An ombudsman for humanitarian assistance?

Mitchell, J. and Doane, D.
Publication language
Date published
29 Aug 2023
Accountability to affected populations (AAP), humanitarian action

The early phases of a project to design and make operational an ombudsman for humanitarian assistance (HAO) are described in this paper. Beginning with a brief historical overview of the ombudsman concept, it then outlines seven key features of a potential HAO that were identified in the initial feasibility study. The main conclusion from the feasibility study was that, in principle, it is possible to design an HAO by adapting the operational frameworks of existing ombudsman schemes so as to match the needs of the humanitarian sector. Although this seems possible in theory, there still remain some major challenges requiring practical testing in a pilot phase. The most fundamental of these is how to enable the beneficiaries of aid to make their voices heard and register their views on the management of the emergency that is affecting them. Important also, are the issues of ensuring an international jurisdiction and finding sustainable ways of financing the scheme. Finally, the paper alludes to the framework of the pilot itself and how to address the main challenges ahead.