Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2021: Chapter 3
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Faced with growing need for international humanitarian assistance, driven by the Covid-19 pandemic, public donors are having to make difficult domestic and international economic and political decisions. This chapter highlights individual public donor behaviour in the pandemic year, and the recipients of humanitarian assistance, as well as the evolving role of private donors and multilateral development banks (MDBs) in crisis contexts.
While total international humanitarian assistance plateaued in 2020, there was significant variation in contributions between individual donors. Most of the largest public donors increased their contributions in 2020, including the US and Germany. However, substantial reductions in the volumes of assistance from the UK and Saudi Arabia meant that overall funding from the largest 20 donors stagnated at US$23.1 billion. Funding from the largest 20 public donors that was unrelated to Covid-19 pandemic response fell below 2019 levels.
Contributions of international humanitarian assistance from private donors grew by 9% to US$6.8 billion in 2019, driven by an increase in funding from private individuals. The pandemic has reinforced the need for a broad crisis-financing base, and the role of private donors is expected to grow and evolve, including person-to-person giving and support from corporate philanthropic trusts and foundations.
MDBs are increasingly important actors in crisis contexts (see Chapter 2), with the ability to mobilise large volumes of finance. It is therefore important for humanitarian actors to understand how MDB finance operates in crisis contexts, to what extent it aligns with humanitarian funding and how this could evolve. One important funding mechanism is the World Bank’s Crisis Response Window, which, between 2011 and 2018, provided US$3.0 billion in crisis response funding, of which nearly two thirds (65%, US$1.9 billion) went to the 20 largest recipients of humanitarian assistance.
A small number of crises continued to receive the majority of all international humanitarian assistance in 2020. However, as more countries required assistance, the 10 largest recipients in 2020 received less: 57% of all international humanitarian assistance in 2020, the smallest proportion for almost a decade, down from 66% in 2019. Funding for humanitarian needs unrelated to Covid-19 fell below 2019 levels; among the ten largest recipients, funding for these needs was US$3.2 billion (21%) less in 2020 than in 2019.
Figure 3.1: Most government donors increased contributions in 2020 but there were large reductions from a small number of key donors
20 largest public donors of humanitarian assistance in 2020 and percentage change from 2019
|Country||2019 (US$ millions)||2020 (US$ millions)||% change, 2019–2020|
Source: Development Initiatives based on OCED Development Assistance Committee (DAC), UN OCHA Financial Tracking Service and UN Central Emergency Response Fund data.
Notes: 2020 data for OECD DAC is preliminary. Data is in constant 2019 prices. ‘Public donors’ refers to governments and EU institutions. Contributions of EU member states include an imputed amount of their expenditure (see our online ‘Methodology and definitions’, Chapter 5). *EU institutions are also included separately for comparison and are shaded differently to distinguish from government donors. **Turkey is shaded differently because the humanitarian assistance it voluntarily reports to the DAC is largely expenditure on hosting Syrian refugees within Turkey, and so not strictly comparable with the international humanitarian assistance from other donors in this figure. ***Preliminary figures for Australia have only been partially reported to the OECD DAC for 2020 and will be revised upwards in final reporting at the end of 2021.
To meet the increased humanitarian need as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, funding from most of the largest public donors increased in 2020. However, substantial reductions in contributions from the UK and Saudi Arabia meant that total volumes of international humanitarian assistance flatlined. This continues a trend of slowing growth in humanitarian assistance allocations from public donors since 2015 (with the exception of 2018) and is in contrast with the faster-growing funding requirements. Additionally, while specific funding for the Covid-19 response increased overall contributions from many donors, other funding assistance from donors fell compared to 2019.
- The volume of international humanitarian assistance from the largest 20 public donors in 2020 flatlined at US$23.1 billion.
- As in previous years, the largest 20 public donors in 2020 contributed 96% of all international humanitarian assistance allocations. Within that, the three largest government donors, the US, Germany and the UK, accounted for 61% of total public donor contributions, a slight increase from 2019 (59%).
The slight reduction in overall funding from public donors masks significant fluctuations in the volumes of assistance provided by individual donors.
- In 2020, the majority (14) of the 20 largest donors increased their international humanitarian assistance contributions, with 8 increasing by more than 10%. The largest two donors in 2020 increased their contributions: US funding rose by 7%, from US$8.3 billion in 2019 to US$8.9 billion in 2020, while funding from Germany notably climbed by 29%, from US$2.8 billion to US$3.7 billion.
