New research finds Middle East donors have risen in prominence in humanitarian financing efforts as Iraq and Syria push crisis levels to new high

The Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) programme of Development Initiatives has today published research showing that international humanitarian assistance has risen to a record US$24.5 billion in 2014. The Syria crisis saw by far the largest appeals in 2014 and, together with the Iraq conflict, became a significant driver in a US$4 billion rise since the previous year, along with responses to South Sudan.

With a shift in the geography of displacement meaning there are now more people displaced in the Middle East than in Africa, Middle East donors also increased their international humanitarian assistance by 120 per cent to nearly US$1.7 billion in 2014. The domestic contributions of countries hosting Syrian and Iraqi refugees, most notably Turkey, also continue to be vital in the response.

While the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donors remain the largest donors to global humanitarian assistance, Gulf donors rose in prominence with Saudi Arabia joining the top 10 and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) joining the top 20 largest contributors in 2014. Saudi Arabia’s increase of US$518 million was the second highest volume increase of all donors and meant it more than trebled its contribution from the previous year. The UAE increased assistance by 317 per cent from US$90 million in 2013 to US$375 million in 2014.

Despite all of 2013’s largest donors giving more in 2014, funding was not sufficient to meet needs. In response to the numbers and scale of 2014’s crises, UN-coordinated humanitarian appeals requested an unprecedented level of funding – a total of US$19.5 billion to meet the needs of 87.5 million people. But with a shortfall of US$7.5 billion, the highest amount to date, 38 per cent of requirements went unmet.

With intractable conflicts, protracted displacement and recurrent disasters, sustainable financing solutions are needed. Two thirds (66 per cent) of international humanitarian assistance continues to go to long-term recipients such as Somalia and Pakistan.

Sophia Swithern, Head of the GHA programme said, “In a year of global discussions on development and climate change, these unprecedented levels of need and continued shortfalls in funding highlight the need to sustainably address the underlying causes and long term impacts of crisis. An estimated 93 per cent of those living in extreme poverty (less than US$1.25 a day) are in countries that are politically fragile, environmentally vulnerable, or both, and so their needs and requirements must guide the development of new solutions.

“Those solutions have to lie both within and beyond humanitarian financing. Within humanitarian financing, there is a need to increase resources from more diverse donors, and bring about smarter means of delivering them. Beyond humanitarian assistance there is a need to understand and better mobilise both public and private resources across domestic, development, climate and security-related finance, to reduce vulnerability and risk and to build resilience. Ultimately, people should have the right resources to prepare for, withstand and become resilient to crises, and no one should be left behind.”

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Contact: Anna Abuhelal, Communications Manager at Development Initiatives

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