Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP): Humanitarian Appeal 2007

from UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Published on 30 Nov 2006


In 2006 the United Nations and its partner humanitarian agencies have fed 97 million people in 82 countries, including 6.5 million in Sudan; vaccinated over 30 million children against measles in emergency situations, including 51% of the under-five children in the Central African Republic; supported hundreds of emergency health facilities, including 210 health centres in Burundi; created hundreds of emergency education facilities; supplied safe drinking water to millions of crisis-affected people, for example 214 new boreholes drilled for displaced people’s camps in Uganda; provided protection and assistance to some 20 million refugees and displaced persons; and supported child protection activities in some 150 countries. But 2007 will bring fresh challenges.

The Humanitarian Appeal 2007 – thirteen consolidated appeals for specific crises – seeks $3.9 billion to help 27 million people in 29 countries(1). The organisations that have come together to make this year’s Appeal, some 140 non-governmental organisations, United Nations agencies, and other international and local organisations, call on the international community to support it quickly and equitably – so that people stricken by crisis receive the best available protection and assistance, on time.

Humanitarian crises are not a tunnel without light at the end. Persistent emergencies in countries such as Guinea, Nepal and Liberia are resolving and no longer require a consolidated appeal in 2007. Generous response from governmental and private donors to catastrophes such as the Indian Ocean Tsunami, the South Asia earthquake, and the recent Lebanon conflict have set people in those regions on course for recovery. Humanitarian funding is a good investment for a peaceful world.

The humanitarian system has taken advantage of a relative respite in 2006, after a year of unparalleled natural disasters, to seek to improve itself as well as the aid it delivers to people in desperate need. We are changing the way we work. As described in the following pages, humanitarian organisations are clarifying roles and responsibilities among themselves with a new approach called ‘clusters’ that strengthens capacities and fills gaps, and ensures that the rich diversity of humanitarian organisations becomes more than the sum of its parts. Consolidated appeals should belong to NGOs as much as they belong to the UN: for 2007, all consolidated appeals contain NGO projects, and the humanitarian system will continue to work towards the day when appeals will bring together all key humanitarian projects and funding needs from participating organisations – so that they become a meaningful barometer of funding according to need. That need will be ever more thoroughly and systematically assessed, to ensure that appeals’ funding requests are grounded in solid evidence. These reforms are making aid even more effective, and an even better investment.

Donors are also changing the way they work, recognizing that humanitarian funding has too often been slow and uneven. This year, they have established and supported the new Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), a stand-by fund that can quickly disburse to any sudden new crisis or to chronic under-funded crises. Already since its launch in March 2006, the CERF has disbursed $174 million for emergencies in 26 countries. If donors support it up to its target of $450 million per year, it can ensure that no new crisis goes without immediate funding, and that life-saving needs in the most under-funded crises are met.

But donors, just like implementing organisations, need to continue to improve the quality of their funding and the way they work: coordinating among themselves to allocate across crises according to need; supporting consolidated appeals to become the comprehensive measurement of humanitarian funding that they were designed to be; funding sooner rather than later to protect and assist effectively and cost-effectively; and perhaps most important, working with the humanitarian agencies to convince their parliamentarians that the world’s humanitarian funding needs in this Appeal can be fully met with what amounts to a sliver of their wealth—for every $100 of their national income, a few cents of aid.

Funding requirements in 2007

The Humanitarian Reform and its interaction with the Consolidated Appeals Process

The Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) was created in the humanitarian reforms of 15 years ago. What are the key elements of the current reforms, what problems are they aiming to solve, and how do they and the CAP mutually reinforce each other?