- These increases were offset by reductions in funding from 6 of the 20 largest donors, including 5 who reduced their contributions by more than 30%. UK contributions fell substantially by 29%, from US$2.9 billion in 2019 to US$2.0 billion in 2020.
- Other significant reductions in assistance came from Gulf donors: contributions from Saudi Arabia more than halved (53%), from US$1.4 billion in 2019 to US$679 million, while funding from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) fell by 39%, from US$625 million to US$383 million. Over the past four years, contributions from Saudi Arabia and UAE have fluctuated considerably, focused largely on the Yemen crisis. In 2020, volumes returned to levels significantly below the peak of 2019.
In 2020, donors allocated a significant portion of contributions to address the impacts of Covid-19. In most cases, donor contributions to the pandemic response drove up their overall assistance in 2020. However, analysis of data provided to the Financial Tracking Service (FTS) of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), suggests that this additional Covid-19 funding came at the expense of existing humanitarian assistance, with funding unrelated to Covid-19 from the largest 20 public donors in 2020 falling below 2019 levels.
- Based on FTS data, the donors providing the largest contributions to the Covid-19 response were the US (US$1.1 billion, 13% of total contributions), Germany (US$923 million, 26%) and Japan (US$599 million, 51%).
- Additional funding for the pandemic response in 2020 resulted in all donors (except Switzerland) reducing their levels of humanitarian assistance unrelated to Covid-19 when compared to 2019. Five countries reduced their humanitarian assistance unrelated to Covid-19 by more than US$500 million in 2020: Saudi Arabia (a fall of US$931 million, 64%), the UK (by US$699 million, 35%), the EU institutions (by US$594 million, 20%), UAE (by US$578 million, 93%) and the US (by US$551 million, 6.7%).
While budgetary documents for the coming year are not made publicly available by all donors, published donor budgets for 2021 give an emerging picture of humanitarian assistance, following a year of unprecedented humanitarian need in 2020. The UK announced cuts of over US$6.3 billion to its overseas aid budget, reducing total spending on official development assistance (ODA) from 0.7% of gross national income (GNI) to 0.5%. Within this, the UK has allocated US$1.3 billion to humanitarian preparedness and response, US$0.9 billion lower than in 2020. In contrast, four G7 members are projected to increase their ODA spending in 2021, including the second-largest donor, Germany.
Spending on in-country refugee hosting
Many donor countries also hosted refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons in 2020. Most expenditure by governments on efforts to support refugees within their own borders is not reported, although donors can report some of their spending in the first year of hosting refugees as ODA to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OCED). In 2020, the available data indicates that spending on hosting refugees in-country decreased for the fourth consecutive year.
- In 2020, the volume of reported ODA spent on in-country refugee hosting costs decreased by 9%, from US$9.7 billion in 2019 to US$8.8 billion in 2020. This decrease represents the fourth consecutive fall in expenditure on refugees and more than half (52%) of the total spending in 2016, when it peaked at US$16.8 billion.
- In 2020, three countries accounted for nearly two thirds of all expenditure on in-country refugee hosting: Germany (29%), the US (21%) and France (13%).
- Among the 10 countries with the highest expenditure on in-country refugee hosting, large increases in expenditure, in excess of US$100 million, were seen for Canada (up 34% to US$638 million) and the UK (up 23% to US$752 million). Large decreases were seen for Germany (down 17% to US$2.5 billion), Italy (down 50% to US$222 million), Sweden (down 45% to US$143 million) and Spain (down 38% to US$185 million).
Humanitarian assistance as a percentage of GNI
Figure 3.2: Five donors provided more than 0.1% of GNI as international humanitarian assistance in 2020
20 donors providing the most humanitarian assistance as a percentage of GNI, 2020
|Country||2019||2020||% change, 2019–2020|
Source: Development Initiatives based on OECD DAC, UN OCHA FTS, UN CERF, World Bank World Development Indicators and International Monetary Fund World Economic Outlook data.
Notes: GNI data for 2020 has been estimated using historical data on GNI and real GDP growth rates for 2020. 2020 data for OECD DAC is preliminary. Data is in constant 2019 prices. *Turkey is shaded differently because the humanitarian assistance it voluntarily reports to the DAC is largely expenditure on hosting Syrian refugees within Turkey, and so not strictly comparable with the international humanitarian assistance from other donors in this figure.
