Globally 16 countries have two or more humanitarian funds in operation and this number is set to increase with the introduction of further country-level pooled funds in Yemen and Pakistan in 2010. Eight such countries are located in sub-Saharan Africa with the concentration of funding occurring in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is hardly surprising given that these countries are subject to ongoing conflict, have weak infrastructure, poor public services and are extremely fragile with in some cases non-existing governance. All these factors contribute to making them more susceptible and less prepared to respond effectively to climate-change induced natural disasters or increased humanitarian need caused by prolonged conflict. In-country pooled funds are also being considered by donors as a means of channelling humanitarian assistance to other countries where flexible and prioritised financing is needed including Palestine/OPT and Colombia. Many of the countries that have in-country pooled funds (notably DRC and Sudan) are in the process of transitioning out of conflict and the funding mechanisms are proving to be a tool for channelling funds for recovery activities, which, arguably, is not what they were designed.
The top recipient country of humanitarian assistance channelled through the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), emergency response funds (ERFs) and Common humanitarian fund (CHFs) between 2006 and 2009 was Sudan, closely followed by DRC. These countries received US$148 million and US$141 million respectively in 2009. This is due in large part to the fact that both countries have CHFs that support their common humanitarian action plans (CHAPs). In 2008 Sudan received a total of US$1.4 billion in humanitarian assistance and, of this total, 12.2% was channelled through the pooled funds. Yet in the DRC, 38.9% of the country’s US$473 million in humanitarian aid was channelled through pooled funds.
In 2010 there are now four countries in sub-Saharan Africa which have a common humanitarian fund – Sudan, DRC, Central African Republic (CAR) and Somalia. The two former funds were established in 2006 with CAR joining in 2008 when the country’s ERF evolved into a CHF. Somalia’s HRF transformed into a CHF only recently in June 2010. These mechanisms are able to fund large projects in support of CHAPs in countries that are experiencing long and complex humanitarian emergencies. In 2008 the fund in Sudan disbursed US$149 million to a combination of UN agencies and NGO projects. This compared to only US$3 million in CAR due to the relatively small size of the appeal – US$119 million compared with that of Sudan (US$2. billion) and DRC (US$737 million). The new fund for Somalia will retain 20% of funding for emergency response whilst the remaining 80% will support projects included in the Consolidated Appeal Process (CAP) with the aim of allocating funds twice-yearly.
In 2009, following the success of similar mechanisms in other countries, ERFs were established in Afghanistan, Colombia, Uganda and Kenya. In 2010 new funds have commenced operation in Yemen and Pakistan. This type of mechanism has become increasingly popular due to the fact that it allows the humanitarian coordinator in-country to allocate funding to small-scale projects that aim to address unexpected needs; this includes projects put forward by local NGOs. In 2008 the fund in Ethiopia received 8.6% of total humanitarian assistance to the country and, having received more than US$120 million between 2006 and 2009, far above the next highest, Somalia, with just less than US$40 million.
The CERF on the other hand has been established in order to fill the gaps not met by other mechanisms for humanitarian funding. The allocation of CERF funds is split between rapid response grants to sudden onset emergencies and grants to emergencies classed as underfunded by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). These grants are designed to go some way to ensuring that donor funding is more equitable and that sudden humanitarian emergencies are not prioritised to the detriment of other ongoing humanitarian needs. For example in 2008 and 2009, DRC was classed as an underfunded emergency; of the total it received from the CERF for these years 92.8% and 34.4% respectively were from this underfunded window. Kenya on the other hand received 75.4% and 69.5% of its CERF funding through the rapid response window in those same years.
While the number of pooled financial mechanisms appears set to continue. Several key donors remain sceptical of greater involvement of such funding mechanisms, preferring to control more directly the vast majority of their funding. Meanwhile there remains the great challenge of understanding whether pooled funding actually leads to more impact. These issues aside, pooled funds are clearly emerging as a vehicle that enables many more countries as well as private individuals, foundations and companies to make contributions in response to humanitarian crises.