Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2012


In recent years, the international community has questioned the efficacy of international humanitarian aid based on the lack of results following the Haiti earthquake, leading to calls for reform and broader discussions of aid effectiveness. This paper proposes the contested existence of an international humanitarian aid regime consistent with broader definitions of regimes proposed by Stephen Krasner and Bruce Bueno de Mesquita. Delving into the manifold reasons for the ineffective response to the Haiti earthquake, the humanitarian aid regime itself proved its own worst enemy. The lack of efficacy is evident through examples drawn from key elements of the humanitarian aid regime including the relationship between political power and aid decisions, the principles of particular interests, and norms of the humanitarian aid regime. These characteristics lead to a lack of harmonization between donors and implementing partners, minimal accountability to beneficiaries, and little coordination between peer agencies competing for scarce resources. Drawing conclusions from Haiti’s pitfalls, the paper offers best practices and lessons learned as alternatives to traditional humanitarian aid, upholding new reforms within the regime as progress toward a more effective future response.