The proportion of gross national income (GNI) spent on international humanitarian assistance indicates the significance of humanitarian spending relative to the size of a country’s economy and other spending priorities. In 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic put additional pressures on the budgets of donor governments. While most donors slightly increased the share of GNI spent on international humanitarian assistance, there were sizeable drops from others.
- Five countries in total contributed more than 0.1% of GNI as international humanitarian assistance: Turkey (0.98%), Luxembourg (0.19%), Sweden (0.16%), Norway (0.16%) and Denmark (0.15%). In 2019, eight donors provided more than 0.1% of GNI.
- In 2020, Turkey continued to spend the largest share of GNI on humanitarian assistance (0.98%), increasing by 0.04% compared to 2019. Turkey’s reported contributions are not directly comparable with those of other donors, as the assistance voluntarily reported to the DAC largely comprises spending on hosting Syrian refugees in Turkey.
- In line with overall funding trends, three countries notably reduced their contributions of GNI as international humanitarian assistance: Saudi Arabia by half in 2020 to 0.09%, the UK from 0.10% to 0.08% and the UAE from 0.15% to 0.09%.
- While the US is the largest donor by volume, its ODA contributions are low relative to its economic size. In 2020, the US contributed only 0.04% of GNI as international humanitarian assistance, the sixth-smallest share of GNI among the top 20 donors.
Figure 3.3: The proportion of total private funding coming from individuals continues to grow
Sources of private international humanitarian assistance, 2015–2019
|Year(s)||Individuals (US$ billions)||Trusts and foundations (US$ billions)||Companies and corporations (US$ billions)||National societies (US$ billions)||Other (US$ billions)||Total (US$ billions)|
|Year(s)||Individuals||Trusts and foundations||Companies and corporations||National societies||Other||Total|
Source: Development Initiatives based on GHA's unique dataset of private contributions.
Note: Data is in constant 2019 prices.
Private donor contributions make up a substantial portion of total international humanitarian assistance and play an important role in financing response to crises (see Figure 2.1, Chapter 2). The largest source of private donations has consistently been from individuals, and in 2019 (the latest year for which a breakdown by donor type is available) this share is estimated to have grown considerably.
- In 2019, international humanitarian assistance from private donors increased by 9%, from US$6.2 billion in 2018 to a record US$6.8 billion in 2019.
- Individual giving remained the largest single source of private humanitarian funding, increasing significantly by volume, up 19% from US$4.2 billion in 2018 to US$5.0 billion in 2019, and as a proportion of total private contributions from 68% to 74%.
- Funding from national societies continued to fall in both volume and proportion of total private giving, from 11% (US$675 million) in 2018 to 6% (US$391 million) in 2019. Funding from foundations also fell, from 10% (US$615 million) in 2018 to 8% (US$513 million) in 2019.
- As in previous years, non-governmental organisations continued to receive the largest proportion of funding from private donors: 85% in 2019, compared to just 12% for UN agencies.
Large private trusts and corporations
Private corporations and their philanthropic trusts and foundations accounted for 14% (US$4.1 billion) of total international humanitarian assistance provided by private donors between 2015 and 2019. Historically, private trusts and corporations have focused the majority of their funding on natural disaster preparedness and response, with less engagement in protracted crisis and conflict contexts. However, as alternative sources of finance are sought to close the humanitarian financing gap, the role of international corporations in all settings is anticipated to grow. Private actors are also expected to continue moving beyond a donor mentality toward a ‘corporate partnership’ approach, encompassing a wide range of activities, from sharing technical expertise to providing logistical support in crisis settings.
Unfortunately, FTS data provides limited and inconsistent insights into the behaviour of private trusts and corporations. Large gaps in donor reporting year-to-year limit the reliability of the data, and comprehensive information on aid flows from private trusts and corporation aid is not available.
