As this year’s GHA report showed us, humanitarian funding grew by 27% last year reaching a historic high of USD$22 billion. Institutional and private donors dug deep to meet unprecedented levels of humanitarian need arising from disasters and crises of prodigious number, scale and complexity. But the data also showed us that it wasn’t enough. In fact it’s never enough. Despite the continued upward overall trend in humanitarian aid funding, demand continues to outstrip supply, and around a third of financing needs in UN-coordinated appeals go unmet each year. As the GHA figures on timeliness and funding to national NGOs starkly demonstrate, traditional modes of meeting the financial cost of humanitarian crises are not only insufficient but also often unpredictable, late, inflexible and inaccessible to many of the actors capable of delivering the critical last-mile response.
Reforming the existing system is clearly not enough. During the last decade, humanitarians have worked hard to reform the existing financing architecture to enable a more rapid, flexible and efficient financing response. New sources of funding are also being leveraged, notably from private donors and governments outside of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). But 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 world is changing at a much faster rate than traditional humanitarian action. Global concentrations of wealth, influence and power are shifting. The mix of responding actors is also changing fast, along with their methods. In the foreseeable future, how humanitarian needs are financed, the ways in which response is delivered and the actors delivering assistance are likely to change significantly. Humanitarians will need to find ways of adapting to ensure that growing diversity, technology and new modes and sources of funding benefit those at risk of and affected by humanitarian crises. But this is no mean feat, not least because the role and resource base of traditional humanitarian actors may be challenged in the process.
The Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Task Team on Humanitarian Financing has initiated the Future Humanitarian Financing (FHF) 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. The first dialogue in London at the end of October will draw on 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.
You can find out more and register your interest in the dialogue events at http://futurehumanitarianfinancing.org/ and follow the FHF initiative on twitter: @futurehf
The Future Humanitarian Financing Initiative is lead by CAFOD, FAO and World Vision International on behalf of the IASC Task Team on Humanitarian Financing. Lydia Poole is an independent consultant to the Initiative.