On the Basis of Humanitarian Need? The Confounding of Operational Decision Making

A central tenet of international humanitarian assistance is to fulfill the needs of a population unmet by the state in time of crisis. As such, a great deal of importance is placed upon how this need is calculated, how the collection of information might be standardized, and how the gathered information might be better shared. Despite this emphasis, it is unclear to what extent this information is used by operational decision makers. Indeed, action on the basis of need is seen as the hallmark of professionalism in the humanitarian community. According to the Humanitarian Charter, “… assistance must be provided according to the principle of impartiality, which requires that it be provided solely on the basis of need and in proportion to need.” Similarly the General Principles of the Good Humanitarian Donorship state that the allocation of funding should be in proportion to needs and on the basis of needs assessment.

January, 2013