Humanitarian agencies should work harder and more closely together to minimise various forms of corruption that can affect the delivery of emergency aid and harm the reputation of agencies involved, according to a new report.
“The humanitarian community should step up efforts to address corruption and reduce corruptions risks,” according to Preventing Corruption in Humanitarian Assistance , a report by Transparency International, the Feinstein International Center and Tufts University, and the Humanitarian Policy Group at the UK’s Overseas Development Institute.
“There remains little knowledge about the extent or consequences of corruption in humanitarian assistance, little shared knowledge about preventing corruption under emergency circumstances beyond a few standard practices, and a degree of taboo about confronting it publicly,” noted the report, which is based on research involving seven major international non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
The report explains that, contrary to widespread perception, corrupt practices extend well beyond financial misappropriation and include many forms of “abuse of power”, such as cronyism, nepotism, “sexual exploitation and coercion and intimidation of humanitarian staff or aid recipients for personal, social or political gain, manipulation of assessments, targeting and registration to favour particular groups and diversion of assistance to non-target groups”.
The humanitarian community should step up efforts to address corruption and reduce corruptions risks
The report underlined that humanitarian action is particularly vulnerable to corruption, because of the unique nature and context of its delivery. A rapid “burn rate” of expenditure is often expected while “normal physical, administrative, legal and financial infrastructure and services have often been substantially or entirely damaged or destroyed.”
“In many cases,” the report noted, “there may be rapid turnover of supervisory staff, so there is very little accumulated knowledge of the context and very few staff at the supervisory level remain long enough to develop deeper contextual knowledge that could mitigate some of the risk of corruption,” it said.
Based on the research behind the report, Transparency International plans to release a “good practice” handbook in 2009. The report itself recommended that humanitarian agencies take a number of steps to tackle corruption.
These include: making it easier for staff to discuss and report corruption; incorporating the issue into training programmes and into emergency preparedness and disaster risk reduction strategies; ensuring any corruption policies are carried right down to the field and adapted to emergency contexts; increasing information transparency and programme monitoring; and encouraging inter-agency coordination.