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Mapping the Risks of Corruption in Humanitarian Action

2006 — By Pete Ewins, Paul Harvey, Kevin Savage, Alex Jacobs

The issue of corruption in emergency relief and rehabilitation is a key concern for practitioners, who invest considerable resources and energy in trying to minimise it. However, it has barely been discussed in policy terms, and little researched. This paper aims to map the risks of corruption in the provision of humanitarian relief as an important step in helping the humanitarian community to further its existing efforts to combat corruption. As Pope (2000: xiv) argues, the obvious first step in anti-corruption efforts is to ‘gain an understanding of the underlying causes, loopholes and incentives which feed corrupt practices at any level’. The costs of corruption in humanitarian relief effectively mean lives lost, not just loss of profits or lower growth. Humanitarian actors, therefore, have an obligation to take the issue seriously and make every effort to minimise the risks that humanitarian aid will be corruptly diverted.

This report examines the risk of corruption in humanitarian action. It lays out where different risks may lie within the complex system of delivery and contracts that forms the basis of humanitarian assistance. Breaking down typical models of assistance by setting out the various elements of the process in tabular form, it attempts to map where various types of corruption exist, and to show the key components of such risks. In doing so, the report aims to enable the development of more specific corruption risk maps for particular contexts, and to point to the various types of tools and methods that need to be developed in order to minimise corruption. An all-encompassing map that identifies so many risks may misleadingly give a disheartening impression of humanitarianism. The risk map shows only where risks of corruption may lie, not that corruption always occurs.