A letter in today’s Financial Times by Caroline Fiennes, David Hall Matthews, Fran Perrin, Vij Ramachandran and me argues that relief efforts could be more effective if humanitarian aid agencies published details of what they are doing.


November 11, 2013 9:48 pm

Co-ordinate aid using existing systems

From Mr Owen Barder and others.
Relief arrives after a typhoon in 2010
Relief arrives after a typhoon in 2010


Sir, International relief is urgently needed in the Philippines following Typhoon Haiyan, and we hope that it will be provided generously and quickly. We also hope that it will be provided effectively: sadly, experience of previous humanitarian disasters is that aid is often badly targeted, such that some efforts are duplicated while other priorities are neglected. For example, after the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, at least one child reportedly suffered the symptoms of measles because she had been vaccinated three times by three different organisations.

Co-ordination among government aid agencies and non-governmental organisations is possible but doesn’t happen by magic nor by committee. If all agencies publish details of their planned and actual activities in real time, in an open, machine-readable format, these collisions can be avoided, and transparency gives donors confidence that their money is used where it is most needed. There are existing frameworks for sharing this information, including the International Aid Transparency Initiative, the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ financial tracking system and the European disaster response information system. We ask and hope that all humanitarian relief organisations use them.

Owen Barder, Center for Global Development; Co-creator, IATI
Caroline Fiennes, Giving Evidence
David Hall-Matthews, Publish What You Fund
Fran Perrin, Chair, Publish What You Fund and The Indigo Trust
Vijaya Ramachandran, Center for Global Development

Published by Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and

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