Donor Compliance – The more we go to scale and branch out into new financing, the more rigorous the demands of donor compliance will become. This will not be welcome, as we can see from the feedback the UK government receives on its increasingly stringent oversight mechanisms, but rigorous donor compliance is here to stay for three main reasons. First, aid budgets will become harder to defend in an era of populism and therefore donors will need to prove they are spending well and mitigating risk of abuse and scandal. Second, recipient governments will become increasingly interested in how aid is being spent in their own countries and will want evidence that funds are benefiting the target country and not international agencies. Third, people who either voluntarily or through taxes contribute hard earned money to humanitarian efforts, will always have the right to know their money is being spent well, and will choose to support those agencies that can demonstrate that most clearly. So, we are going to have to be great at setting world-class standards on accountability, both at a NS and multilateral level. Data protection – As we get better at compliance, we shall have to get better at data collection, and that means we shall accumulate a whole new set of risks during s2030. The most obvious risk comes from being fined for breaking data protection laws, but the biggest challenge will come from controlling data flows. Aggregated humanitarian data has value: it can be used to predict population movement, to identify irregular migrants and to find people who have just received cash assistance. It is therefore of interest to security services, immigration officials and criminals. So, we are going to have to make ‘do not harm’ a guiding principle of data management. NS can start by having strong data protection systems, but as data is global, there is no national solution. We shall have to be great at working together as a Movement to keep peoples’ information safe.
Listening to people in crisis – Several years have passed since Yves Daccord, the Director General of ICRC, predicted the emergence of a Humanitarian Trip Advisor. It hasn’t happened yet, but I still think he was right and something very like it is around the corner. Whenever I suggest as much to colleagues, I hear a list of ways it could go wrong. Probably it will be messy, but it will still be good news in the long run, because in s2030, community engagement needs to be liberated from the control of the agencies who deliver the services. Listening to people in crisis should be as natural to humanitarian agencies as listening to clients is to businesses, but international aid is structured in such a way that listening can become an afterthought. The people who receive services don’t pay for them, and those who do pay for the services don’t deliver them but outsource to trusted organisations, who then broker the actual front-line delivery through local partners. It is not surprising that the voices of people in crises can be subdued in such a multi-layered form of engagement. It is good news that IFRC is already showing more commitment than ever to community engagement, but the real breakthrough in s2030 will come when accountability is driven from the bottom up.
Leadership development – Twenty years ago, sister NS supporting each other around the world would have put leadership development at the top of their aid agendas. Their budgets would have been full of trainings, branch development, twinning, youth development, peer exchanges and even MBAs. Much of this has withered away in the face of more performance-based management of projects. Leadership development is just too nebulous to fit into a log-frame at anything but an activity level. Yet, it remains the cornerstone for success both for NS and the multilateral system, so it needs to be back on the table in s2030. We need a Red Cross Red Crescent leadership academy that will convene, guide and motivate our NS leaders and heads of ICRC and IFRC delegations – to help them become great at the five points above for a start. This will have to be a brave, no-regrets investment, because lots of the people who would benefit from such an Academy will disappear from the Movement – but great leaders are needed in all walks of life, so this may be our generous offer to wider, civil society; and anyway, even with attrition, the biggest winner will still be the International Red Cross Red Crescent Movement.