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Need and greed: corruption risks, perceptions and prevention in humanitarian assistance

September 2018 — By Sarah Bailey

Emergency environments present unique corruption risks for agencies operating within them. Relief is delivered amidst weak or absent rule of law, endemic corruption and immense need. The capacities of governments and humanitarian agencies to assist affected people are stretched to the limit, and agencies are under pressure to intervene rapidly. Assistance is injected into resource-poor settings where powerful people have disproportionate control over resources. In the case of armed conflicts, predatory economies often develop when influential groups attempt to direct these resources for their own ends. This paper explores corruption and its implications for humanitarian action and argues that the humanitarian imperative of saving lives and alleviating suffering is compatible with using time and resources to minimise corruption risks.