Impact of multilateral organisations on humanitarian outcomes


What is the overall impact of multilateral organisations on humanitarian outcomes? What roles do the different multilateral organisations play at national, regional and international levels? What evidence is there of the impact of multilateral organisations on: 1. Mortality, 2. Morbidity, 3. Protection, 4. Food security, 5. Resilience. What indicators are available to measure impact in these five areas? According to these indicators, what are the trends?


Even with strong evidence on programme impact, it is hard to attribute humanitarian results directly to multilateral organisations’ (MLOs) or specific forms of aid architecture. In an emergency context, there tend to be many actors and interventions and it is difficult to show a direct chain of causality between specific funding streams or organisations and results.

The key points identified in this rapid assessment are:

  • Mortality: Crude mortality rate is a standard indicator used when humanitarian programmes include a health element.
  • Morbidity: Morbidity rates did not show up often in the literature, but disease prevalence and incidence rates are important indicators of impact.
  • Protection: There is little evidence on measureable protection outcomes as this is a wide-ranging area of intervention. It is currently unclear how much impact MLOs have on this area, although there are some standardised indicators available.
  • Food security: There is most evidence on food security in the literature. Food security initiatives are based on well-established evidence, and are often deemed successful and effective. WFP is consistently evaluated in the general literature, including by MOPAN, as a high-quality actor.
  • Resilience: Resilience is strongly linked to food security and livelihoods. There is a reasonable amount of evidence on this topic, which shows that MLOs are better at delivering short-term assistance than long-term improvements to resilience.

Gender is considered in most of the literature. A key lesson is that indicators should all be sex-disaggregated. Another is that programmes should perform gender assessments, and target women.

This report is a brief overview of some of the evidence, as there are a large number of programme evaluations which could not be considered in the time allowed. These suggestions cannot be considered conclusive, only illustrative. Where possible, this report focuses on meta-evaluations and recent literature, to ensure accuracy of reporting. If this literature was not available, a suitable example was selected which showed the most relevant outcomes.


Suggested citation

Browne, E. (2015). Impact of multilateral organisations on humanitarian outcomes (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1261). Birmingham, UK: GSDRC, University of Birmingham.