The SOHS 2012 report tracked significant movement in key areas of performance, technical advancement and debates on principles and practice. Yet findings showed that progress was mixed: Although responses were found to be partially effective, a continued insufficiency of funding and gaps in coverage remained, as well as a failure to consult with aid recipients.
This study was the first attempt by the international humanitarian system to systematically monitor and report on its progress and performance. Commissioned by ALNAP and authored by Humanitarian Outcomes, it outlined what's working, what's not, and how the sector performed between 2009 and 2011.
There was a slowed but continuous growth in human and financial resources in the period, even during the global financial crisis. Yet human and material resources didn't grow fast enough to keep pace with rising needs and most of it continued to go to a small number of protracted crisis and high-profile natural disasters such as the Haiti Earthquake.
The study spotted continued insufficiency of funding and gaps in coverage, with the majority of actors surveyed perceiving funding in their setting to be 'insufficient', a perception which grew slightly stronger compared with the 2010 pilot study.
Evaluations for the period indicated that community and local government priorities had been met. Nevertheless, SOHS 2012 surveys found that humanitarian organisations had failed to consult with recipients or use their input in programming.
The system scores where mixed on its effectiveness. Although most responses were found to be partially effective, delays and poorly defined goals hindered performance.
The study also evidenced that key elements of humanitarian reform – such as the cluster system, the CERF and country-level pooled funding – had become accepted as the new means of operation and were credited with bringing larger volumes of funding, yet at times they had sacrificed speed for inclusiveness. The system also benefited from a growth in new initiatives for training and certification. SOHS 2012 survey respondents affirmed that benefits of coordination were worth the costs. Yet failures in leadership and weakness in monitoring continued to be flagged in evaluations, both issues that the SOHS pilot study in 2010 had already raised.
Overall, the system showed modest improvement in connectedness between its short term activity and longer-term host country objectives. This was aided by a rise in capacity in National Disaster Management Authorities yet much practical work remained to be done to strengthen coordination structures within them.
Local capacity building remained a challenge despite an increase in awareness of the importance of local partnerships. On a more positive note, the study highlighted continued efforts to improve accountability to, and communication with, affected people.
The SOHS 2012 found that in terms of convergence around humanitarian principles, the system seemed to had weakened, with many organisations compromising a principled approach due to close alignment with political and military actors.
Looking at broader coherence, the SOHS 2012 found that the long-acknowledged disconnect between development and humanitarian programming had failed populations at risk.