TEDxGenevaChange – Katharina Samara Wickrama on “Accountable Aid”

Watch Katharina Samara Wickrama’s talk on “Accountable Aid” recorded at the TEDxGenevaChange event.

Is humanitarian aid repeatedly failing to be accountable? To what extent should communities be involved in designing their own humanitarian aid programmes and measuring success? Should humanitarian responders hold themselves accountable for ensuring the delivery of quality assistance? How much money could be saved? And how many unwanted yoga mats???

If you have any comments on this talk, please share them on the talk’s YouTube webpage, we would love to see a discussion going!


About the speaker: Katharina is an expert in the field of humanitarian accountability, particularly responding to sexual abuse and exploitation of beneficiaries by humanitarian workers. She began her career as a lawyer but has spent the last twenty years in the humanitarian field, first at UNHCR then as the Coordinator of Building Safer Organizations (BSO) project. In 2007, Katharina brought BSO to the Humanitarian Accountability Project (HAP) and took on the responsibilities of Regulatory Services Director (managing social audits of humanitarian organizations) before being appointed HAP’s Executive Director (interim) in 2010. She is presently NHRP Phase II Project Coordinator at ICVA, the International Council of Voluntary Agencies. The NHRP project is implementing practical ways to bring the national and international NGO voice to the UN-led humanitarian reform process, recognising that civil society has a key role in responding effectively to crisis.

2 replies
  1. CurleyUS
    CurleyUS says:

    I wish my first instict could be correct, that "warlords" etc prevent effective aid to African countries, but to whatever extent this isn't to totally untrue steriotype. In discussions with worldly and experienced people, they say that overpopulation is the big issue. Intellectually I would bring them to the point where they would say, we can't feed them because then they'll have more kids. This is despicable and unacceptable to me. We must all rally to help the people who starve to death every day. Accountable aide appears to require a pairing with planned parenthood, a whole bag of worms in this overprivilaged country. I absolutely reject that we can't all live happily, it is the hedonistic choices that the minority of us make that don't allow for a global village of peace and prosperity. Thanks so much for blogging on this subject. scottmcurley@gmail.com

  2. katharina
    katharina says:

    I think you raise three distinct and equally relevant points.
    Firstly I agree with you entirely that it is choices fuelled by self interest at national, local and community levels that inhibit development for others.

    Contrary to aid resulting in developing countries producing more children, all the evidence indicates that when aid is directed towards education (particularly of women and girls)the result is decreased population growth, decreased child and maternal mortalilty and improved health and life expectancy. (See Hans Rosling's great TED talk on the issue).

    Finally, I understand donor fear of corruption and diversion of aid in some developing countries, but in reality there are a whole range of reasons that aid deosn't get to the people we want to help and many of those are down to those who have good intentions failing to be accountable. In many locations there are criminal elements who seek to divert aid – just as there are criminal, fraudsters and the like in western countries who use the system for personal and political advantage. I have worked in environments where there were "mafia" style elements who attempted to use threats and violence to divert aid. But there are ways to address this within aid structures and the law. I wonder if we don't just throw our hands up and imply it is too hard because the "system" is unfamiliar when we would respond vigorously herehere in Europe. For example, the current corruption of the Murdoch empire is receiving the treatment and response it deserves. If the players were in an aid reciving country we may well suggest that is an example of a flawed system and therefore avoid responding as robustly and simply walk away ( and then use it as an excuse to cease providing aid).

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