Image by Marie Sophie Pettersson/UN Women
  • Report
  • 13 April 2022

Funding for gender-relevant humanitarian response: Chapter 4



The growing attention focused upon improving gender equality and addressing the needs of women and girls in humanitarian settings appears to have driven increases in funding for gender-specific humanitarian assistance. Analysis of data on funding for humanitarian responses indicates a significant increase in gender-specific assistance, with total funding more than doubling between 2018 and 2021 and increasing as a proportion of total international humanitarian assistance to account for 2.1% of all funding in 2021. Greater awareness of gender in humanitarian responses and resulting improvements in reporting are likely to explain some of this growth.

However, what this analysis indicates is that, despite this growth, funding for gender-related humanitarian programming remains a very small proportion of total funding. Indeed, the common perception among experts interviewed for this report was that, in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic and escalating levels of need, funding was insufficient. In some cases, funding appears to have been diverted away from gender programming towards the wider health emergency and, in others, programming decisions resulted in the original intent of programmes to improve gender equality or empower women and girls to being diluted. Interviewees highlighted how initial iterations of the Covid-19 Global Humanitarian Response Plan were ‘gender blind’. Part of the challenge in assessing the true sufficiency of funding results from the absence of coherent, consistent and independent assessments of gender-related needs, including rapid gender analysis, and data that is sex, age and gender disaggregated. Where humanitarian response plans do specifically identify gender-related needs, as is the case with GBV, the data shows that GBV needs were consistently funded at a lower level than the average across all clusters. And the coverage of funding requirements for the Global Protection Cluster as a whole reduced notably between 2018 and 2021.

The slow progress to improve funding quality (predictability and flexibility) and to channel more to local and national actors that is evident in wider humanitarian assistance trends is clearly replicated for gender-specific funding. As has been widely reported, the response to the Covid-19 pandemic did not catalyse the empowerment of local and national responders, despite these actors remaining on the frontline of the pandemic response during lockdowns and while international humanitarian actors were absent from the ground. Gender-specific funding passed directly to local and national actors in 2020 accounted for just 3.1% of total gender-specific funding. Local organisations consistently reported that they received insufficient funds and, moreover, that in some cases competition for limited resources between local organisations increased. The pandemic appears to have re-enforced power dynamics within the humanitarian system. Between 2018 and 2021, multilateral organisations received the majority of gender-specific funding, averaging 60% between 2018 and 2020 but rising to 82% in 2021.

The overall increases in gender-specific funding suggest that more, if not yet sufficient, resources are being provided by donors for gender-specific programming. The burden sharing between donors, however, is far from equal. In 2021, just 10 donors provided 89% of all gender-specific funding. And even among these donors funding behaviours varied significantly. Four donors provided 2% or less of their total humanitarian assistance as gender specific, while three donors provided 6% or more.

This report provides new analysis on funding to support gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in humanitarian responses. However, limitations in the quantity, quality and organisation of existing data mean that only a partial picture emerges. Holding humanitarian actors to account for their commitments to increase both the volume and quality of funding and to provide more of this funding to local and national responders requires better reporting from donors, UN agencies and INGOs and improvements of gender markers. Better reporting also underpins effective targeting, monitoring and adaptation of programming.

There is clearly, therefore, much that needs to change to effectively support gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls in humanitarian settings. Existing policy commitments, for instance through the Grand Bargain and Oslo Conference and Call to Action on Protection from Gender-based Violence in Emergencies, need to be fulfilled. Analysis within this report points towards a number of key areas for change:

  • Donors must protect and sustain current levels of funding and more equally share the burden of providing gender-related funding.
  • Donors must provide more direct multi-year and flexible funding and, where possible, more must be given directly to local and national actors.
  • UN agencies and INGOs must pass on more funding, including more multi-year and flexible funding, to local women-led and women’s rights organisations.
  • All humanitarian actors should include local women’s rights and women-led organisations in coordination, planning and decision-making on gender funding and programming in delivering their commitments to localise funding.
  • IATI, OECD DAC and UN OCHA FTS must strengthen gender markers currently available on aid data platforms. This will improve transparency on where gender-relevant funding is going, especially gender-mainstreamed funding, and streamline the reporting process to improve service delivery and maximise the impact of limited funds.
  • Donors, UN agencies and INGOs should consistently report to aid data platforms on gender funding.