Leveraging Transparency to Ensure Collaboration in Disaster Relief

By: Arsalan Masood Kashfi, Pakistan (Class 18. Host: Disaster Accountability Project)

Time after time, in the months and years that follow major disasters, we hear familiar stories about how relief did not reach those who needed it most. The same questions are asked: Where did the money go? Why couldn’t we help survivors sooner? When will survivors feel the generosity of the outpouring of charitable support that followed the disaster?

One key problem is local civil society organizations (CSOs) are often overlooked following disasters. Private donors have become a major source of funding, having contributed $5.8 billion to humanitarian crises in 2014 alone. Unfortunately, most of the time, groups operating far from the disaster zone raise the most money, bypassing the CSOs and NGOs local to the disaster. As a result, local groups do not receive the direct investment they need to grow and succeed while large INGOs direct the relief and recovery efforts from afar. Fewer resources reaching CSOs results in reduced local decision-making. This dynamic also reduces the likelihood of a successful and efficient relief and recovery effort and hinders the ability of local CSOs and NGOs to invest in preparedness and mitigation of future hazards.

This structure often frustrates local & national governments, especially due to the surge of outside players that often operate as government actors. Overshadowed by outside groups with greater resources and capabilities, local, regional, and even national governments are prevented from coordinating, monitoring, and making key decisions about the relief and recovery efforts.

Disaster Accountability Project (DAP), a U.S. based nonprofit, is building a global solution called SmartResponse.org to improve effectiveness of disaster relief and humanitarian aid sector that will establish a necessary link between organizational capacity and the donations/grants an organization receives after disasters. Establishing an incentive for organizations to share more data about what they are doing will allow:

  • Survivors – to more effectively access available short and long-term relief and recovery services;
  • Donors – to make more informed decisions about how to support emergency response and long-term relief and avoid organizations that do not have a strong on-the-ground presence;
  • Government and Media – to improve oversight and reporting before and after disasters;
  • Disaster Relief and Aid Organizations – to better coordinate with other groups, learn about and gain access to available resources, and improve effectiveness;
  • Civil Society and Local NGOs – to better compete with outside organizations for critical resources after disasters occur.

After surviving the devastating earthquake of 2005, I still find myself searching for solutions to prepare for the next disaster in Pakistan. Luckily my professional journey led me to my current EGLI – Atlas Corps fellowship; where I am assisting DAP to develop the Smart Response Pakistan program. Throughout my professional career, I have seen first-hand the generosity of the global community that follows natural disasters in Pakistan and I know there are many ways to improve effectiveness and allow local organizations to take the lead and be strengthened themselves, instead of outside groups that are often slower and often profit too heavily from our disasters.

Join our efforts to develop Smart Response Pakistan so that we may improve aid effectiveness and transparency, and cultivate bonds between donor networks, communities, government, media and coordinating agencies to make sure disaster donations/grants reach those most in need when disaster strikes Pakistan.




Arsalan is a development professional with nine years of experience in the nonprofit sector. He holds a Master’s degree in Statistics from Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, Pakistan. His core functional and sector expertise include research, evaluations, program coordination and management, proposal writing / resource mobilization, microfinance, enterprise development, and post disaster recovery. He brings hands-on experience of managing donor-funded projects for microfinance, enterprise development, livelihood, social mobilization, education, nutrition, and food security. He started his professional career in 2006 with National Rural Support Program (NRSP) when it launched the post earthquake operations in Azad Jammu & Kashmir. In a career spanning over 7 years, Arsalan, established the NRSP Microfinance portfolio and later introduced innovative micro loan products.

In 2009, he visited Thailand & Philippines for an ‘exposure cum learning visit’ to bring back learned lessons and new ideas for USAID/SBI funded Advancing Microfinance for Post-Disaster Economic Reconstruction (AMPER) project. In 2012, he was selected as one of the 15 fellows of the prestigious Emerging Leaders of Pakistan (ELP) program, launched by the South Asia Center of Atlantic Council, USA. The ELP program is aimed at creating an in-person and online networking forum for engagement and collaboration of civil society leaders from Pakistan. In 2013, Arsalan made a career move to development consulting and joined an international development consulting entity, where he lead the projects & partnerships development unit.