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The World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 represented a turning point for the humanitarian business model. The summit gave the impetus to reflect seriously on how to operate in crisis environments where people’s needs can no longer be met by existing tools and operations. The humanitarian community took stock of the changing nature of crises in the world, and the growing inadequacy of the current humanitarian and development business models to operate in these contexts.

The summit was to be the starting point of a transformation to the existing model. Initiatives such as the Grand Bargain, an agreement between donors and operating agencies to improve the quality of the overall aid package, offer tangible ways to improve the effectiveness of the response in crisis contexts.

One way to measure the effectiveness of humanitarian assistance is to survey aid beneficiaries on what they think about the aid they get, and also to ask humanitarian providers in the field about their perception of the aid they provide. To achieve this, in 2016 the OECD partnered with Ground Truth Solutions, an organisation that specialises in getting feedback from affected populations in crisis contexts.

Six contexts were selected, presenting different types of crises. Haiti was recovering from Hurricane Matthew in 2016. Lebanon is a middle-income country that for more than seven years has been hosting the world’s biggest refugee population per capita. Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan are all experiencing protracted crises of different kinds, but have both emergency and recovery needs for their displaced and resident populations. Uganda is a low-income country with its own development needs, and is hosting a large refugee population.

A first round of surveys was conducted in 2016 in these six countries. The survey used a questionnaire designed in consultation with the Grand Bargain facilitation group and developed to broadly follow the Grand Bargain structure. Two years after the World Humanitarian Summit, the OECD and Ground Truth Solutions conducted another round of surveys in the same countries, as well as in Bangladesh – a lower middle-income country that has been hosting a refugee population since 2017, and where the international humanitarian response still in the initial phase.

This three-year project, generously supported by Germany and the United Kingdom, creates a direct link between the most vulnerable people in the most fragile countries and Development Assistance Committee members, who represent the main source of funding for humanitarian responses. These surveys offer a unique source of knowledge and an opportunity to increase effectiveness so that donors’ investments bring better results for those who need most help in these complex situations. While the surveys show some positive trends and satisfaction rates, they also raise challenges. Based on the surveys’ findings and additional research, the project is a call to speed up efforts to change the way the international community responds to crises.

The OECD will continue to support better policies and better finance for people living in fragile and crisis contexts. This will include work to support changes to the current humanitarian business model.

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