The Central Emergency Response Fund

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) started operations in March 2006, only a few months after approval by the UN General Assembly, and has already disbursed $174 million to crises in 26 countries. It is the first part of the Secretary-General’s package of UN reforms to be approved by the General Assembly and implemented. CERF grew out of a dissatisfaction with existing funding mechanisms, specifically that they were often too slow to respond to sudden-onset crises to the scale required, too neglectful of time-critical requirements to prevent slow-onset problems from becoming full-blown crises, and too uneven across crises. Funding to the CERF has amounted to $270 million in 2006; and while this is too little to significantly change the picture of global humanitarian funding, already the CERF has made an impact in sudden-onset and chronic under-funded emergencies. 16 chronic under-funded crises received funding from CERF (a total of $77 million), with a process that allowed the HC and country team to target the funds to the most urgent sectors and projects. Also, CERF funding for flash appeals and other sudden-onset situations totals $97 million to date. Every flash appeal in 2006 benefited from CERF funds, sometimes committed even before the appeal was launched. Whereas before CERF, half of flash appeals received less than 17% of required funding within the first month, in 2006 they have received a median of 37% in the first month.

FLASH APPEALS (and similar plans) 2006: funding received in first month, as % of requirements

When the CERF was being developed, the fear was expressed that it would divert donor funds from other channels, despite the Secretary-General’s urging that CERF funding be additional to existing allocations. Has it diverted funds? Apparently not: CAP funding as a percentage of requirements is greater at this point in 2006 (63%) than at the same point in most previous years. In absolute dollar terms, it is also greater than previous years except 2003 and 2005 (each of which had a ‘headline crisis’ that received a billion dollars in humanitarian funding). Also, contributions of unearmarked funding directly to agencies – which are crucial because such funds can be even faster and more flexible than CERF – do not appear to have measurably declined because of CERF, though this will have to be carefully monitored.

The CERF and the CAP are complementary. The CERF does not compete with the CAP, and vice versa. CERF funds mostly go to projects in the coordinated framework of CAPs in the least-funded crises, and to sudden-onset crises under flash appeals. However the CERF cannot fully take the place of direct donor funding for major crises. CERF resources, even if they attain the General Assembly’s target of a steady balance of $450 million, will still represent less than a tenth of worldwide humanitarian funding ($6 billion to date in 2006). Yet CERF’s successful first year of operation shows that if donors attain the target, the humanitarian system will have made a major step towards overcoming one of its key constraints: unpredictable and belated funding.

The Cluster Approach

The introduction of cluster leadership has clarified areas of responsibility for action and addressed gaps in capacity to respond. Nine Global Clusters have been established for nine sectors or areas of activity that in the past either lacked predictable leadership or were considered to need strengthened leadership and partnership with other humanitarian actors. As a result there is now enhanced surge capacity in areas such as protection, water and sanitation, health and emergency shelter. Systematic roll-out is underway in DR Congo, Liberia, Somalia and Uganda (plus new emergencies starting in late 2005: Pakistan, Indonesia and Lebanon).

What has been the experience with the cluster approach in the roll-out countries? Field teams credit the approach with helping to focus more attention on long-standing gaps and creating a more predictable response trigger for these areas, which in some cases meant deployment of increased capacity to address unmet needs. Especially in new emergencies, roles and responsibilities for leading different aspects of the response can be considered more predictable today than one year ago. The cluster approach has also helped to foster an atmosphere for critical reflection and debate at both the headquarters and field level on the coordination structures and mind-sets needed to achieve improved partnerships with authorities (where appropriate) and between UN and non-UN partners.

However, many challenges remain and are fairly consistent across each of the roll-out situations, as was highlighted in the IASC Interim Self-Assessment of Implementation of the Cluster Approach in the Field. In particular, the lack of clear guidance has led to a situation where cluster leads have interpreted their roles differently, making it difficult for partners to know what to reasonably expect from them, and vice versa. Internal management of clusters has also varied greatly depending on the skills of the individual tasked with leading. A revised IASC Guidance Note on Using the Cluster Approach has been prepared and will be widely disseminated amongst humanitarian personnel both in the field and at the Headquarters level. OCHA has also been working with agencies to incorporate elements from the ongoing humanitarian reform process into existing training programmes and to develop some additional training programmes where needed.

