Mission Impossible? Meeting Donor Demands and Beneficiary Needs in Nongovernmental Humanitarian Aid Projects

Wednesday, 13 July 2016: 11:11
Location: Seminar 31 (Juridicum)
Oral Presentation
Liesbet HEYSE, University of Groningen, Netherlands
Fernando NIETO MORALES, El Colegio de México, Mexico
In the past decade, budgets for development and humanitarian aid have come under pressure due to decreasing confidence of governments and the public in the effectiveness of aid programs. Nevertheless, there are substantial humanitarian needs with over 60 million refugees worldwide. The challenge of providing humanitarian aid quickly, effectively and appropriately thus remains. The question is if and how this can be best achieved, despite difficult operational circumstances such as security risks and political obstruction. This paper is one of the first to investigate whether and in what circumstances international humanitarian aid NGOs have been able to perform well in humanitarian crises in the past. We apply a reputational approach to humanitarian project performance by asking to what extent humanitarian aid INGOs have met criteria of donor appropriateness and beneficiary appropriateness. Appropriateness is defined as the extent to which aid activities are suited to the priorities of either donor or target groups/recipients. It is often assumed that a) meeting criteria of both donor and beneficiary appropriateness  creates management tensions; b) donor demands are often dominant; and c) meeting donor demands might go at the expense of meeting beneficiary needs. We develop a theoretical framework based on the competing values framework by Cameron and Rohrbaugh. We reason that meeting beneficiary needs requires an organizational focus on flexibility, reflected in a strong internal focus on HRM and a strong external focus on local actors and needs, whereas meeting donor needs requires an organizational focus on control, reflected in a strong internal focus on planning, financial management and information systems and a strong external focus on donors and issues of accountability. We employ Qualitative Comparative Analysis on a subset of 90 manually coded evaluation reports comprising of evaluator statements about humanitarian aid project performance as documented in the Humanitarian Genome (see www.humanitariangenome.org).