Danida's international humanitarian assistance programme: a case study of accountability mechanisms

Working and discussion papers
December 2002
Margie Buchanan-Smith and Ulrik Sørensen Rohde

This paper describes and analyses the formal and informal accountability mechanisms governing the Danish government’s humanitarian assistance programme. It is one of three comparative case studies of bilateral donor agencies, exploring in particular the upward accountability mechanisms that apply to their humanitarian assistance programmes. The two other case studies cover the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Department for International Development (DFID) in the UK.

The paper begins with a brief introduction to Danish humanitarian assistance and some of the key trends over the last five years, as well as an outline of key policy documents.

It then describes different accountability mechanisms:
• parliamentary oversight mechanisms;
• the role of the National Audit Office;
• the Council and Board for International Development Cooperation;
• Danida’s internal accountability framework, ranging from the role of evaluations to accountability mechanisms for NGOs and for UN agencies; and
• informal accountability mechanisms, including the informal influence of Danish NGOs and the influence of the national media

In each case, the accountability mechanisms (both formal and informal) are briefly assessed for their impact and significance. In most cases the formal instruments and procedures for holding Danida accountable are the same for humanitarian assistance as they are for Danish official development assistance (ODA) in general. Where there are significant differences, these are noted.

Key features of Danida as a bilateral donor that are significant to this case study include:
• the relatively small scale of Danish humanitarian assistance compared with other donors, averaging $126 million between 1992 and 1998;
• the overall generosity of Danish development assistance, which has been around 1% of gross domestic product (GDP) in recent years (the percentage has dropped to below 1% under the government elected in November 2001);
• the strong multilateral orientation of Danida’s humanitarian and development assistance, similar to its Nordic neighbours;
• the limited operational capacity within Denmark in humanitarian assistance;1 and the relatively small staff within Danida to manage the humanitarian aid programme.

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