Collecting donations does not work anymore

The current humanitarian aid system is outdated. It has neither relieved any country of poverty nor has it succeeded in addressing the root causes of migration. The solution lies in applying 21st century innovations to the aid sector.

Ivett Körösi
Ivett Körösi Nepszava, Hungary
Source: Nepszava
Collecting donations does not work anymore - NewsMavens
Kilian Kleinschmidt, Flickr

Why this story matters:

If we think of humanitarian aid, what comes to mind is collecting vast amounts of food and goods to be sent to help those in need. The bad news is that this does not work anymore: it does not fulfil the requirements of a person or a family might have. Why? Because the system was designed after WWII, and is now outdated.

What could help lift people out of poverty are 21st century innovations -- said Kilian Kleinschmidt in an interview with the Hungarian newspaper Nepszava.

“The real chance, the real opportunity is that today we are so interlinked that we don’t need to travel long distances to carry something somewhere. Through connectivity we can bring knowledge and finance... That is what the aid agencies have to learn and understand” -- claims the expert who has been working in the humanitarian sector for over three decades.

In practice it could mean donors buying much needed items online -- e.g. shoes, tents, etc. -- and staff on the ground purchasing them from local retailers and distributing them to those in need, just like on NeedList

“What is still problematic is to give a clear message to the aid agencies that they don’t need thousands of thousands of staff anymore who are being sent out and cost a lot of money. That, through connectivity and networking, you can be much more efficient and cheaper in delivery than having people [on the ground] who ‘save lives’" -- he said.

A radical new approach is not only needed in the aid sector but in politics as well. European populist politicians can’t stop talking about the heavy burden migrants represent on societies, that they are a threat to European values and security.

What if we stopped looking at migrants as a burden and treated the current crisis as an opportunity? 

Kleinschmidt believes that although there is an initial burden, the best we can do is to allow refugees in and accept that it is not a temporary thing. They will stay, and they can and must contribute to our society.

“I find it extremely important that we don’t describe the victims all the time as victims, as poor people who need our charity… they need to contribute like anyone else to the the community, wherever that community is."

Details from the story:

  • Kilian Kleinschmidt is a Founder and CEO of Switxboard
  • He managed one of the world’s largest refugee camps, the Zaatari camps in Jordan from 2013-2014
  • He came to Budapest to give a lecture at the Central European University (CEU), with the title “Disrupting Outdated Aid and Protection Narratives: From ‘Persons of Concern’ to ‘Prosumers’”
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