The Humanitarian Relief System is broken. Showcased best by the recent refugee crises in Syria and the Middle East, the UN’s humanitarian relief system simply cannot keep up with extreme crises. Earlier this year, the World Humanitarian Summit met to address and reshape aid efforts. Addressing funding and delivery of aid was a priority agenda item, as officials proposed new ideas to restructure the aid system. Officials concluded that changes must be made in the manner in which traditional donors fund projects, and how field agents operate on the field. According to UN Dispatch, this new approach will be called the “Grand Bargain”, and should be implemented soon enough.

In the UN report by the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, the panel detailed a few staggering statistics. This includes the fact that a mere five countries make up two-thirds of all governmental humanitarian aid funding. Another startling statistic details that over half of that total funding is managed by only a handful of UN Agencies, including UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, and the WHO. This means that a great portion of humanitarian aid lies in the hands of a few organizations. Inefficiencies erupt from the various bureaucratic requirements larger donors usually put forth, requirements that only larger UN organizations can fulfill. Unfortunately UN organizations then tend to focus on their own projects, instead of working in full cooperation with smaller organizations.

image of a tank amidst rubble - edited by corey engelen

The conflict in Syria has illustrated the need for a new international aid system.

“One only has to look at Syria to see why this set up can create more problems than it solves.” In Syria, the Assad regime as well as other belligerents have impeded access to affected communities and refugee camps. Larger UN organizations are not trusted by militants controlling certain areas, and are therefore left with loads of money and little relief to provide. Instead local organizations are responsible for the majority of humanitarian efforts undertaken in Syria.

Lack of consent by Syrian government officials and militants have prevented millions of dollars in aid from entering Syrian hot spots. The numbers are even more depressing, as global donors are only able to channel 0.4 per cent of direct funding into local groups and their efforts. In Syria, local NGO’s, who are maintaining the majority of humanitarian efforts are treated almost as subcontractors, but with minimal resources to address such major concerns.

The “Grand Bargain” aims at reducing some of these inefficiencies. Mitigating tasks between major and local NGO’s is vital, as well as better money management, and increased funding from more global players. Cutting down on the bureaucratic process standing in between aid efforts and struggling communities is essential to bettering the humanitarian system. The Near Network was created recently to address these problems, and has already connected various local NGO’s to major funding sources.

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