• Report
  • 14 May 2015

Humanitarian assistance from non-state donors: Latest trends

Humanitarian needs around the world continue to increase but traditional funding from governments and institutional donors is not keeping pace. As part of

Humanitarian needs around the world continue to increase but traditional funding from governments and institutional donors is not keeping pace. As part of efforts to leverage new and alternative forms of assistance, aid agencies continue to look to a diverse and growing range of funding sources to fill the gap.

Humanitarian assistance from non-state donors is playing a growing role in supporting the international humanitarian response but it remains under-reported. This report looks at the role non-state donors play in the provision of humanitarian assistance – measuring funding from individuals, trusts and foundations, and companies and corporations – and assesses where the money comes from, who raises it, and where it is spent. The research draws on a broad set of data sourced directly from humanitarian agencies and covers the period from 2009 to 2013. Private assistance continues to be an important source of funding for humanitarian crises.

The number, scale and severity of humanitarian crises are outstripping resources. While international humanitarian assistance continues to increase, reaching record levels in 2013, it is still not enough to fully meet needs. Non-state or private donors have long played an important role in supporting the international humanitarian response, and there is currently significant attention being paid to further building the role of these actors.

The report finds that the volume of private humanitarian assistance given has grown from US$5 billion in 2012 to US$5.4 billion in 2013. However, from 2012 to 2013 the proportion of total international humanitarian assistance from private donors fell from 27% to 25%.

Individuals provide the majority of private funding

Individuals continue to contribute the overwhelming majority of private funding, providing an estimated 72% (US$3.9 billion) of the total in 2013. Individuals have long been major donors of humanitarian funding, providing an estimated 19% of the total international humanitarian response between 2009 and 2013. One potentially significant area of charitable giving from individuals that has received less attention in discussions around the current humanitarian financing crisis is faith-based giving, and Islamic social finance in particular. To read more on this topic see GHA’s recent report An Act of Faith: Humanitarian Financing and Zakat.

NGOs are the largest recipients of private humanitarian assistance, but UN agencies and the International Red Cross Red Crescent movement are receiving an increasing proportion

Non-governmental organisations continue to receive by far the largest proportion of private assistance, raising an estimated US$ 4.7 billion in 2013 and US$22.7 billion in the five years between 2009 and 2013. However, from 2012 to 2013 the proportion of total private humanitarian assistance received by UN agencies rose from 5% to 9% and from 3% to 4% for the International Red Cross Red Crescent movement.

Different expenditure patterns exist between government and private funding

Our data shows different expenditure patterns between government and private funding for different countries. For example, in 2013 Haiti was the third largest recipient of private funding but was only the 17th largest recipient of government funding. On the other hand, the occupied Palestinian territory was the 3rd largest recipient of bilateral government funding in 2013, but was only the 33rd largest recipient of funding from private donors.

As our 2014 report Humanitarian assistance from non-state donors: what is it worth? also showed, while all crises are dependent on donor governments for the majority of humanitarian funding, rapid-onset natural disasters tend to attract a greater proportion of funding from private donors than chronic and conflict-related crises.

Private donors are diversifying the range of assistance they provide

Private donors, in particular the private sector, are diversifying the type of support they offer beyond merely financial assistance to include new and innovative forms of in-kind assistance.

In 2013 private companies and corporations provided an estimated US$385.4 million in humanitarian funding. Many private sector actors are now moving beyond a direct donorship role towards a ‘corporate partnership’ approach, providing a range of skills and resources, the financial value of which is often unknown.

The need for timely and comprehensive data

Funding from private donors is currently under-reported and there is little information, data or research available on it. Due to this widespread lack of transparency, it is difficult to judge precisely how much is available, where it comes from, who is spending it, on what, or where.

As the profile, scale and diversity of private contributions to humanitarian assistance grows, so does the importance of being able to track all sources of available funding in order to coordinate the design and delivery of a comprehensive response. Improved and standardised reporting of all forms of assistance – cash and in-kind, private and government funding – will help to ensure the transparency, accountability and effective coordination of humanitarian assistance in this new and continually changing landscape.

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