Private trusts and corporations’ response to Covid-19
The pandemic has required an unprecedented response from all humanitarian actors, and evidence suggests that private trusts and foundations have adapted quickly to increase flexibility and ensure predictability of funds. An OECD report on the behaviour of private trusts and foundations in the immediate aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic found that, by the end of April 2020, around US$1.0 billion had been allocated to pandemic response efforts in developing countries and globally. FTS data shows that in 2020, 70% (US$219 million) of contributions from foundations and private corporations went to the Covid-19 cluster. As well as financial contributions, foundations provided non-financial assistance, such as increased flexibility to grantees, large-scale fundraising, continuation of usual pay-outs, and guidance on crisis management and training to support teleworking. A more recent survey by the Association of Charitable Foundations found that 84% of UK foundations would continue to offer the flexibility around reporting and payments that was introduced in 2020.
Case study: the IKEA Foundation
The IKEA Foundation was established in 1982 and is funded by the INGKA Foundation. According to CRS, the IKEA Foundation was the second-largest humanitarian private donor in 2019, contributing US$56 million. One third of contributions had information on country recipients and, for 2019, CRS reports that the IKEA Foundation provided assistance to 12 countries, the bulk of which went to East Africa. The largest recipients were Ethiopia (US$5.6 million), Kenya (US$3.3 million) and Uganda (US$2.7 million). The Foundation has supported long-term development projects and provided grants for emergency relief, and exemplifies a private actor increasingly interacting with the humanitarian sector in different ways.
The IKEA Foundation had committed up to EUR 10 million in funding for the Covid-19 response by the end of April 2020. In support of the Covid-19 response, the Foundation also provided a EUR 1.5 million grant to kickstart the global Start Network Covid-19 Fund, with the aim of providing rapid funding to address underfunded aspects of the Covid-19 crisis at a local level.
IKEA has also demonstrated a ‘corporate partnership’ approach increasingly seen from private trusts and foundations. In 2017, Inter IKEA partnered with the Jordan River Foundation, a national non-profit organisation, providing textiles training and employment for Syrian refugee women and Jordanian women in need of livelihood opportunities. The textiles are sold in IKEA stores worldwide. By bringing traditional ‘beneficiaries’ of humanitarian assistance into the company’s supply chain, the partnership sought to empower refugee and host communities while also offering a revenue stream for the Jordan River Foundation and IKEA.
International financial institutions traditionally associated with development activity are increasingly active in countries experiencing humanitarian crises and play an increasingly important role in crisis response. With MDB funding to countries experiencing humanitarian crises growing (see Figure 2.3, Chapter 2), it is critical to understand how MDB finance operates in crisis contexts, how it aligns with humanitarian assistance and how it addresses the short- and long-term impacts and drivers of crisis.
The World Bank is responsible for a large amount of funding that goes to low- and middle-income countries, with its International Development Association (IDA) focusing on the poorest countries in the world. The IDA is funded through replenishments every three years from public donors, the World Bank and funds raised from capital markets. The World Bank’s engagement in crisis contexts is driven by its focus on promoting sustainable growth for people living in poverty, recognition of the negative impact of crises on development and the need to build resilience to shocks. Its mission is not directly humanitarian. World Bank funding is usually for long-term development projects, however it provides funding when IDA countries are affected by crises. In the year after the Covid-19 pandemic began, the World Bank Group committed US$36 billion for the crisis response in low- and middle-income countries, which made up 29% of total multilateral humanitarian and development Covid-19 response funding.
Tracking World Bank financing for crisis responses
Research carried out by the Centre for Disaster Protection and Development Initiatives looked at crisis events between 2015 and 2020, and the international funding flows in response to these events – including humanitarian funding, funding from international financial institutions and bilateral development funding (see Figure 3.4).
- The World Bank committed significant volumes of crisis response funding within 18 months of the crises starting. Across six crises, the World Bank committed US$1.9 billion, representing 43% of the overall humanitarian and development funding for the response.
- World Bank crisis funding is disbursed much more slowly than funding from other sources. While nearly a quarter (24%) of total humanitarian and development assistance was disbursed within the first two months of the crisis event, the World Bank had disbursed only 28% of committed funds after 18 months. Improving the timeliness of responses is currently flagged as a priority by the World Bank, and crisis preparedness is a central theme for the IDA20 cycle (July 2022 to June 2025).
Issues with tracking World Bank financing for crisis responses
There are currently significant barriers to tracking development finance flows (see Box 2.1, Issues and challenges of tracking ODA financing in crisis contexts) and creating a coherent picture of financing to countries affected by crisis. Removing these barriers is critical to enabling effective coordination, planning and financing at the humanitarian–development–peacebuilding nexus.
