Financing for Humanitarian Action

By Anthony Neal, CAFOD and Julian Srodecki, World Vision International

Financing for Humanitarian Action.

Monika Vrsanska/CAFOD

Visioning the Future: Future Humanitarian Financing is bringing together experts from Business and Private Sector to explore new approaches to meet the financial costs of responding to crises such as the Pakistan Floods.

CAFOD, World Vision and the Food and Agriculture Organization have been tasked by the Inter-Agency Standing Team in Geneva to develop new ways of funding humanitarian action. To do this, they are bringing together perspectives from a variety of other sectors in a series of cross sector dialogues. These will be held in London, Jordan, Thailand and Senegal in October and November. If you are interested in participating in one of these discussions further details are at the foot of this article. New ways of funding humanitarian action are urgently needed because humanitarian need is outstripping the resources available. Last year levels of humanitarian funding reached a record high of $22 billion, responding to unprecedented levels of humanitarian needs arising from numerous disasters and conflicts. Despite a continued upward trend in humanitarian aid funding, a third of financing needs in UN coordinated appeals go unmet each year. Demand continuously outstrips supply as traditional models of meeting the financial cost of humanitarian crises are not only insufficient; they can also be unpredictable, late, inflexible and inaccessible to many humanitarian actors.

During the last decade, humanitarians have worked hard to reform the existing financing architecture to enable a more rapid, flexible and efficient financing response. Whilst traditional humanitarian donors may have reached the limits of their growth potential, shifting global patterns of economic wealth increase the potential for financing humanitarian response beyond traditional Western government donors. Increasingly, new sources of funding are being leveraged, from governments outside of the OECD and private donors. However reforming the existing system is clearly not enough and these changes alone will not keep pace with demand and many humanitarian actors recognise that a more radical re-think of how we finance humanitarian action is overdue.

The cast of responding actors and methods of response are changing fast. In the foreseeable future, how the cost of humanitarian needs are financed, the ways in which response is delivered and the actors delivering assistance are likely to change significantly. Already domestic actors, private sector and governments are playing greater roles in both financing and delivering response. At a global; level, businesses are contributing to humanitarian action with new approaches. However there are many models of financing emerging within the private sector, such a risk financing, impact investment and crowd-funding that are only just being explored in humanitarian response. Humanitarians need to find ways of adapting these models, of exploring hybrid public-private approaches where interests converge, and of helping to ensure that growing diversity, technology and new modes and sources of funding benefit those at risk of and affected by humanitarian crises.

The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Task Team on Humanitarian Financing has initiated the Future Humanitarian Financing initiative to consider some of these challenging questions in an attempt to stimulate adaptive change in financing humanitarian action. The initiative will bring together experts and innovators from diverse backgrounds including financial services, public sector management, marketing, science, information and communication technology in a series of dialogues designed to investigate new and emerging approaches to humanitarian financing. The dialogues will also consider what investments and adjustments are needed to adapt for the future and will feed into discussions leading up to the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016.

The dialogues will take place in late October and November 2014 in London, Amman, Bangkok and Dakar with a final synthesis dialogue in Geneva early next year. The first dialogues in London on the 29th October and 3rd November will bring together leaders and experts from one of the world’s leading financial capitals to consider emerging models from the private sector such as social impact investment, social enterprise and risk transfer.

To join in these dialogues and help influence the evolution of humanitarian financing visit, register your interest onlineand join our online discussions at

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