LONDON, Feb 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The humanitarian sector lacks creativity and must innovate to deliver more value for money, officials said on Monday, amid fears of a funding shortfall following the Oxfam sex scandal.
Aid groups must make better use of technology - from cash transfer programmes to drones - to improve the delivery of services, said a panel of government officials in London.
“For far too long, when faced with a challenge, we’ve looked inward and crafted a solution that doesn’t work for the communities we’re meant to serve,” said Mark Green, head of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
“Be it in London or (Washington) D.C., we humanitarians are way behind in terms of creativity,” he added.
Green was speaking at an event hosted by the Overseas Development Institute, a think-tank, to launch the Humanitarian Grand Challenge, an initiative by the U.S., British and Canadian governments to promote innovation across the aid sector.
Britain’s aid minister Penny Mordaunt said aid groups must learn from communities’ and the private sector’s creativity in addressing challenges including climate shocks and malnutrition.
Mordaunt cited innovations such as cash transfer programmes – whereby recipients receive cash electronically rather than aid provisions – as one way to deliver humanitarian aid better, faster and cheaper, while also giving communities autonomy.
Other promising technologies include gathering data on mobile phones and the use of drones to determine where the most urgent needs are in humanitarian crises, according to Mordaunt.
Green said the United States had spent $8 billion on aid in 2017, of which 80 percent went to services in conflict zones.
“Less than 1 percent of that money however went into innovations and ways to improve the delivery of aid services.”
British charity Oxfam has come under fire this month over sexual misconduct accusations against its staff in Haiti and Chad which have threatened its UK government and EU funding.
Several industry experts have warned that the backlash against Oxfam could drive charities to cover up cases of sex abuse for fear of losing support and funding from the public, donors and governments. (Reporting by Zoe Tabary @zoetabary, Editing by Robert Carmichael and Kieran Guilbert. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)