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  • 23 June 2015

Outcomes from ‘Interactive Dialogue on Humanitarian Financing’, ECOSOC Humanitarian Affairs Segment

The urgent question of how to meet crisis with financing is attracting a huge amount of attention right now. The  UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel o

The urgent question of how to meet crisis with financing is attracting a huge amount of attention right now. The  UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing is just beginning its work, against the backdrop of World Humanitarian Summit discussions and the run-up to the Financing for Development discussions in Addis next month. As we note in this year’s GHA report, humanitarian financing is in the spotlight like never before. In this context, the 2015 United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Humanitarian Affairs Segment (HAS) – held last week during 17 to 19 June – offered an important opportunity to discuss the future of financing to address crisis, vulnerability and risk in the context of new evidence and ideas.

The  Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) programme together with Future Humanitarian Financing (FHF) organised a side event at ECOSOC HAS on 18 June, ‘Interactive Dialogue on Humanitarian Financing’, which proceeded and fed into the official ECOSOC HAS High Level Panel on ‘Addressing capacity and resource challenges through humanitarian financing’, chaired by Stephen O’Brien, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. A cross-section of actors participated in the event – including donors, government representatives, representatives from multilateral agencies, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.

Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator Kyung-wha Kang opened the event, highlighting the growing gap between humanitarian requirements and available resources and the need to address this through not only strengthened sufficiency of funding but also more effective use of funds. She highlighted the need to find new solutions to old problems by scaling up multi-year planning and increased coordination with development actors; diversifying the funding base to include the private sector and Islamic financing; and the promotion of risk financing and investments in emergency preparedness to meet peak demands.

In response to presentations from Sophia Swithern on up-to-date trends in humanitarian financing – drawing upon the recently launched 2015 GHA report – and from Lydia Poole on findings from FHF’s recent report ‘Looking Beyond the Crisis’, panellists discussed the way forward for future humanitarian financing.

Discussions between panellists focussed on issues relating to the financing of local and national responses, the need to develop a shared responsibility between development and wider actors financing responses in crisis-affected countries to address the underlying causes of vulnerability, the need to move towards more anticipatory ways of working, and reducing inefficiencies present within the current system.

The event was chaired by Anke Reiffenstuel, Deputy Head Task Force Humanitarian Aid, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Germany, and panellists included:

Robert Piper, UN Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPt)

“Demand is outstripping supply; we mustn’t focus exclusively on raising more money, but reduce the demand in first place”

Claus Sorenson, Director General, European Commission’s Department for Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO)

“A key issue in the humanitarian system is an attitude problem; humanitarians must get out of their holes, stop hiding behind their principles and engage more with political communities to address fundamental underlying issues”

Thomas Gass, Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in UN DESA

“The humanitarian community needs to own the post-2015 agenda and develop a shared responsibility with the development community for addressing vulnerability and people’s long-term needs’

Fatou Diagne Zaouini, Risk Management Advisor, Africa Risk Capacity

“For every dollar insured by government for risk financing, the international humanitarian community should commit to matching this”.

The panel event was then followed by discussions amongst the side-event attendees who worked in groups to develop recommendations on the future of humanitarian financing under five key themes that were central to discussions on the panel and to those taking place as part of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) and the UN High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing. The group themes included ‘nationalising and localising the humanitarian response’, ‘the development and humanitarian nexus’, ‘embracing diversity to ensure sufficient funding’, ‘moving towards proactive ways of working to better meet peak demands’ and ‘upgrading the humanitarian architecture to address inefficiencies and strengthen needs-based funding’.

The recommendations that resulted from the group work were presented by Anke Reiffenstuel, Deputy Head Task Force Humanitarian Aid, Ministry of Foreign Affairs Germany, to the official ECOSOC HAS High Level Panel on ‘Addressing capacity and resource challenges through humanitarian financing’ in order to inform discussions and feed into the conclusions from the panel.

The recommendations emerging from the five groups are outlined below.

Group A: Nationalising and Localising Humanitarian Response:

  1. A change in the national humanitarian architecture is needed to ensure local and national actors’ strategic involvement in context-appropriate coordination mechanisms. This needs to be accompanied by placing a far greater proportion of international humanitarian assistance directly at a national level.
  2. Clarify the role of international organisations to identify and understand where and how they add value, and where their role could be fulfilled by national actors.

Group B: The Development and Humanitarian Nexus:

  1. Donors and wider actors should organise funding investments to create incentives for humanitarian, development, climate change and other concerned actors to work in complementarity to address longer term needs of vulnerable and crisis-affected populations. This in practise means shifting from assessments to joint analysis, from planning to programming, and from funding to financing.
  2. Clarify the remit of humanitarian actors, recognising that they must work better with national governments and development actors where appropriate. At the same time, development actors must prioritise risk management, preparedness and resilience in order to ‘leave no one behind’.

Group C: Embracing diversity to ensure sufficient humanitarian funding:

  1. To better engage emerging donors, we need to build trust and engage in mutually beneficially dialogue.
  2. To increase the diversity in the funding base of humanitarian action we must illustrate transparency, improved efficiency and performance.

Group D: Moving towards proactive ways of working to better meet peak demands:

  1. Build national, sub-national and regional mechanisms and capacities for countries to manage their own crisis risks and financial preparedness before establishing a new global contingency fund as a default for managing risk.
  2. To develop ways of working that better meet peak demand we need to not only invest in institutions that better manage risk but also invest in behavioural change within the sector towards more anticipatory ways of working.

Group E: Upgrading the Humanitarian Architecture to address inefficiencies and strengthen needs-based funding

  1. Recognising that the current system perpetuates competition over resources, we need to strengthen understanding of donor preferences and behaviour, as well incentives for coordinated decision-making between donors. Underpinning this, the development of a shared understanding of global needs is vital to prioritising funding to particular crises.
  2. Move towards results-based funding through multi-year funding and collaboration with development The measurement of outcomes should be undertaken on the basis of beneficiary feedback in addition to donor perspectives.