However, private sector involvement is not always clear cut and because businesses exist to turn a profit, their interventions are often viewed with some distrust as to their true purpose. This is particularly so for companies with a specific business interest or stake in the crisis, for example pharmaceutical and medical supply companies during the Ebola crisis. Here there is a potential conflict of interest, in order to ensure that there is neutrality and impartiality and that humanitarian relief is provided based solely on needs requires scrupulous accountability and transparency.
The basis of humanitarian intervention should always be the needs of people. OCHA/WEF have laid out principles which are meant to serve as a guide to the private sector and the humanitarian community, with an emphasis on communicating key humanitarian principles as well as integrating elements of lessons learnt from previous private sector engagement.
This includes the need for the Private Sector to provide
a) Transparency and accountability concerning their objectives, funding and potential commercial interests;
b) Guarantee that involvement should not be exploitative through excessive profiteering, market establishment or brand positioning;
c) Understanding of/signing up to humanitarian principles – at a minimum sign up to OCHA/WEF principles and be accountable to it.
It important to remember that while gifts in kind like vehicles for transportation are crucial to saving lives during a humanitarian crisis financial contributions are often the fastest way to mobilise resources effectively. There have been times when donations in kind in have been inappropriate and actually slowed down the response.