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The UK's review of humanitarian aid: an agenda for radical change?

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Last year, the British government commissioned three independent reviews of its international assistance. Last week saw the release of the Humanitarian Emergency Response Review (HERR), looking at how the UK should respond to rapid-onset humanitarian emergencies. The document merits our attention, not only because it will help set the direction of one of the major, and most influential, aid donors, but also because of its implications for how we should all think about the humanitarian system.

The HERR gives a very frank diagnosis of the general health of humanitarian action today, taking on board some of the most radical thinking around. This makes for uncomfortable reading; the system isn't working, despite efforts to reorganise it. International response 'is all too often adding to the chaos, rather than alleviating it' and 'sweep[ing] aside local responders'.

The HERR tells a simple and compelling story, but because it does not always lay out clearly the full implications of its analysis, the changes that it requires may not be fully recognised.