Audit at a Glance—Chapter 1—Responding to the Onset of International Humanitarian Crises
Audit at a Glance
Chapter 1—Responding to the Onset of International Humanitarian Crises
What we examined (see Focus of the audit)
This audit focused on the federal government’s response to the onset of humanitarian crises in developing countries ranging from sudden natural disasters, such as earthquakes, to rapid increases in humanitarian needs during complex or prolonged crises, such as the displacement of people due to conflict.
Our audit objectives were to determine
- whether Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada provided humanitarian assistance upon the onset of humanitarian crises through appropriate partners using a needs-based approach in a timely manner; and
- whether Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada and National Defence could demonstrate that the assistance they provided upon the onset of humanitarian crises abroad was used in a manner consistent with the objectives of the projects and missions supported.
What we found
Choosing humanitarian assistance partners
Overall, we found that Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada assesses the capacity of its partners and is working to strengthen its assessment practices. This is important because it helps ensure that partners have the capacity to use departmental funding effectively and carry out projects successfully.
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada assesses the capacity of its partners and is working to strengthen its assessment practices (see paragraphs 1.13-1.21)
Basing humanitarian assistance on need
Overall, we found that Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada considered the needs of affected populations and chose projects that were expected to help address those needs, but the basis for how much assistance was allocated to crises and individual projects was often not clearly documented. This is important because, although the Department takes needs into account when choosing projects, the Department could not demonstrate how various factors were applied to determine the amount of funding provided.
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada chooses humanitarian projects based on needs of crisis-affected populations (see paragraphs 1.24-1.26)
It was often not clear how Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada determined the amount of funding to provide (see paragraphs 1.27-1.31)
Recommendation. Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada should document how the dollar amounts of its humanitarian funding allocations are determined, including key calculations and rationale.
Providing timely humanitarian assistance
Overall, we found that while Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada can respond quickly, response times vary and the Department does not measure and monitor the overall timeliness of its own processes. This is important because slower responses can slow the provision of assistance to affected populations.
Contributions to emergency response funds help partners respond rapidly (see paragraphs 1.34-1.39)
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada’s responses are not always timely (see paragraphs 1.40-1.48)
Recommendation. Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada should monitor and assess its timeliness in responding to the onset of crises to identify opportunities for improving its response time.
Demonstrating consistency with objectives
Overall, we found that assistance provided was mainly used in a manner consistent with objectives, but some objectives had not been achieved for development projects. We also found that there are opportunities for Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada to improve its assessment of the results of its international humanitarian assistance projects. This is important because assessing results helps the Department to demonstrate that funding is achieving objectives, to monitor its partners’ capacity, and to use that information to challenge its partners to improve. Improvements to the Department’s risk management practices for development projects may also help it ensure that objectives are met. In addition, the Canadian Armed Force’s operation in response to Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines in 2013 was undertaken in a manner consistent with its objectives for humanitarian operations and provided useful assistance but several factors limited the amount of assistance delivered.
Aid provided through the international humanitarian assistance program was mainly used in a manner consistent with project objectives (see paragraphs 1.51-1.61)
Recommendation. Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada should assess the results of the humanitarian assistance projects it funds in a manner that is useful for managing operations.
Aid provided through other programs was used in a manner consistent with objectives but some short-term project objectives were not met (see paragraphs 1.62-1.67)
Recommendation. Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada should re-examine its risk assessment and mitigation strategy for development projects in the Syria crisis intended to meet urgent needs.
Federal spending exceeded government commitments to match funds (see paragraphs 1.68-1.73)
Canadian Armed Forces capabilities deployed to the Philippines played a useful role but several factors limited the amount of assistance delivered (see paragraphs 1.74-1.82)
Recommendation. National Defence should examine how to improve the use, reliability, and operations of Canadian Armed Forces water capabilities used in humanitarian operations.
The audited entities agree with our recommendations, and have responded (see List of Recommendations).
Why we did this audit
Millions of people around the world affected by humanitarian crises rely on assistance from the international community, including Canada, when their governments lack the capacity or will to respond. Even with several billion dollars in humanitarian assistance contributed by governments and other donors worldwide each year—including an average of $567 million annually by the Government of Canada over the last five years, as reported by Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada—humanitarian needs exceed resources. It is therefore important that limited resources be allocated in a timely manner to where they are needed most, and that there is accountability for how they are used.
Details of the audit
|Report of the||Auditor General of Canada|
|Type of product||Performance audit|
|Completion date||5 September 2014|
|Tabling date||25 November 2014|
|Related audits||Chapter 4—Official Development Assistance through Multilateral Organizations, 2013 Spring Report of the Auditor General of Canada|
For more information
Manager, Media Relations
Tel.: 613 952 0213, extension 6292
The Auditor General’s Comments
DFATD’s humanitarian crisis assistance is used as intended, but Department needs to find ways to improve response times