Image by Diego Cupolo/IRIN | Zubeyde Alahmad fled Aleppo in 2013 for Ankara, Turkey
  • Report
  • 22 November 2022

Funding to local actors: evidence from the Syrian refugee response in Türkiye: Chapter 1



Türkiye is host to the world’s largest number of displaced men, women and children, including 3.7 million Syrian refugees. Since the Syrian crisis began in 2011, a large-scale domestic and international response has been mobilised to meet the needs of refugees and affected host communities in Türkiye. Local and national actors (LNAs), including state institutions and local/national non-governmental organisations (L/NNGOs) have played a leading role in financing, coordinating and delivering the response. Over time, as the numbers of refugees arriving in Türkiye has stabilised and with limited prospects for returns, international donors have also increasingly relied on national actors to deliver internationally funded aid programmes.[1] As such, there has been a growing discussion around ‘localisation’ in Türkiye, alongside global debates, including on how funding is channelled to the local level.

LNAs, including L/NNGOs, government institutions, national societies and the private sector, are often the first to respond to crises, as well as being best placed to understand the needs of their communities.[2] Ensuring sufficient funding reaches LNAs is essential for an efficient, effective and locally led response. Global commitments have been made by the international community to shift more resources and power to those closest to crisis, which include increasing direct funding to LNAs.[3] Despite this, in 2021 only 1.2% of international humanitarian funding was directly provided to LNAs and current reporting mechanisms make it difficult to comprehensively track funding which passes through one or more intermediaries. As a result, there are significant gaps in knowledge around how much funding ultimately reaches local actors, and through what modalities and channels.

This study, carried out by Development Initiatives (DI) and the Refugee Council of Türkiye (TMK), seeks to fill this evidence gap by examining how international funding is provided for the Syrian refugee response inside Türkiye. The research covers both humanitarian and development funding and focuses on two of the seven dimensions of localisation: funding and partnerships.[4] The specific objectives of this research are:

  1. To identify the amount of direct and indirect international grant funding that reached LNAs in 2019 and 2020 and how funding flows differ for different types of L/NNGOs, including refugee-led and women’s organisations
  2. To understand how accessible international funding is to LNAs, especially L/NNGOs, the main funding modalities, the mechanisms available, and to assess which of these mechanisms is best at channelling funds to LNAs
  3. To analyse the quality of international funding that reaches LNAs, especially L/NNGOs, the extent to which quality funding is cascaded from international organisations to local recipients and the quality of the partnerships between international and national actors.

The report is structured in four main sections:

  • Background to the displacement context in Türkiye, including the national and international policy and programming response, and overall trends in international grant funding to Türkiye since the Syrian crisis began
  • Findings on the total international grant funding to Türkiye specifically for the Syrian refugee response, and the volumes of funding and channels through which funding reaches LNAs
  • Findings on the extent to which quality funding is cascaded to LNAs in Türkiye
  • Findings on the quality of partnerships between international and national actors involved in the Syrian refugee response in Türkiye.
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Box 1

What do we mean by quality funding?

In addition to the volume of funding, the conditions with which funding is given can impact its efficiency and effectiveness. Funding which is flexible, predictable and multi-year is increasingly acknowledged as critical to improving principled humanitarian response, as is funding which covers indirect costs or overheads.[5] What is considered ‘quality funding’ can be different depending on the context and purpose. Factors which can be considered to allow for quality funding include the funding duration, the degree of earmarking, the flexibility to adapt, the extent of reporting requirements, the manner and timeliness of disbursements and the accessibility.[6] The Grand Bargain included commitments from donors and aid organisations to enhance the level of quality funding, including the cascading of quality funding to downstream partners. In March 2022, the Grand Bargain 2.0 quality funding caucus was launched to facilitate high-level dialogue with the aim of agreeing an increase in multi-year flexible funding to implementing organisations, including L/NNGOs.[7] A new Grand Bargain caucus on localisation of funding was also launched in June 2022 which will include a focus on the issue of indirect costs for LNAs.

In addition to capturing quantitative data on volumes of funding to LNAs, this study also focused on the quality of funding received by local and national civil society organisations. The quality of funding received by local and national government institutions is also an important area though was outside the scope of this study.

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A mixed methods approach combining primary quantitative and qualitative data collection and secondary data analysis was designed to meet the above objectives, carried out in three main stages.

Desk research

A preliminary desk research included a literature review and analysis of international funding flows reported to the two main data sources for development and humanitarian assistance: the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee’s (DAC) Creditor Reporting System (CRS) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA)’s Financial Tracking Service (FTS). This analysis informed a preliminary stakeholder mapping which guided sampling for the quantitative and qualitative data collection.