There are challenges in understanding the relative importance of different financing instruments within the overall World Bank system, including the rationale for activating instruments in certain contexts (or not), and their effectiveness. The World Bank publishes information on all its projects, including monthly overviews of disbursements per project, and broad information on funding sources and allocations to different project components. However, there is no easy way to aggregate across projects or by instrument or mechanism (globally or at the country level), and there is limited project-level reporting. For example, the use of Crisis Response Window funding is often not evaluated separately on a project or country level. The same is true for information on how exactly different funding instruments complement each other in practice.
Figure 3.4: The World Bank plays an important role in financing crisis responses
Case studies for World Bank crisis response
|Country||Year of crisis start||Number of people impacted||Launch of UN emergency appeal||Total development funding committed (US$ millions)||Total humanitarian funding committed (US$ millions)||Total World Bank funding committed (US$ millions)||Crisis Response Window funding committed (US$ millions)||Proportion of total disbursements made within 2 months||Proportion of total disbursements made within 6 months||
total disbursements made within 12 months
total disbursements made within 18 months
|Proportion of World Bank disbursements made within 2 months||Proportion of World Bank disbursements made within 6 months||
World Bank disbursements made within 12 months
|Proportion of World Bank disbursements made within 18 months|
|Earthquake||Nepal||2015||5,642,150||29 April 2015||649||560||328||78||39%||48%||65%||73%||0%||0%||30%||56%|
|Hurricane Matthew||Haiti||2016||2,100,439||10 October 2016||270||205||100||100||41%||55%||61%||69%||0%||0%||17%||40%|
|Drought||Kenya||2017||3,000,000||15 March 2017||69||210||56||35||9%||46%||93%||100%||0%||70%||79%||98%|
|Ebola epidemic||DRC||2018||301,779||27 May 2018||1015||361||950||258||3%||4%||14%||39%||0%||0%||3%||12%|
|Cyclones Idai and Kenneth||Mozambique||2019||1,901,594||24 March 2019||616||290||420||390||29%||43%||55%||65%||0%||1%||15%||33%|
Source: Centre for Disaster Protection and Development Initiatives, 2021. Funding disasters: tracking global humanitarian and development funding for response to natural hazards. Available at: https://www.disasterprotection.org/funding-disasters-tracking-global-humanitarian-and-development-funding-for-response-to-natural-hazards
Notes: Data is for the 18 months after crisis onset. The number of people impacted is taken from EM-DAT, the international disasters database (www.emdat.be/), except for Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), as the number of people affected was not available. The number of people vaccinated in DRC has instead been used here as a proxy measure of people at risk. Data is in current US$ prices.
World Bank crisis financing mechanisms
The World Bank uses various financing mechanisms and tools to support countries affected by crises. The Crisis Response Window (CRW) (see Figure 3.5) has been in place since 2010 to support IDA countries. It has addressed the economic impacts of global financial crises and economic shocks, as well as natural hazards, public health emergencies and slower-onset crises. The latter include disease outbreaks and food insecurity and are covered by the early response financing framework, which has been part of the CRW since the IDA19 replenishment cycle (July 2020).
CRW funding is usually requested by and channelled to country governments. However, there have been some exceptions in fragile contexts. The CRW has provided direct support to humanitarian health responses in Yemen and Somalia, implemented by the United Nations Development Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and humanitarian actors, rather than country governments.
- Based on publicly available data, from 2011 to 2018 the CRW committed a total of US$3.0 billion, which included funding for crises in 27 countries.
The World Bank’s Catastrophe Deferred Drawdown Option (Cat DDO) allows countries to pre-arrange financing that can be activated following a natural hazard or health-related crisis. To be eligible, countries should have a credible disaster risk management plan in place. A major advantage of this type of financing is that it can be disbursed within weeks, sometimes days, of activation.
- In the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, the World Bank disbursed US$1.7 billion through Cat DDOs; the majority of this became available in April 2020, unlike other financing in response to Covid-19 which was not pre-arranged and thus took longer to disburse.
- Cat DDOs have also been used to respond to natural hazards, such as the 2019 flooding in Kenya (US$70 million) and the 2011 typhoon Washi in the Philippines (US$500 million).
