Effective Humanitarian Governance

This paper argues that humanitarian system reform should extend to governance. Governing institutions—such as member state boards of multilateral organizations, and NGO boards of directors—have tremendous influence over the strategic direction of individual institutions and the sector writ large. But governing bodies of humanitarian organizations and system-wide governance are exclusive, organizing power and influence around a few governments, organizations, and individuals. There are few entry points for aid agencies’ downstream clients, or for host governments with the willingness and capacity to take the lead in disaster response. Moving toward a sector where mission effectiveness is measured through partnerships rather than agency capabilities, and outcomes rather than fundraising totals, will depend on governance bodies that promote and monitor those priorities. This will require more direct representation of the views of communities affected by crises in governing bodies, in the relationships between donors and their partners, and in supporting national and local humanitarian governance in countries that have demonstrated their ability to lead the response to disasters impartially. Multistakeholder platforms at the global and country level should be established to align behind common needs assessments and policy directions, and to mobilize and align resources accordingly. Finally, assessing collective effectiveness should become an independent function systematically deployed alongside humanitarian operations, directly informing governing structures, donors, and the public.

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