Less than two months ago, on April 25, a 7.8-magnitude earthquake struck Nepal, killing over 8,000 people. In its aftermath, millions of dollars in relief funding are pouring into the country. While this funding has been critically needed, it’s also been difficult to assess how it’s being used. Regular citizens– the intended beneficiaries of the funding– are often left a little in the dark: they know donations have been given but why haven’t many been benefiting from it?
What if citizens could get more information and provide feedback to those responsible for emergency service delivery? The Accountability Lab and Local Interventions Group, with the support of GlobalGiving, have set up mobile citizen helpdesks to allow regular people to do exactly this. The helpdesks– comprised of over 100 volunteers led by district coordinators– have led consultative meetings with citizens, district-level government officers, police, political parties, aid agencies and civil society organizations. They ask:
- Who needs support?
- What are their top challenges?
- What kind of assistance do they most need?
The helpdesks have spoken to over 2,500 people in 111 areas so far – hearing their struggles, and identifying their needs – and have directly “closed the loop” on over 110 community or citizen problems. The citizen feedback is provided to the Nepalese government and UN-Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to improve coordination and response. This intermediary service between citizens and government/INGO services is a welcome start to creating accountability in a system that largely lacks it.
Here at Feedback Labs, it raises the question, how does the international aid system balance the need for citizen feedback in instances of emergency humanitarian crises? One humanitarian aid worker said, “We just don’t have the time and resources for it. That’s a luxury for people in development.”
But is it? The Nepal helpdesks were set-up within a week of the earthquake. We’re not certain getting feedback is always the easiest thing to do, but how do we weigh our priorities? Without it, how do we really know that we’re funding the right things?
Read the New York Times Op-Ed from Accountability Lab and the Nepal Economic Forum.