AlertNet has published a great new feature on what humanitarian aid is going to look like in the coming years. The core of the AlertNet project is a survey of 41 aid agencies conducted between November and December of 2011. The respondents — often the head of an NGO — were asked about the future need for aid, challenges of delivering aid, aid funding, and aid efficiency. The results of the survey paint a unique picture of what humanitarians see for the aid sector in the future.

Of factors likely to increase the need for humanitarian aid the the coming years one threat stood out: climate related disasters, which received more than double the attention from survey respondents than any other factor. Other important threats: displacement caused by environmental degradation and climate change; urbanization; food price volatility; and the rising number of failed states. Interestingly, non-climate disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis  ranked second to last, just above infrastructure development.

Respondents were also asked to select three factors that will be the biggest challenges to delivering aid in the future. The top factor? The politicization of aid — with 63 percent of respondents selecting it as important. Increasingly complex disasters, shrinking government budgets, and violence against aid workers were selected by 54 percent, 51 percent, and 49 percent of respondents respectively. Surprisingly, the militarization of aid, an issue that has received much attention in recent years, especially in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq was considered important by 37 percent of respondents.

Three of the questions received predictions of significant continuity between now and the future in aid. First, 46 percent of respondents felt that governments would still provide the majority of aid in the future while not a single respondent felt that any significant portion of aid will be funded by an international tax. Second, 78 percent of respondents believed that humanitarian funding would look pretty similar to how it is now, with agencies using a range of sources to finance operations. Third, 56 percent of respondents believed that the U.N. aid system will be just as important in the future as it is today. In contrast, only 17 percent of respondents thought it would be more important and twenty two percent thought it was going to less important.

Finally, the survey shows that aid agencies are overall satisfied with the efficiency of their work. A full 68 percent of the respondents either agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “The international humanitarian aid system delivers value for money.” Overall, the AlertNet survey shows an aid system facing new challenges, particularly around politics and climate change, but still confident of itself and its work.

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