Strengthening knowledge of humanitarian assistance
An updated version of this page is availableLearn more about our work on global humanitarian assistance
When used in the context of financing, the term ‘humanitarian assistance’ refers to financial resources for humanitarian action.
Over 306.0 million people were estimated to need humanitarian assistance in 2021, and US$31.3 billion was given in response. However, when it comes to addressing crisis and vulnerability, the funding landscape is complicated. It is difficult to gain a clear understanding of what resources are available, where they are going, and whether commitments to improve the delivery of financing are being fulfilled.
At the same time, the need is so great that we face persistent shortfalls in much-needed humanitarian assistance. We also face the reality that crises are frequently complex and last for many years. Those seeking to respond to crisis situations therefore face the dual challenge of meeting immediate needs and addressing the underlying causes of crises. Many actors are therefore exploring how to respond to crises differently. They are identifying new sources of funding, developing new financing tools and mechanisms, and seeking to work better with a wide range of stakeholders beyond the traditional humanitarian community. And as the financing landscape diversifies and changes, and decision-makers grapple with issues such as the humanitarian–development–peacebuilding nexus, we face challenges in ensuring data is gathered and reported in a way that ensures such activities and their impact can be tracked.
Furthermore, there is no universal obligation or system for reporting expenditure on international or domestic humanitarian assistance. The main reporting platforms for international humanitarian assistance are the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s Financial Tracking Service (FTS). The 30 OECD DAC members are obligated to report their humanitarian assistance to the DAC systems as part of their official development assistance (ODA), in accordance with definitions set out by the DAC. Some other governments, most major multilateral organisations and a number of private foundations voluntarily report to the DAC. The UN OCHA FTS is open to all humanitarian donors and implementing agencies to voluntarily report contributions of internationally provided humanitarian assistance, according to an agreed set of criteria for inclusion.
The purpose of our work
Development Initiatives produces an annual Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) report, which has become a leading independent go-to resource for understanding financing for crises. The report provides the most comprehensive annual update on international humanitarian assistance and highlights key issues and emerging trends that those working to improve the financing response to crisis need to know about. We perform unique analysis on complex data and unpack what it can tell us so that this information is accessible, clear and easy to confidently act on. We also highlight where data is lacking and what changes need to happen to provide vital information about humanitarian spending. In doing so we contribute to improved decision-making, efficiency and accountability in global humanitarian assistance.
As well as the annual report, we publish key data on the largest donors of international humanitarian assistance and how they deliver assistance to recipients to our online data tool: International humanitarian assistance: Donors, channels and recipients.
Every year since 2000 we have published a GHA report. These reports provide unique and invaluable information on humanitarian assistance and crisis financing. The analysis is used by a wide range of actors, particularly bilateral and multilateral donors, to inform their spending decisions and approaches. We present our findings to the UN Economic and Social Council’s Humanitarian Affairs Segment every year – where our analysis is eagerly awaited by key players working on the international response to humanitarian crisis.
“I think that the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report is not just a report, it’s a public good. I use it for my work extensively and it has always proved to be a great source of data on complex issues. We should be grateful to the Development Initiatives team for their outstanding work. And of course, the report is also very timely with Covid-19 heightening the need for connecting social protection and humanitarian assistance.”Ugo Gentilini, World Bank
In 2018 we completed an evaluation of the third phase of our GHA programme. The evaluation found that key audiences identify the GHA report series as “an industry reference material” and “almost the bible when it comes to data”. Donors told us that they have used the GHA reports to inform decisions on allocations of humanitarian assistance and the development of national humanitarian strategies. We will build on these achievements and continue to ensure that our priority donor and delivery agencies have a comprehensive picture of financing flows as we build our GHA programme through its next phase.
“The GHA report is the go-to publication about financial flows in the humanitarian sector”Policy team member, UN humanitarian agency, 2018
Global humanitarian assistance: crisis, funding and need
Four interactive charts let you explore global levels of crisis, vulnerability and need, the largest donors of international humanitarian assistance and how humanitarian financing is delivered.
Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2022
The Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2022 provides a critical overview of the crisis financing landscape. Development Initiatives finds that total funding has plateaued despite historically high demand.
Private funding for international humanitarian assistance
Who provides private funding for humanitarian assistance, what are the key trends in type and volume and how could greater transparency support crisis response?