Humanitarian assistance


Humanitarian assistance is growing, though rising needs still outweigh financing – and greater alignment with goals to end poverty would bridge the gap between humanitarian and development assistance.

Despite growth, humanitarian assistance is not meeting increasing need

Humanitarian assistance refers to financial resources focused on responding to emergencies and governed by the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence. While a proportion of humanitarian assistance is ODA, international humanitarian assistance also includes funding by development assistance providers outside the OECD DAC, as well as private funding from individuals, trusts and foundations and private companies and corporations.

In 2013 less than two-thirds of the needs outlined in UN coordinated appeals were met. These figures, while unable to capture the international humanitarian response to crises outside of the 23 UN coordinated appeals, serve as a barometer of funding according to need. In 2013, despite record levels of humanitarian assistance (US$22 billion), requirements still surpassed funding.

Figure 6: Less than two-thirds of UN coordinated appeals were met in 2013

Global Context Briefing_fig 5

Source: Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2014

Humanitarian financing should be aligned with longer-term goals to end poverty

Fragility and poverty are increasingly intertwined: in 1990, 20% of people in extreme poverty lived in fragile states; now the figure is around 50%. As the links between extreme poverty and vulnerability to crisis become more pertinent, there is a need to more closely align humanitarian financing with longer-term goals of ending poverty. For example, Nigeria and DR Congo have roughly equal scores on the Fund For Peace Fragile States Index and similar numbers of people living in extreme poverty, yet DR Congo receives over 20 times more humanitarian assistance.

However, funding is often delivered in short-term cycles

In 2012 an estimated 180 million people in extreme poverty lived in countries in protracted crisis.[i] The complex, overlapping and long-term dimensions of these crises require sustained commitment and financing – yet in the past decade around 10% of ODA has been humanitarian assistance, which typically is conceived and delivered in short-term cycles.

[i] Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2014. The report classified countries ‘in protracted crisis’ as those receiving long-term humanitarian assistance.

Humanitarian assistance is only one part of financing in complex emergencies

In complex crises, where extreme poverty, inequality and insecurities overlap and render communities vulnerable to the effects of natural disasters and conflict, there are many overlapping flows of financial resources, such as climate financing, peacekeeping and remittances. But these different forms of financing largely operate in isolation. It is important to identify complementarities and funding gaps to produce a context-specific blend of financing.

Coherent humanitarian response requires a complete picture of public, private, domestic and international resource flows

Humanitarian contributions from non-OECD DAC donors are increasingly captured alongside international public resource flows – yet the domestic humanitarian response is often overlooked and a large proportion of private giving is unreported. This is significant, as national and local structures play an important role in preparedness and response. For example, in 2012 the Philippines government contributed almost five times as much to disaster response and recovery and disaster risk reduction as it received in international humanitarian assistance.[i] These figures, however, are largely missing from the international community’s picture of the response.

[i] Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2014