Quantitative data collection

The aim of the quantitative data collection was firstly to identify how much international grant funding was provided in 2019 and 2020 for the Syrian refugee response in Türkiye and, secondly, how much of this funding reached LNAs.[8] Funding data was requested directly from international public donors to Türkiye and from organisations directly receiving funding from donors. Funding data was provided by 6 donors, 9 UN agencies and 11 other international actors (international non-governmental organisations (INGOs), international financial institutions (IFIs) and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement (RCRC)),[9] detailing the organisations they provided funding to and their total funding for the refugee response for 2019 and 2020.[10] Funding data was also provided by one national NGO that acts as a funding intermediary for other LNAs. This dataset was complemented by transactions data from FTS, CRS and International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) for donors and implementing organisations who did not respond or who could not be reached (an additional 30 organisations). If available, data was also extracted from self-reported budget and project documents on the organisation’s website (3 organisations). Where possible, this manually collected data was cross-checked with a representative from the respective organisation for accuracy. In total, our dataset combined data from 36 donors and 23 recipient organisations, which provided funding data on 182 LNAs.

Following this data collection, separate datasets were compiled of direct funding and indirect funding (funding which passes through one or more intermediaries). In our aggregation of indirect funding, we account for a few instances of potential double counting, where the same organisation was reported as both a provider and recipient of indirect funding. We also reconciled the two datasets on direct and indirect funding by assessing what share of the recipient organisations’ annual response budgets were accounted for by direct funding in our dataset. Following that check, we added funding flows from unknown donors to specific organisation types to our direct funding dataset, amounting to 1.9% of direct funding for 2019 and 8.6% for 2020. This likely represents funding from private donors or internal allocations of unearmarked funding, or other funding sources that are not represented well on interagency reporting platforms, or organisations that did not respond to our data request. Reconciling direct and indirect funding in this way, without double counting between the two, meant we were able to calculate percentages of total funding – direct and/or indirect – by recipient organisation type for the Syrian refugee response in Türkiye.

LNAs identified as recipients of international funding were then coded by type and characteristic, including local organisations, national organisations, women’s rights and women-led organisations and refugee-led organisations. This coding process was led by TMK and guided by the definitions set out in the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) localisation marker paper[11] and the draft of the forthcoming IASC Gender Reference Group guidance.[12]

Qualitative data collection

Funding data was complemented by a series of interviews with local actors, donors and international organisations. In total, 19 LNAs, including the Turkish Red Crescent (TRC), were interviewed, of which half had a national presence and half operated locally in a specific province. Of the total, five organisations were refugee-led, four were women’s organisations and one was an LGBTI+ organisation. In addition, three donors and twelve international organisations were interviewed, including UN agencies, INGOs and other international organisations.

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Through collecting data from both the largest donors and recipients of assistance in Türkiye, this study captured most of the direct and indirect international funding flows to local actors in 2019 and 2020, including funding that passed through more than one intermediary. However, inevitably, not all flows are identifiable and some gaps in data are likely to be present. This is most likely to have occurred where there is a long transaction chain, i.e. flows that pass through two or more intermediaries. Funding data requests were sent to a wide range of actors identified through initial analysis of CRS and FTS funding flows and cross-checked with TMK. In total, funding data requests were sent to 36 organisations, with a 72% response rate.

The data collection timelines for this research were set to 2019 and 2020 calendar years. For organisations that reported their budgets for multi-year projects, and for donors with financial years different to calendar years, the data on their annual totals might not fully match the totals used in this research and be estimates. Data on the breakdown of funding to international actors in Türkiye (as well as national actors), provided directly and indirectly was requested in the survey but not always comprehensively provided. Quantitative findings are therefore not completely representative of all funding flows to Türkiye and should be considered indicative. Where publicly available data was used to complement the survey responses, it should be noted that data gaps remain, and notably reporting fluctuates on FTS between donors outside the DAC, e.g. for Gulf donors.

The scope of this research was originally limited to humanitarian finance flows for the Syrian refugee response. However, this was expanded to examine all international grant funding (humanitarian and development assistance) to better reflect the breadth of displacement financing available for the Syrian refugee response in Türkiye. While this more accurately represents the types of funding accessed by local actors for Syrian response activities, the broader scope does increase the risk of incomplete data and makes comparisons with findings from other humanitarian studies less feasible. Furthermore, questions related to the quality of funding and partnerships explored in the interviews were also likely to be influenced by the type of funding interviewees most frequently received (humanitarian or development). To address this, efforts were made where possible to discern the origin of funding and whether this influenced the quality of the funding and partnerships. Donors and recipients who shared data were also asked to indicate whether funding flows were from development or humanitarian budgets. This information was obtained for all funding flows except the unknown donor flows added to the direct funding dataset.

The scope of this research was also limited to funding for local actors supporting the Syrian refugee response, though it should be noted there are several other refugee nationalities hosted by Türkiye and supported by local actors, as well as vulnerable host communities. Similarly, while funding data specifically for the Syrian refugee response was requested from donors and recipients, some were unable to separate funding for Syrian refugees from wider refugee programming. Therefore, while the data presented is predominantly earmarked for the Syrian refugee response, it may include funding for refugees of other nationalities.


  • 5
    Recent evidence around the benefits of quality funding include: IRC, 2020. A win-win, Multi-year flexible funding is better for people and better value for donors; DI, 2019. Field perspectives on multi-year humanitarian funding and planning: How theory has translated into practice in Jordan and Lebanon; DI, 2020. Catalogue of quality funding practices to the humanitarian response.
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