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‘Change or die’: aid charities told to stop competing for funds or face extinction

Article published on The Guardian website on 07/28/2017 by Karen McVeigh

As global power and resources shift away from traditional bastions, researchers warn major aid organisations will be sidelined by 2030 unless they change tack.

Big aid charities must “change or die” over the next 15 years, according to a report that urges a major shift in focus and an end to rivalry.

The organisations must be prepared to challenge their vested interests and the growing competition for funds, and change their structures, or they will not survive, says the analysis by a consortium of institutions and aid groups.

The shift in power and resources from the northern hemisphere to the global south could render international aid organisations irrelevant by 2030, by when, the report predicts, 46% of people will live in countries affected by fragility, conflict or violence.

“The coming 15 years will be characterised by increasing crises, mass migration, inequality and natural disasters,” said Jean-Michel Grand, chief executive of Action Against Hunger, one of the groups behind the report. “To meet these needs, planning must start now – and it requires a rethink.

“It is certain that for the crises that impact us over the next 15 years, there will be humanitarian responders. But without concerted efforts to evolve, INGOs [international non-government organisations] will be sidelined by more efficient, adaptable actors – from the private sector, religious groups, local civil society and armed forces.”

The report, The Future of Aid: INGOS in 2030, recommended that INGOs review their governance structures. With many emergencies likely to last for a decade or more – as the crises in Somalia, South Sudan, Syria and Iraq indicate – organisations should be better prepared to operate over the long haul, said the report’s authors.

The study also highlighted growing protectionist, nationalist policies in the west, which the authors said would lead to a decline in the relevance of global governance institutions.

The report’s key finding was that a growing politicisation of humanitarian crises and a power shift from north to south will create a preference for localised aid. The increasing number of humanitarian actors, including military and religious groups, has “blurred the definition” of humanitarian groups, said the Inter-Agency Regional Analysts Network (IARAN), which produced the report and is led by Action Against Hunger and Iris, the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs.

“Arguably, this has eroded the perceived neutrality of humanitarian actors and has in turn led to the violent targeting of humanitarian workers worldwide.”

Pascal Boniface, the director of Iris, said: “In a time of rapid and far-reaching global change, the need for a global vision and a long-term approach has never been more evident. The report produced by the IARAN provides valuable input to help address this essential challenge through to 2030.”

Read the report

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