Assessment of cluster implementation to date reconfirms the inter-dependence of the four main pillars of the Humanitarian Reform Agenda: ensuring predictability and greater accountability of humanitarian response; strengthening humanitarian leadership and coordination; strengthening partnerships; and improving the predictability and timeliness of humanitarian financing. It is apparent that strengthening the Humanitarian Coordinator system and working with donors to manage the competition that arises from unpredictable funding both have a direct bearing on the success of the cluster approach.

Finally, the process of “benchmarking” will be a key accompaniment to cluster implementation – and to related efforts such as improving needs analysis and strategic monitoring in CAPs.

Strengthening the Humanitarian Coordinator system

The effort to ensure better humanitarian coordination in the field is under way, with the creation and training of a roster of HC candidates, specially emphasizing recruitment of those with experience outside the UN system – a qualification whose importance is self-evident given an HC’s responsibility to lead and service the entire humanitarian system in a crisis.

NGOs and CAPs

Every CAP for 2007 has NGO projects. The 2007 appeals for Burundi, Uganda, Somalia, occupied Palestinian territory, Zimbabwe, and West Africa all list more than $20 million of NGO project funding requirements. As an IASC tool, the CAP should belong to NGOs as much as it belongs to the UN; and donors consistently request the IASC to count more NGO projects in CAPs. Rather than obscuring or competing with NGO funding needs, CAPs can be a vehicle to ensure that they are counted. But there is still a way to go before CAPs become a comprehensive inventory of priority NGO projects, as they already are for UN humanitarian projects.

There is a strong rationale for CAPs to be as inclusive as possible in gathering project proposals (so long as those proposals are relevant to strategic objectives, feasible, and economical): to present to donors an overall price tag for humanitarian action in a certain crisis, thus making it more possible to hold them to account for funding according to need, and making the CAP a comprehensive catalogue of priority projects and a meaningful barometer of humanitarian funding. Many major NGOs accept this rationale in principle. The obstacles are more practical:

- Many NGOs are not on the January-December programme cycle that UN agencies have and which is used for most CAPs. Since this cycle is often more theoretical than real – many UN agency projects start later than January, for lack of funding – innovations should be explored to relax it.

- NGOs often see CAP project sheets as burdensome to complete, especially as they do not seem to greatly increase most NGO projects’ chances of funding. The innovation in DR Congo’s Action Plan for 2007, to initially indicate only funding needs per zone and sector, and complete a project sheet only later when funding is confirmed, will be closely followed for possible adoption elsewhere.

- Confusion often arises as to whether a necessary activity should be covered in a separate NGO project proposal, or under an ‘umbrella’ project in which a UN agency channels funds to NGO implementing partners. Each country team should debate openly, with donor participation, which arrangement makes the most sense in each setting.

- Finally, sector leads (whether or not the cluster approach has been formally adopted in a given crisis) must be oriented to reaching out to NGOs and their projects on an even footing with those of UN agencies, managing the competition that may be inherent in the situation. They must achieve the difficult balance between being both inclusive – getting on board the key activities of NGOs – and exclusive – cutting any redundant, low-priority, infeasible, or uneconomical projects from the CAP. Sector leads will need the close support of the HC to fulfil this responsibility.

- Sector leads must also break down any misunderstandings that may make NGOs averse to CAPs. For example, listing a proposal in the CAP in no way prevents the proposing organisation from marketing the proposal directly to donors as well. Also, CAPs are flexible: projects can be added, deleted or modified whenever necessary.

Donors need to do their part. Sometimes their signals are mixed: donors have at times recommended not listing a project in the CAP if they already intend to fund it. But this is against the spirit of making the CAP a comprehensive inventory as well as an appeal in the narrow sense. An encouraging example is the European Commission Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) in DR Congo, which has mandated that all projects it funds be listed, retroactively if necessary, in the DR Congo 2006 Action Plan – thus making that appeal much more meaningful as a funding barometer. The IASC urges other donors and NGOs to follow suit. Simple steps can break down remaining barriers between NGOs and appeals: for example, following NGO advice, OCHA will contact the headquarters of key NGOs when a new flash appeal is being developed, to help them make the connection with the cluster coordination mechanisms on the ground where appeal projects are gathered and vetted. (This is for the practical reason that many NGOs leave fundraising functions in acute emergencies to their headquarters, to allow their teams on the ground to focus on operations.)

