Humanitarian Agencies Urged to Listen Better to Aid Beneficiaries

United Nations agencies and non-governmental organizations engaged in humanitarian work should begin developing and adopting systematic ways to assess whether the beneficiaries of their efforts are satisfied and their needs adequately addressed, an aid expert says.

“Running aid programs without understanding how beneficiaries feel about them is to ignore the simplest test of client satisfaction,” Nicholas van Praag, an adviser to the 2011 World Development Report, says in a blog post in the Guardian’s “Poverty Matters” blog. “It is amazing that donors have been willing to make funding decisions without any customer input for as long as they have.”

A recent review of the U.K. humanitarian response system highlights this need for aid agencies to listen to the people they are helping, van Praag says. 

>> Independent Review Urges Closer Ties Between UK Development, Humanitarian Work

Van Praag notes that several humanitarian aid agencies have already committed to accountability standards, including on publishing their budgets and the results of their work. But this is not enough, he says, explaining that aid agencies should also regularly solicit feedback from their beneficiaries and adequately respond to this feedback.

“Capturing their [beneficiaries] views would complement and give context to conventional data-driven assessments,” van Praag says. “It would ensure that people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection are better served, and that the resources intended to help them are better used.”

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About the author

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.