels from local to national and global, and new ones are emerging all the time, sometimes visibly, sometimes unnoticed. Context is everything with two emergencies in the same region or district, but several years apart, potentially sharing some similarities but likely to be fundamentally different in terms of impact, needs and stakeholder engagement.

Within an emergency, different humanitarian agencies provide a range of specialist technical inputs from non-food items and cash, to health, water and sanitation and shelter. Other considerations such as gender, inclusion and protection, are either being mainstreamed in their approaches, or often supported by technical experts.

Climate change, urbanisation and technological advances present new challenges (and some opportunities) alongside more established challenges from poverty, inequality, power imbalances and the effects of globalisation (CHS Alliance 2018).

For an analysis of the humanitarian trends in general, review UNOCHAs World Humanitarian Data and Trends (2017). This is a very detailed analysis from the heart of the humanitarian system and it highlights progress against the UN Agenda for Humanity core responsibilities, targeted at world leaders. (UNOCHA 2017)

Your task

Look at pages 2-3 of the UNOCHA World Humanitarian Data and Trends (2017) paper, which cover the five core responsibilities put forward by the United Nations Secretary General as part of the new Agenda for Humanity. As you read about these responsibilities, consider the following:

  • Who the audience is for this document?

  • How clearly are the different aspects of humanitarian accountability represented here (or elsewhere in the report)?

  • What is missing?

If you have time, quickly review the remainder of the report and consider what trends and developments are identified that will likely have a significant impact on the humanitarian system if it does not change.


UNOCHA (2017) World Humanitarian Data and Trends 2017. New York: OCHA [online] available from https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/WHDT2017_Final_Singles.pdf [11 December 2018]

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This article is from the free online course:

Disaster Management and Accountability

Coventry University