Needs assessment

Systematic needs assessment is crucial to organizing a well-prioritized response according to need, and to applying leverage on donors to fund according to need. To date, many large-scale humanitarian responses have seemed to rely on fragmented, diffuse needs assessments, attempting to extrapolate those to the national scale, or offering them as anecdotal evidence. Too often they also lack a thorough gender analysis based on sex- and age-disaggregated data. The new Needs Analysis Framework (NAF) is a platform for organizing, aggregating and analyzing needs assessment information (and for highlighting gaps in the information). It does not dictate needs assessment methods like measurement parameters or sampling, preferring to leave it to the teams on the ground to determine the most practical methods. It aims to highlight and prioritise needs, and provide the basis for impact monitoring. Needs assessment should be led by the cluster lead, who should also initiate discussions to resolve questions like agreeing on standard methods per cluster so that data are as consistent as possible and can be aggregated. (Note that more precise needs assessment and analysis, and enforcing the relevance of CAP projects to these needs, will also address the concern that CAP funding requirements may not be a reliable basis for assessing under-funding for CERF and other purposes.) Donors for their part have acknowledged their responsibility to fund needs assessment, commensurate with their emphasis on using it as the foundation of all programming.

Flash appeals: lessons learned

Four flash appeals in 2006 (Guinea-Bissau, Timor-Leste, Lebanon, and Kenya, plus the similar Indonesia Earthquake Response Plan) tested elements of the humanitarian reform (CERF, the cluster approach) as well as lessons learned from previous flash appeals. One such lesson has been that, while flash appeals need to be issued quickly if they are to be credible, and thus are justified in containing an element of guesswork regarding urgent humanitarian needs, it is often not possible to assess or even make reasonable estimates of most recovery needs and costs, and to dovetail them with government plans, in time for a flash appeal’s first edition. Yet agencies with responsibility for recovery may fear missing the opportunity to secure funding while attention is fixed on a new disaster if recovery proposals are not included from the start; and moreover, some types of early recovery activities can be assessed and should be started immediately. (Funding data for flash appeals over the past several years show that funding for the Economic Recovery and Infrastructure sector – a rough proxy for recovery projects – is committed later than for other sectors, suggesting that donors do not respond quickly to recovery proposals in flash appeals(2). To bring this debate to a point, the early recovery global cluster has been pursuing a dialogue with donors to identify the types of early recovery projects that may typically be appropriate for a flash appeal’s first edition (in essence pre-clearing them with donors), versus what type should wait for the more thorough assessment in the appeal’s scheduled revision, or even held back for a longer-term planning instrument. Results of the dialogue will form an agreed modus operandi that will remove some of the controversy and doubt that have greeted some big-budget flash appeals in the past.

Another lesson learned is balancing the need for both speed and accuracy. The rhythm of issuing a flash appeal within about a week of the disaster is now well established, with the expectation of a revision about a month later to incorporate more complete needs assessment information, dovetailing with government plans, and fuller recovery activities. Clusters are developing pre-costed, generic project proposals for rapid use in flash appeals, to save time and increase donor acceptance of flash appeals’ funding requirements.

Each flash appeal in 2006 received CERF funds. Use of the CERF is now well incorporated in flash appeal practice and reflected in recently revised flash appeal guidelines. Although CERF may cover all funding needs of the smallest disasters, any emergency requiring inter-agency response and more funding than the CERF can provide should have a flash appeal; and this principle has mostly been followed in 2006. Country teams are advised that requesting CERF funds—like any other funding request—and developing a strategic response plan and portfolio of specific projects—the elements of a flash appeal—are part of the same process of coordinated response. The country team, to gain time, should issue whichever is ready first—CERF request or flash appeal—and follow with the other as soon as possible. (In cases where CERF allocations are approved before a flash appeal’s launch, the appeal reflects the project-by-project allocation of CERF funds.)

