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Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP): Humanitarian Appeal 2008

Originally published


In 2007, aid agencies have achieved enormous successes in the world's most severe humanitarian crises. They have provided safe water and sanitation to 455,538 internally displaced people in Somalia; cared for 240,000 Sudanese refugees in the harsh environment of eastern Chad; provided emergency job creation and cash assistance to 130,000 families made destitute by conflict in the occupied Palestinian territory; delivered food to 2.2 million Zimbabweans; provided temporary shelter and basic household items to 193,000 people affected by conflict in the Central African Republic; assisted 60,000 people displaced by civil strife in Timor-Leste; contained 131 epidemics in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; drilled over 300 boreholes to provide water for war-affected people in Uganda; and other results too numerous to mention. Some 330 aid organizations joined forces in common humanitarian action plans and consolidated appeals to maximize their effectiveness and ensure that they left no gaps or overlap. Their common objective is to provide the best available protection and assistance to people in need, on time.

With intensive efforts such as these, humanitarian crises can be brought to a close. Burundi's long civil war is ending and conditions for its people are stabilising, thanks to concerted efforts organized in nine consecutive consolidated appeals for Burundi of which 2007 will be the last. Similarly, the effects of protracted conflicts in the Republic of Congo and Liberia have been alleviated to the point that aid agencies can focus on recovery and a transition to development. The peace that years of humanitarian aid helped to solidify in countries such as Angola, Tajikistan, and Sierra Leone still endures. These examples make it truer than ever to say that humanitarian aid, beyond saving lives and alleviating suffering, is a good investment for a peaceful world. But many crises are ongoing, and the people stricken by them need more generosity for 2008. Conflict continues in Somalia, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to name but a few. These conflicts threaten to destabilize neighbouring countries such as Chad and the Central African Republic, fuelling internal conflicts there. Such conflicts risk conflagrating into regional wars and the collapse of states as was seen in Africa's Great Lakes Region in the 1990s, with grievous humanitarian consequences. Moreover, floods, hurricanes, cyclones, and drought struck regularly in 2007: no fewer than 15 flash appeals for rapid response to sudden disasters have been issued, by far the most ever in one year. The fact that most of these disasters were climate-related portends a near future in which aid agencies will have to respond ever more frequently to disasters, and the world's poor, who are most vulnerable, are ever more likely to be struck by them.

This Humanitarian Appeal culminates a dynamic process in which some 188 aid agencies in 24 countries across the world have come together to tackle humanitarian tragedies with efficiency and professionalism as well as compassion. The sum that aid agencies jointly seek to help people in the severest need in 2008 – some $3.8 billion,(1) to help 25 million people – may seem a great burden for the rich countries to bear. But in fact it translates, for every hundred dollars of the rich countries' national income, to just a few cents of aid – to save lives, alleviate suffering, maintain dignity, and begin to restore self-sufficiency. We urge the citizens and legislators of countries with the means to help to make 2008 the first year of a new era: an era in which humanitarian action worldwide is fully funded, and people in despair receive the full measure of help that they deserve.

Funding requirements per appeal in 2008

The reduced number of CAPs for 2008

This Humanitarian Appeal includes slightly fewer countries than that of 2007, continuing a trend generally due to a decline in conflicts (some that had been influenced by the Cold War or its aftermath, others to complex conflict dynamics in Central and West Africa and Central Asia). The four appeals that are not repeated for 2008 are those for the Great Lakes Region, the Republic of Congo, Liberia, and Burundi. In the latter three of these situations, humanitarian needs have dwindled (thanks in large part to the concerted efforts organized under past consolidated appeals / 'CAPs') to the point where they do not need to be the focus of a major plan, but instead can be handled as part of reconstruction and development planning. In the Great Lakes Region, acute needs persist in several countries, but the common cross-border dynamics that originally gave rise to the regional approach are now less influential than country-specific dynamics.

Clearly, the progress away from CAPs in these countries is good news. There is concern however about countries that do not have CAPs even though the scale and severity of humanitarian needs justify them. Some affected country governments hesitate to agree to a humanitarian appeal, perceiving it as almost a stigma for their country. In fact, the humanitarian community counts on CAPs being seen as a sign that all parties are taking seriously their responsibility to work together to support the government's efforts to help its people, and to achieve the greatest efficiency and effectiveness in aid delivery. In the spirit of the United Nations General Assembly, which established the CAP, it is much more a sign of enlightenment than an admission of failure.