The World Bank also has processes in place that allow project budgets to be reallocated to finance a crisis response. This funding can be either disbursed through new projects or added to existing projects that have a Contingent Emergency Response Component (CERC), which allows for rapid disbursements. This happens either by reallocating financing within a project to a CERC, or by using the Immediate Response Mechanism, which takes financing from other projects.
- In 2019, cyclones in Mozambique led the government to request the activation of the Immediate Response Mechanism. As a result, US$55 million was reallocated from other projects to support immediate response activities through CERCs.
The Pandemic Emergency Financing Facility (PEF) was created in 2016 after the Ebola outbreak in West Africa and consists of a cash and insurance window that can release funding for IDA countries if faced with a pandemic. However, it is not clear whether the PEF will continue.
- In response to the Ebola outbreak, the PEF released a total of US$61 million to DRC from its cash window.
- In response to Covid-19, the PEF released US$196 million through its insurance window. This supported response activities in 64 countries through government bodies and international organisations such as the World Health Organization, UN International Children’s Emergency Fund, and International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
Figure 3.5: The Crisis Response Window aims to complement wider crisis financing in severe and slow-onset crisis contexts
How the World Bank Crisis Response Window is triggered and operates in an unfolding crisis
Case study: Crisis Response Window
Figure 3.6: Between 2011 and 2018 the Crisis Response Window committed US$3.0 billion to crisis responses, of which over a third was to countries experiencing protracted crises
World Bank Crisis Response Window, commitments by year and type of crisis, 2011–2018
|Year||Volume committed (US$ millions)|
Volume committed between 2011 and 2018 by crisis type: Public health emergency: US$620 million. Drought: US$740 million. Economic shock: US$222 million. Earthquake: US$808 million. Tropical storm: US$255 million. Flood: US$398
Source: Centre for Disaster Protection.
Notes: Data is based on CRW funding between 2011 and 2018. Data is in current US$ prices. Data relates to CRW responses to 4 public health emergencies, 14 droughts, 5 economic shocks, 7 tropical storms and 7 floods.
The CRW has provided significant amounts of funding to countries experiencing humanitarian crises, with the majority of funding committed in response to earthquakes, drought and public health emergencies.
- Based on publicly available data, from 2011 to 2018 the CRW committed a total of US$3.0 billion, which included funding for crises in 27 countries.
- Almost two thirds (65%) of CRW funding (US$2.0 billion) went to nine countries, which were also large recipients of humanitarian assistance (among the 20 largest).
- Most recipients of CRW funding (21 out of 27) were not experiencing protracted crises. However, the six countries that were received 40% of the total CRW funding between 2011 and 2018 (US$1.2 billion).
- 2017 saw the highest commitments made from the CRW (US$824 million), with the cholera outbreak in Yemen (US$200 million), the drought in Yemen (US$125 million) and the drought in Ethiopia (US$100 million) receiving the largest amounts.
- The substantial increase in funding in 2014 (US$678 million) was largely driven by the Ebola crisis. While the response to the 2010 Haiti earthquake has been the largest to date (US$508 million), many of these grants were committed years after the crisis event.
- The crisis types that received the most CRW funding were earthquakes (US$808 million), droughts (US$740 million) and public health emergencies (US$620 million). This includes two earthquakes and 14 drought events, which indicates the varying size of CRW funding per crisis.
Direct giving, or ‘person-to-person’ giving (P2P), is a form of crowdfunding in which money is transferred between individuals without an intermediary. It allows individuals to give directly to people affected by crisis, or to projects supporting humanitarian action.
The increase in direct giving in recent years has been facilitated by a number of factors: technological advances in areas such as mobile money and distributed ledger technology, growing diaspora populations and a desire for individuals to establish a more direct connection with recipients of their donations. Crowdfunding and P2P online platforms such as Give Directly and GlobalGiving allow individuals to learn about and support specific individuals and local organisations through direct donations or peer lending (e.g. KIVA).
Direct giving is recognised as part of the growing diversity in humanitarian and development funding streams. It is also linked to the emergence of network humanitarianism, of which the removal of intermediaries (‘disintermediation’) is a key characteristic. The World Bank estimates that, by 2025, crowdfunding to developing countries could reach the value of US$96 billion, but there is little data available that aggregates total direct giving to countries experiencing humanitarian crisis. However, trends in giving from single online fundraising platforms are available and give an indication of the volumes of direct giving over time.
