Viewpoint: The WFP and Palantir controversy should be a wake-up call for humanitarian community
By Nathaniel Raymond, Laura Walker McDonald and Rahul Chandran
The World Food Programme’s Feb. 5 announcement of a $45 million partnership with the algorithmic intelligence firm Palantir has sparked a firestorm of criticism. The partnership raises serious issues that must be addressed by WFP — who appear to be taking the right steps toward transparency. But this controversy is bigger than just one private sector agreement by one agency — and it should serve as a challenge and an opportunity for the entire humanitarian sector.
Humanitarians have become increasingly reliant on digital data, and on third-party partnerships to collect and process it to create operational impact. But the ecosystem for doing this responsibly is missing: the policies, procedures, and capacities that ensure core principles, human rights standards, and data regulations govern these partnerships.
This controversy is an opportunity for collective action to help humanitarians better protect vulnerable people, by building the robust partnerships it needs to serve more effectively.
Photo courtesy of Christian Ditaputratama.