Preventing corruption in humanitarian assistance: perceptions, gaps and challenges


Daniel Maxwell, 200 Boston Ave. #4800, Medford, MA 02155, United States. Telephone: +1 617 627 3410; e-mail:


Corruption is a threat to the purpose of humanitarian assistance. Until fairly recently, humanitarian assistance has not been considered an important arena in broader efforts aimed at curbing corruption, and corruption has not always been considered a particularly important concern for humanitarian assistance despite the obviously challenging nature of the context of humanitarian emergencies. Corruption, though, is a threat to humanitarian action because it can prevent assistance from getting to the people who most need it, and because it can potentially undermine public support for such assistance. This paper examines perceptions of corruption and its affects, documents best practices, and outlines gaps in understanding. It suggests recommendations for improving the capacity of humanitarian agencies to prevent and manage the risk of corruption. Agencies have taken steps to combat corruption and improve accountability—downwards and upwards—but scope remains for improvement and for greater sharing of learning and good practice.