- According to GlobalGiving’s data (published to IATI), total funding donated through the platform increased from US$31.2 million in 2011 to US$98.4 million in 2020. 2020 saw a large overall increase (63%) in funding compared to 2019.
- The proportion of total GlobalGiving donations being channelled to ODA-eligible countries has increased, from 8.0% (US$2.5 million) in 2011 to 28% (US$28.0 million) in 2020. The top five ODA-eligible countries supported by GlobalGiving in 2020 were China, India, Kenya, Mexico and South Africa. Together they received US$12.8 million via GlobalGiving in 2020, 13% of total funding through the platform.
- Funding flows to countries experiencing humanitarian crisis are more limited though increasing. Donations via GlobalGiving to the top 20 annual recipients of international humanitarian assistance reached US$4.4 million in 2020 (4.4% of total), up from US$1.6 million (3.2%) in 2015. However, whether the purpose of this funding was for humanitarian or development activities is unknown.
- By contrast, GlobalGiving donations to countries experiencing humanitarian crises identified in ECHO’s 2020 Forgotten Crisis Assessment accounted for 13% (US$13 million) of total funding in 2020. This suggests that individuals could be more inclined to fund projects in countries with less well-supported humanitarian crises.
Figure 3.7: Most of the largest recipients received less humanitarian assistance for needs unrelated to Covid-19 in 2020 than they did in 2019
10 largest recipients of international humanitarian assistance, 2019–2020
2020: Funding for Covid-19
response (US$ millions)
2020: Other funding (US$
|2020 total (US$ millions)||% change, 2019–2020|
Source: Development Initiatives based on UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Financial Tracking Service (FTS) data.
Notes: Data is in constant 2019 prices and includes country-allocable amounts only. Funding for the Covid-19 response is based on DI's coding of FTS data aligned with destination emergency name, plan name and global cluster name on FTS.
In 2020, total international humanitarian assistance remained at levels similar to those in 2019 (see Figure 2.1, Chapter 2), despite the sharply increased demand for humanitarian funding to meet the needs of more people in more countries, driven by the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic (see Figure 2.2, Chapter 2). In 2020, significantly more countries, however, received humanitarian assistance than in 2019.
- In total, 112 countries received more than US$5 million of humanitarian assistance in 2020. This compares with 69 countries in 2019.
Concentration of funding
In 2020, a shift in how funding was targeted among countries was evident, as total funding was less concentrated among the largest recipients. While the number of countries receiving some humanitarian assistance increased, many received relatively small amounts. The majority of country-allocable humanitarian assistance – funding flowing both inside and outside appeals – continued to be received by a small number of large-scale crises. However, funding to the 10 largest recipients in 2020 accounted for the smallest proportion of total humanitarian assistance for almost a decade.
- In 2020, the 10 largest recipients received 57% of all funding to countries in 2020. This is the smallest proportion of funding received by the 10 largest recipients since 2012 and compares to 66% in 2019.
It is largely the same countries year-on-year that are present in the group of 10 largest recipients. All the members of this group in 2020 experienced protracted crisis.
- In 2020, the only change among the 10 largest recipients from 2019 was Sudan replacing Bangladesh.
- Using the existence of a UN-coordinated appeal as proxy for experiencing humanitarian crisis, 9 of these 10 largest recipients have experienced crisis for 9 or more consecutive years. The DRC, Somalia and Sudan have experienced crisis for 21 consecutive years.
In aggregate, the 10 largest recipients received less funding targeted to countries than in 2019, and when funding specifically allocated for Covid-19 is accounted for, humanitarian assistance for other needs reduced significantly.
- In 2020, the 10 largest recipients of international humanitarian assistance received US$13.3 billion, a decrease of 11% from the US$15.0 billion received in 2019.
- Taking into account funding directed to respond to the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, for which US$1.3 billion was provided, these countries received US$12.0 billion for other pre-existing or emerging humanitarian needs in 2020, US$3.0 billion less than for other humanitarian needs (not related to Covid-19) in 2019.
The largest recipients of international humanitarian assistance in 2020 received a relatively small proportion of their total funding for Covid-19 needs, compared to other countries.
- Of the total funding received by the 10 largest recipients, 10% (US$1.3 billion of a total US$13.3 billion received), was allocated to meet needs related to Covid-19.