Putting the preference for flexible funding into practice

A key undertaking of Good Humanitarian Donorship is to fund flexibly and reduce ‘earmarking,’ the stipulation that a contribution be spent only on a certain project. Earmarking probably has its origins in concerns for accountability and donors’ obligations towards their legislatures to determine and report on use of funds. However the advantages of flexible funding include the facts that:

- earmarking produces uneven funding within and among crises, because donors do not coordinate perfectly among themselves to fund in proportion to requirements (tending to allocate funds to higher-profile and/or visible sectors), whereas flexible funding gives agencies the opportunity to allocate more evenly;

- earmarked grants tend to come with reporting requirements that, taken together, amount to a confusing array of formats and deadlines, a burden on agencies, and consequently a diversion of resources from actual implementation;

- agencies can often allocate unearmarked funds at their disposal internally faster than donors can commit earmarked funds.

Flexible funding comes in many forms. Funds can be contributed to a specific agency for worldwide use, or loosely earmarked to a region, country or crisis, leaving the agency to decide on the specific projects and sectors and to report after the fact. Another form of flexible funding is ‘pooled funds’ which are delegated to Humanitarian Coordinators (HCs) and country teams to decide on the allocations based on joint prioritization exercises. The CERF is a sort of worldwide pooled fund; large-scale country-specific pooled funds have emerged in DR Congo and Sudan, and others seem likely.

Experience in DRC and Sudan suggests that while their pooled funds were initially instituted as a gap-filling or rapid-response mechanism, they quickly became a major funding channel in those crises, requiring the HC’s team to function as large-scale donors with all the decision-making and administrative effort that this entails. A tacit reason for the unexpectedly large volume of contributions channelled through those countries’ pooled funds seems to have been donors’ desire to reduce their transaction costs and administrative burdens by, in essence, subcontracting the HC to do the sub-contracting. This is not negative in itself, but it does suggest that this function should be acknowledged as a prime objective of the pooled funds, and the HC’s office should be equipped accordingly for the decision-making and administration.

A further reason for the unexpected popularity of pooled funds may be to strengthen the HC, in accordance with Humanitarian Reform. But the HC must not be set up to fail. Objective decision-making on allocations in large-scale crises will never be simple, even when the NAF is fully in use. More centralized, hierarchical decision-making on funding, with the HC in the lead, may help improve funding according to need, but as a practical matter the complex underlying analysis cannot be done solo by the HC, nor by a couple of OCHA staff. Since donor field representatives are professionals at weighing needs assessments and apportioning scarce resources, it seems a loss for them to remove themselves from the task. One solution would be for HCs in charge of large pooled funds to form some sort of task team at the field level, chaired by the HC and including donor professionals among others, to divide up the hard work of sifting through information on needs and capacities, thus producing – transparently – the necessary objective bases for decision.

Some frequently-asked questions about CAP

a) What is the link between unearmarked grants to agencies and earmarked funds in CAPs?

Unearmarked funding to humanitarian organisations is extremely important as it provides the means for those agencies to commit their own funding immediately to sudden-onset crises and to flexibly support programmes in ongoing crises that have not received earmarked funds. When agencies decide to allocate funds to a project expressed in a CAP, it is recorded on FTS as funding towards the requirement for that project.

b) What is the link between individual appeals by single agencies and consolidated appeals?

In a crisis where a CAP exists, UN agencies describe all of their humanitarian programmes for that crisis in the CAP, and list all or most of the resulting funding needs. Agencies often give these programmes a second platform in their own appeals, which are usually annual and worldwide, and hence including programmes in crises with no CAP. For the CAP crises, an agency’s activities described in the CAP and in its own appeal should be, and mostly are, consistent. (Similarly, an NGO can issue its own appeal for a certain crisis, then give those same programmes and funding needs a second platform by listing them in the CAP.)

c) What are the non-CAP appeals that sometimes appear?

Although IASC rules require a CAP for any situation necessitating an inter-agency response, sometimes it is not feasible to publish a consolidated appeal per se, for example if the affected country government does not see the need. In such cases, the country team is encouraged to nonetheless follow the CAP’s good-quality process of strategic analysis and planning. If it can do so in a way that states the funding requirements as specifically as possible, so that funding towards the requirements can be tracked, so much the better.

