The 2010 monsoon floods in Pakistan started as a disaster in the mountainous north west of the country before becoming a national catastrophe. The flash flooding in the foothills of the Hindu Kush happened all too suddenly but the progressive inundation of the Indus valley happened over a period of weeks. The spreading floods were aptly described as a slow-motion tsunami. More than 12 million people saw their homes damaged or destroyed.
Download or browse the Annual Report here.
The concerns some commentators expressed about how issues of security and corruption might affect people’s willingness to give proved unfounded. The UK public donated an extraordinary £71m to the Pakistan Floods Appeal. These concerns did however make it more important than ever that the DEC was transparent about how the money was spent. Helping 1.8 million people within six months of the floods starting was a significant achievement in difficult circumstances but we must be open about the challenges we faced. This report, as well as changes incorporated in our new website, will ensure we continue to make this kind of information not just available but increasingly accessible.
With this greater transparency also comes greater accountability. When the DEC decided not to launch an appeal for Japan, it did not simply issue a statement but discussed its position with concerned would-be donors. This conversation happened in public through social media, as well as through the more usual exchange of emails and letters. The decision did not hinge on whether people in Japan needed help—they clearly did. The question was rather who was best placed to efficiently and effectively provide the vast bulk of that assistance. Overwhelmingly, it was the Japanese government that led the response. Most of our member agencies required little additional funding because, with the exception of the Red Cross, they were delivering specialised and small scale responses.
Accountability to donors is hugely important in maintaining trust. Arguably though our accountability to those we are seeking to help is even more important. Listening carefully to people caught up in emergencies allows our member agencies to deliver better aid. It is also essential if those hit by disasters are to maintain their dignity and return to self sufficiency by rebuilding their own lives. Ensuring this second kind of accountability happens is a key part of our monitoring and evaluation processes. Its importance was also one of the key findings of the Humanitarian Emergency Response Review by Lord Ashdown. The report produced by the review was published by the Department for International Development as the financial year ended.
In Haiti, where the DEC has funded help to 1.8 million people, one of the key recommendations of our independent evaluation was the importance of trying to work with governments wherever possible. In a place like Haiti, this can actually slow down an emergency response and often means having to tackle issues of capacity or corruption. The advantage is that it means our member’s efforts are far more likely to have a lasting impact. Our increasing ability to talk directly to donors online means that for those who are interested there is an opportunity to learn about these kinds of challenges and complexities.
I joined the DEC as chair as the 2011—12 financial year began. My career as an ITV executive means however that I am already well aware of the ways in which changes in communications technology are affecting organisations like the DEC and traditional media alike. The speed at which news stories now move is one of the reasons the DEC must respond ever more quickly when disaster strikes. It is only in this way that we will be able to continue to seize the moment when the public are ready to give.
There is much that has impressed me about the work of the DEC and its members and I am grateful to my predecessor, Mike Walsh, for his part in making this so. The UK aid agencies that are our members are world leaders in the work that they do but as Lord Ashdown made clear in his report there are opportunities for them to strengthen that leadership: by continuing to build their partnerships in the countries where they work; by preparing for disasters as well as reacting to them, and by leaving the communities in which we work stronger and better able to cope with future disasters.
You can download the report or browse it online here.