From rethoric to reality: the need to regulate humanitarian accountability to beneficiaries

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Soto, Miguel
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The impact of the Joint Evaluation of Emergency Assistance to Rwanda was considerable in raising awareness among the humanitarian community on the necessity to adopt quality standards and principles in their performance and be accountable to their beneficiaries. Quality and accountability standards have been widely integrated into the policies of humanitarian organisations. However, humanitarian organisations’ performance has not always reflected compliance with these commitments, and thus, sometimes they have caused serious harm to the people whose suffering they intend to alleviate. This was the case in the 2002 scandal of sexual exploitation and abuse of refugee girls and women by aid workers in West Africa. The humanitarian community is well aware of its accountability deficit to its beneficiaries; however, there is not much consensus on how to fill this gap between rhetoric and reality. Is it by including specific standards in order to strengthen accountability to beneficiaries? Or by supporting technically and strategically humanitarian organisations to be accountable to their beneficiaries? Is it by creating a ‘watchdog’ organisation with the power to monitor, evaluate and sanction their non-compliance with this responsibility? Or is it by letting humanitarian organisations self-regulate their performance regarding accountability to their beneficiaries? Considering these issues, the author analyses the advantages and disadvantages of each solution. One thing is for certain, though, in emergency situations there is an imbalance of power between humanitarian actors and their intended beneficiaries. Thus, with power comes responsibility and with responsibility comes accountability
Second semester University: Ruhr-University Bochum.
accountability, armed forces, United Nations, human rights violations, humanitarian assistance, humanitarian intervention, peacekeeping forces