Humanitarian funding in 2006

CAP (consolidated and flash appeal) funding is slightly improved in 2006 compared to most previous years going back to 2000. Funding as a percentage of requirements, 63%, is better at this point in the year than in any previous year except 2003; and in dollar terms, the $3 billion committed to CAPs in 2006 to date is greater than any year except 2003 and 2005, each of which had a ‘headline crisis’ which 2006 has fortunately lacked.

CAP funding as % of requirements at end October, 2000-2006

Total humanitarian funding in 2006 (counting non-CAP funding as well), at $6 billion to date, also outpaces previous years except 2003 and 2005.

Timeliness of funding has also improved somewhat. Humanitarian agencies have been urging donors for several years to commit funds earlier in emergencies, or earlier in the annual cycle for chronic emergencies, because earlier humanitarian action is more effective and more cost-effective. For the 2006 CAPs launched in late 2005(3), to best measure speed of donor response to CAPs for chronic crises., funding committed up to 31 March 2006 amounted to 35% of the total to date, an improvement on 2005 (31% of annual total) and 2004 (19%). For 2006, another 35% of the total to date was committed in the second quarter, for a total of 70% committed in the first half of the year. Humanitarian agencies would be more effective if they received an even greater proportion of funding earlier in the year, and donors are again urged to review the 2007 CAPs quickly and commit all possible funds early.

Requirements and funding per sector in 2006 appeals

Funding in relation to requirements per sector in 2006 continues to show major imbalances among sectors, ranging from a high of 89% for the food sector to 15% for mine action. No sector but food and coordination/support services is above 60% funding.

2006 CAP funding per sector, as % of requirements

However, four of the five sectors with the lowest funding in proportion to requirements in 2006 (mine action, shelter/NFI, agriculture, and health) also share another characteristic: they have the greatest proportion of funding going to non-appeal projects, in crises where appeals exist (see next section). In other words, major amounts of funding for those sectors went to projects whose implementing organisations did not count them in appeals (and whose donors did not require them to do so). These non-appeal projects cannot be assumed to have covered the same people, needs and areas as those proposed in the appeals – and so to clarify this and prevent the emergence of dangerous gaps in aid, organisations in those sectors could work towards more unity in pooling their plans and funding requests.


(1) All consolidated appeals and flash appeals can be viewed on or on Information on the funding status of appeals, updated daily, can be viewed on the Financial Tracking Service (FTS), at Figures throughout this section are in US dollars and are as of 15 November 2006.

(2) All funding figures in this document have been provided by donors or recipient organisations to the Financial Tracking Service (FTS), the global humanitarian aid database, and can be seen on The FTS continues to evolve as a more flexible, powerful and comprehensive information tool. New features in 2006 include tables showing requirements and funding by cluster, province, and pillar; per country for multi-country appeals; donor profile tables; and a new custom table-building function.)

(3) Excluding subsequent flash appeals and new CAPs launched later in 2006

Table of Contents



The Humanitarian Reform and its interaction with the Consolidated Appeals Process

- The Central Emergency Response Fund
- The Cluster Approach
- Strengthening the Humanitarian Coordinator system

NGOs and CAPs

Needs assessment

Flash appeals: lessons learned

Putting the preference for flexible funding into practice

Some frequently-asked questions about CAP

Humanitarian funding in 2006

- Requirements and funding per sector in 2006 appeals
- Funding inside and outside appeals
- Number of donor governments to CAPs
- Requirements per beneficiary
- Donor behaviour – is Good Humanitarian Donorship achieved?



Central African Republic
Côte d’Ivoire
Democratic Republic of the Congo
Great Lakes Region
Occupied Palestinian territory
Republic of Congo
West Africa


2006 Consolidated & Flash Appeals: Summary of Requirements and Contributions
2007 Appeals: Summary of Requirements

Project Summary sheets are in a separate volume entitled "Projects"

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