There are many sorts of information that are needed in emergency situations
such as those faced currently in Haiti.
There are three stages: Rescue, Relief and Rebuilding
In the rescue stage, everything is done to save life. There is little time for
learning ... people have to do their best whatever the circumstances usually
with very limited resources. This lasts a relatively short time ... no more
than several days usually.
In the relief stage, there is more planning and the goal is to provide the
basic needs for everyone affected. This may go on for some time, several weeks,
maybe several months.
In the rebuilding stage, there is a full development cycle in place with
planning, design, funding issues and so on. If the rebuilding phase is done
well, the outcome can be physically positive ... although this does little for
the emotional dimension of the losses experienced.
In the rescue stage, the issue of transparency and accountability is not a big
issue. Everyone does what they can ... and in general the best in people is
what dominates the scene.
In the relief stage there is a great need for transparency and accountability.
The resources are large, the time is short, the infrastructure is compromised
and people have had time to think about how the situation might be turned to
personal advantage. Accounting and accountability helps to ensure that
resources are used for the purposes intended. Without the accounting and
accountability the system gets taken over by those who are interested in their
own agenda and not the society as a whole.
In the rebuilding stage, the situation can be even worse. The amounts of money
many be very large ... and people have time to think and scheme to make the
system work for their advantage. While accounting and accountability is not a
complete answer, it is a big part of a good answer. People do not want to be
exposed ... and accountability with transparency is able to do that better than
Transparency and accountability is not daily news cycle journalism ... it has
the characteristics of accountancy ... putting activities on the record. One of
the strengths of community analytics (CA) is that it associates activities with
a specific place and time ... and this is possible to check and verify.
What is already clear is that there are large fund flows going on ... and it is
likely that much of these funds will merge into larger funds and there will be
an almost total loss of clarity about what is going on. The CA approach makes
it possible to get at the detail of where funds came from ... where funds were
used ... and then maybe in aggregate to identify how much got lost in the
middle ... and even which organizations seem to be losing the most!
While it is not a "done deal" ... there is some hope that there will be a
strong component of transparency and accountability in the current Haiti
emergency. Tr-Ac-Net will help to the extent that we are able ... and we know
that technology to support our efforts is better than it has ever been in the
past. The biggest hurdle to implementation is a tradition of no transparency
and accountability ... at any rate to independent third parties and the public
... within almost all the major organizations that engage in rescue, relief and
rebuilding after major emergencies.
Many of these major organizations have been contacted to cooperate on a
transparency and accountability initiative over the past weekend ... and I do
not expect a quick response. However, I argue, that these organizations should
be doing this sort of work to manage themselves and the resources they have
been trusted with ... and to the extent that they do not do this, they are
setting the stage for scarce resources to be wasted.
Please spread the word ... and if you have good ideas about transparency and
accountability in situations like this, please let me know.
Tr-Ac-Net Inc ... The Transparency and Accountability Network
Community Analytics (CA)
Integrated Malaria Management (IMM)
Microfinance Focus Magazine in New York
tel: +1 917 432 1191 or +1 212 772 6918 or +1 212 744 6469
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