Risk Areas

5.1 Humanitarian assistance

Explanation of risk area

When international military missions deliver or provide secure conditions for the delivery of humanitarian supplies, they might become embroiled in corruption, bribery and extortion schemes. These often stem from power imbalances and a conflict between the imperative to deliver aid to vulnerable populations and difficulties in securing access, providing sufficient amounts and types of assistance, and insecure conditions of passage.

Transparency International prepared comprehensive guidance on assessing and mitigating risks across the cycle of delivering humanitarian assistance in different contexts, aimed primarily at humanitarian organisations.  This guidance offers a detailed breakdown of risks at each stage provision of humanitarian assistance.


Case Study: Corruption and UN peace operations

Protecting the delivery of humanitarian aid: UNPROFOR

Parties to the conflict can steal entrusted humanitarian assistance, or use leverage they have over its delivery, to secure resources for the continuation of conflict and for private enrichment. In the siege of Sarajevo, for example, the besieging forces of Bosnian Serbs, Serb units and paramilitaries in particular had significant leverage over UNPROFOR and aid agencies, as they controlled access to the city. Seeking to protect the delivery of aid into the city, UNPROFOR was forced to cut deals with the besiegers, and use bribery to get supplies through.

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External Link

Collusion and humanitarian assistance: Syria

Agencies implementing USAID-funded humanitarian assistance in Syria have colluded to steer contracts to particular vendors and NGOs, engaging in a complex kickback scheme made easier by difficult security conditions and resulting tendency to award contract through less than full competition. In 2017, USAID’s Office of the Inspector General conducted investigations which resulted in 6 implementing companies being debarred and 10 employees being removed.

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Indicators & Warnings

Reports of theft and extortion along humanitarian aid supply lines

Reports of supplies not making their way to beneficiaries

Unexplained wealth among contractors

False accounting and financial reports

Reluctance to accept audit and verification measures

Black market trade in humanitarian assistance items