Image by UN Photo/Sahem Rababah
  • Background paper
  • 26 July 2019

Innovative financing for refugee situations

A practical overview of innovative ways of financing refugee situations to help those working to address crisis navigate and engage with ongoing discussions.



Sophia Swithern

A practical overview of the key concepts, initiatives and questions to help those working in crisis contexts to navigate and engage with ongoing discussions

How can the world better fund its response to humanitarian crises? This question is critical because humanitarian financing currently falls short in supporting people facing imminent, new or ongoing crises. The post-hoc, grant-based mainstay is well known to be too small, too slow, too short-term, too unpredictable and too reliant on the discretionary contributions of a small number of governments.

Refugee crises bring a particular subset of these familiar financing challenges – including of scale, duration and type.

Meeting these funding challenges requires a transformative shift, towards a collaborative approach with a range of solutions better suited to today’s risks and crises. There was also an explicit call for a shift in refugee financing in the 2018 Global Compact on Refugees, which agreed to strengthen the collective global effort to sustainably support refugees and those who host them.

Keeping track of this shifting and growing agenda can be hard: it is a foreign financing language for ‘traditional’ aid donors and responders; initiatives are fragmented and progress is hard to track.

Many are looking to ‘innovative financing’ to generate new ways of mobilising this public and private financing, in ways designed to answer the specific challenges. If innovation seeks to do things better by exploring options for doing things differently, then innovative financing seeks to bring new sources of investment and expertise to create a better toolkit.

This background paper is not a comprehensive technical inventory but a digestible guide to the essentials. It looks at three categories of innovative financing – insurance-related, blended finance and crowdfunding – and sets out the key concepts and models of these for crisis financing more widely, examining examples of how these apply to refugee financing. It also suggests key lessons and highlights questions arising from these.

Read our briefing: Key trends in global humanitarian assistance 2019

Listen to our webinar: What do emerging trends in development finance mean for crisis actors?

Photo: UN Photo/Sahem Rababah A view of the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan, where nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees are living