British relief agencies need to be more accountable to the people they help and show more clearly that they are abiding by humanitarian principles, according to the UK’s umbrella organisation for disaster appeals.

The Disasters Emergency Committee, which co-ordinates fundraising and distribution of public donations for crises around the world, says in its annual report that its 13 member agencies also need to be more systematic in applying lessons from their past activities.

The calls come in a new-style set of accounts to be unveiled at the committee’s annual general meeting on Wednesday which for the first time lays out an “accountability framework” against which its members will be judged.

The analysis follows three years of internal debate over how best to evaluate the relief agencies’ work, following frustration at the committee’s previous practice of commissioning extensive evaluation reports after each disaster appeal.

The committee’s trustees, who include the chief executives of all member agencies plus six others who are independent, pledge systematically to monitor and report publicly on objectives, including running well-managed appeals, using funds as stated, and achieving intended programme objectives and outcomes.

They have incorporated these priorities into new membership criteria by which all the agencies must abide. The largest members are the British Red Cross, Oxfam and Save the Children, and there is an option to increase the total membership from 13 to a maximum of 15 charities.

The report shows that the committee raised £23m ($45m) in the 12 months to March 31 this year, with a fifth – the largest single amount – generated online. It distributed £112m for appeals, and in the past five years it collected £500m, of which it spent just 1 per cent on fundraising costs.

Almost half the total donations distributed to the relief agencies last year was spent on shelter. A further 18 per cent was spent to support livelihoods and agriculture.

The report says in Chad and Darfur, it is considering whether the nine-month period of the appeal is too short to allow the agencies to operate most effectively.

Get alerts on News when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Comments have not been enabled for this article.

Follow the topics in this article