Special Lecture: "Accountability in Humanitarian Aid"
On Thursday, June 6th, 2018, a special lecture by Ms. Jessica Alexander was held at Kinugasa Campus, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, hosted by the University's Graduate School of International Relations (GSIR) and Institute of International Relations and Area Studies (IIRAS). Ms. Alexander is a humanitarian aid professional whose career includes deployments all over the world, with experience in large-scale evaluations, assessments and policy research, as well as the author of “Chasing Chaos: My Decade In and Out of Humanitarian Aid”. She is currently staying in Japan to research Japan's approach to disaster risk reduction on a Fulbright fellowship.
Ms. Alexander's lecture, titled "Accountability in Humanitarian Aid", started off by providing a snapshot of the humanitarian aid system as well as the looming fiscal crunch in light of the plateauing of donor funding, which—coupled by contemporary demands posed by increased media coverage, government regulations and past scandals—factored into the pressures for accountability revolution as part of the larger drive to professionalize humanitarian aid. Subsequent findings uncovered by systematic evaluations suggests that humanitarian aid was in dire need to get things right by putting more efforts to get in touch with the real needs of aid recipients—downward accountability—in addition to the upward accountability towards donors. This proves to be a difficult endeavor however, due to the systemic and logistical barriers which precludes humanitarian aid workers from identifying the needs and concerns of aid recipients. Regardless, Ms. Alexander asserted that communication, involvement of locals and consideration towards local culture—especially in needs assessment and strategic planning—are vital, and that innovative steps such as the use of social media platform and big data are being taken to improve the accountability of humanitarian aid moving forward.
Overall, Ms. Alexander’s lecture was a thought-provoking divulgence into the complex world of humanitarian aid, which is reflected during the Q&A session, during which several students in turn asked several thought-provoking questions regarding the issues surrounding the lecture topic.