For years aid agencies have been referring to the “CNN effect” as one of the explanations for the delayed response to emergencies. Aid agencies claim that an increased media coverage is required to get the public, governments and others interested in opening their wallets to fund their response. This is the “CNN Effect.” There is nothing new about the “CNN Effect”, this is a theory in political science and Dr. Piers Robinson, among others, has been writing on the topic since 1999. The only novelty in the recent “CNN effect” article by the Guardian, is the utilisation of interactive info-graphics, social media and the internet in general. Instead of targeting the donors, the Guardian article would be really novel if it asked why the aid agencies have to wait for this “CNN Effect”.
Obviously, aid organisations can only respond if they have access to the resources needed. One of the most important and often the most disruptive resource is money. Aid organisations engage in fundraising continuously, not only before, at the onset or during an emergency. For instance, organisations incessantly attempt to raise so-called ‘unearmarked’ (unallocated) private funds from their home societies. But when there is no emergency, where does this money go?
The largest source of money for most aid agencies are government donors. Governments are, or should be, interested foremost in the well-being of their country and its inhabitants. Investing in other countries is therefore mostly done out self-preservation. Provision of aid is often guided by foreign policy, not the need of people in another country. Aid organisations claim to respond to emergencies according to the need of those affected. This begs the question whether aid organisations should depend on governments for the larger part of their income.
The financial dependence of aid organisations seems to ensure that they can only respond according to the “CNN Effect”. If the aid organisations are aware of the behaviour of government donors and the “CNN effect”, it is time to ask them why they still have not addressed their financial dependence? Is there not sufficient unearmarked private funds? Could aid organisations allocate unearmarked private funds to mitigate their financial dependence? It is time the Guardian takes its investigative journalism beyond the analysis of financial data and social media and start asking aid organisations the difficult questions concerning the accumulation and allocation of their resources?