- This compares to an average of 28% (US$2.8 billion of a total US$9.9 billion received) of the total humanitarian funding received by other countries.
- Visibility of where all funding for the Covid-19 emergency response was directed in 2020 is limited. Of the total US$6.3 billion reported as targeted to the Covid-19 emergency response, a third (35%, US$2.2 billion) was not allocated to a specific country destination but reported as delivered to global, multi-country or unspecified destinations.
In aggregate, countries not among the 10 largest recipients received more funding in 2020 than in 2019. However, when funding for Covid-19 is discounted, they still received less for other humanitarian needs (unrelated to Covid-19) than in 2019.
- Funding to the next 20 largest recipients of humanitarian assistance (the 11th- to 30th-largest recipients) increased from US$6.5 billion (28% of total country-allocable assistance) in 2019 to US$7.4 billion (32%) in 2020.
- However, in aggregate, less funding was provided to this group of countries for other needs (unrelated to Covid-19) in 2020 (US$5.9 billion) than in 2019 (US$6.5 billion).
Patterns of funding to individual recipients
The fall in assistance provided to Yemen in 2019, following a very sharp increase in 2018, continued in 2020, resulting in Syria becoming the largest recipient of international humanitarian assistance.
- Funding to Yemen reduced by 46% (a fall of US$1.8 billion) to US$2.2 billion, down from a high of US$5.1 billion in 2018. While UN appeal requirements for Yemen also reduced, the level of underfunding within the Yemen appeal increased, with 42% of requirements unmet in 2020 compared to 12% in 2019.
- Driving this fall in funding were decreases from a number of donors. The largest reductions were from Saudi Arabia, whose funding decreased by US$891 million from 2019 (a 65% reduction), and the UAE, with a US$476 million decrease (a 95% fall). Funding from other donors also contributed to the overall reduction, with the US reducing funding by 26% (a US$230 million decrease) and the UK by 21% (a US$54 million fall).
- Among other large recipients, significant increases in funding in 2020 were evident to Lebanon, where funding grew 38% to US$1.6 billion, and to Sudan, where funding increased by 47% to US$945 million.
Outside the 10 largest recipients, there were large rises and falls in funding received by a number of other countries.
- Four countries outside the 10 largest recipients had increases in funding in excess of US$100 million compared with 2019; Burkina Faso increasing by US$184 million, Niger by US$161 million, Colombia by US$154 million and Afghanistan by US$123 million.
- Funding to 15 countries outside the 10 largest recipients rose notably by volume (by more than US$20 million), also more than doubling in comparison to volumes received in 2019. Covid-19 funding was the main driver of increases in over half of these countries (8 of 15), with 50% or more of funding for Covid-19 needs. These countries were: Cambodia, Fiji, Greece, Iran, Nepal, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines and Tunisia.
- The largest increase by volume among these 15 countries was in Iran, where funding grew by US$71 million, an increase of 253%.
- Only two countries experienced reductions in funding of more than US$50 million: Mozambique decreasing by US$245 million and Bangladesh by US$57 million.
Figures 3.1 and 3.2, and associated data, were updated on 29 June 2021. Box 3.1 was updated on 29 September 2021.
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GOV.UK, Changes to the UK’s aid budget in the Spending Review, www.gov.uk/government/news/changes-to-the-uks-aid-budget-in-the-spending-review (accessed on 10 June 2021)Return to source text
UK government, 2021 (April). UK official development assistance (ODA) allocations 2021 to 2022: written ministerial statement. Available at: www.gov.uk/government/speeches/uk-official-development-assistance-oda-allocations-2021-to-2022-written-ministerial-statement. Prices in GBP are presented in current USD prices.Return to source text
Center for Global Development, 2021 (January). An overview of the impact of proposed cuts to UK Aid. Available at: www.cgdev.org/publication/overview-impact-proposed-cuts-uk-aidReturn to source text
IARAN, 2019. The role of private companies and foundations. Available at: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/593eb9e7b8a79bc4102fd8aa/t/5cf53f87f01e2c0001ee57bc/1559576456319/The+role+of+private+companies+and+foundations+.pdfReturn to source text
CaLP and IARAN, 2019. The future of financial assistance: an outlook to 2030. Available at: www.calpnetwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/03/future-of-financial-assistance-report-fullfinal.pdfReturn to source text
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