How media influences governments’ allocation of humanitarian aid

EU assistance to thousands of Ukrainians traveling across the line of contact every day


In the first large, comparative study of its kind, Kate Wright (Edinburgh) together with Martin Scott (UEA) and Mel Bunce (City) interviewed 30 senior policy-makers about how different kinds of media influenced their allocation of humanitarian aid. These policymakers worked for 16 governments, which together account for over 90% of all humanitarian funding for UN response plans/appeals. These were: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, the EU Commission, Germany, Ireland, Japan, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the UK, and the USA.

Their findings – which are outlined in this blog for The Conversation - are of great interest to UN and other multilateral aid agencies. This is because, in late 2021, they faced a record shortfall between the funding they require to help those in desperate need and the funding they receive, primarily from governments. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia is likely to exacerbate this situation significantly; the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees estimating that around 4 million people will be forced to flee the conflict.


Knowledge Exchange and Impact

Since their journal article was published in December 2021, the research team have been invited to present their findings to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the UN’s World Food Programme, the UN Development Programme, the International Committee of the Red Cross, European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations and the Norwegian Refugee Council. The researchers are now working with senior managers at these organisations to consider how their findings might shape their communication and fundraising strategies.

Within a fortnight of publication, significant interest from practitioners on Twitter meant that the journal article was ranked within the 20 most popular communications research papers (n=140,000 journal articles). The research project has also received media coverage from the Columbia Journalism Review (Columbia University), Nieman Lab (Harvard University) the American Press Institute and the New Humanitarian. At the time of writing in Feb 2022, the journal article had been downloaded from Journalism Studies more than 3, 000 times.