Defining humanitarian assistance

Humanitarian assistance is intended to save lives, alleviate suffering and maintain human dignity during and after man-made crises and disasters caused by natural hazards, as well as to prevent and strengthen preparedness for when such situations occur.  Humanitarian assistance should be governed by the key humanitarian principles of: humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. These are the fundamental principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (RCRC), which are reaffirmed in UN General Assembly resolutions and enshrined in numerous humanitarian standards and guidelines. In this report, when used in the context of financing data, humanitarian assistance refers to the financial resources for humanitarian action.

There is no universal obligation or system for reporting expenditure on international or domestic humanitarian assistance. The main reporting platforms for international humanitarian assistance are the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD’s) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s Financial Tracking Service (FTS). The 29 OECD DAC members are obligated to report their humanitarian assistance to the DAC systems as part of their official development assistance (ODA), in accordance with definitions set out by the DAC. Some other governments and most major multilateral organisations also voluntarily report to the DAC. The FTS is open to all humanitarian donors and implementing agencies to voluntarily report contributions of internationally provided humanitarian assistance, according to an agreed set of criteria for inclusion.

The analysis in the latest GHA report draws on data reported to the OECD DAC, as well as that reported to the FTS. Between these sources there is variation in the criteria for what can be included as humanitarian assistance, as well as volumes reported, so we aim to consistently explain and source the data that we use.