Equally of concern are situations needing a concerted humanitarian response and where the government has no objection but international organizations and the humanitarian coordination system are not yet able to organize themselves appropriately to meet the scale of the challenges. In 2007, Iraq has been often mentioned as one of the world's largest and severest humanitarian crises. Afghanistan also seems to have mounting humanitarian needs. Why then no consolidated appeal for Iraq or Afghanistan in this Humanitarian Appeal 2008? The major reason is that aid organizations have not resolved – indeed cannot fully resolve – the problems of working in that level of insecurity in a planned and systematic way. (In the case of Iraq, there are also questions about the need for outside funding to an oil-rich country.) Nonetheless, the forthcoming Operational Plan for Iraq will serve many of the same purposes as a CAP; and as organizations learn more about how they can operate in that environment, a fully-fledged CAP should be possible. This type of situation underlines the need for the United Nations (UN) to lead the process of organising the broader humanitarian response, in accordance with accepted best practice, to respond to a major crisis efficiently, effectively and promptly.

The surge in flash appeals in 2007

2007 has seen a sharp increase in and record number of flash appeals compared to previous years, reflecting an increased frequency of disasters. With the waning of conflicts dating from the 1990s, natural disasters are demanding a greater portion of humanitarian response, even without a cataclysmic event like the Tsunami. Most of the increase in the number of flash appeals in 2007 is due to a greater frequency of extreme weather events: of this year's 15 flash appeals, all but one (the Peru earthquake) have been climate-related (cyclones, floods and droughts). Some of the increase also stems from the Central Emergency Response Fund's encouragement to develop a flash appeal to provide a strategic context for the funding requests it receives. If this frequency of extreme weather continues, the humanitarian system will have to review existing response mechanisms for sudden-onset disasters, including flash appeals. The quality of such appeals (situation analysis, needs assessment, overview of response capacity, and prioritization among sectors and projects) remains pivotal for donors to make informed funding decisions and for agencies to jointly plan the disaster response. And yet there is a delicate balance between forging operational links among organizations, assessing all needs, and developing a strategy to address them on the one hand, and speed of responding to emergency needs and issuing an appeal on the other.

Time is ripe for a review and adaptation of the flash appeal mechanism, not least because most disasters happen in countries where there is no Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) or CAP in place: of the 15 flash appeals issued in 2007, only two pertain to CAP countries (Sudan and Uganda), and two to the regional CAP for West Africa (Ghana and Burkina Faso). In the other eleven flash appeal countries, OCHA has no office and agencies on the ground have insufficient humanitarian capacity for assessment, planning and response. In several cases, flash appeals have been issued after significant delays, despite the intention that such appeals should be launched within 3-6 days after the disaster's onset. Such delays at best reduce the value of life-saving assistance and at worst can result in needless loss of life.

Flash Appeals in 2007
per region per type of disaster
Southern Africa 5 Hurricanes/Cyclones 4
South America 3 Floods 8
East Africa 2 Droughts 2
West Africa 2 Earthquake 1
Asia 2
Caribbean 1
Type of disaster
Date of disaster (2)
Date flash appeal issued
Funding requested
Funding received
(% of request)
$9 million
$14 million
Cyclone and floods
$39 million
$19 million
$19 million
$23 million
Cyclone and floods
$43 million
$35 million
Korea DPR
$15 million
Burkina Faso
$6 million
$38 million
$41 million
$42 million
$12 million
Dominican Republic
Hurricane and floods
$14 million
$368 million

Funding for flash appeals to date in 2007 (46%) seems at first glance significantly worse than in previous years (see table below). However, funding for the flash appeals issued before September 2007 (hence old enough at this writing to have some reliable funding data) has been only slightly lower than the averages for previous years. The average is 55%, compared to 69% for all flash appeals issued in 2006 (if we exclude the Lebanon flash appeal which was anomalously heavily funded), 66% in 2005 (excluding the Tsunami for the same reason), and 40% in 2004.

Flash Appeal funding history since 2003
number of flash appeals
FA funding needs
FA needs as % of total consolidated / FA needs
FA funding received
FA funding received
as % of FA needs
$31 million
$16 million
$451 million
$179 million
$2,181 million
$1,766 million
$268 million
$214 million
$368 million
$171 million
$3,299 million
$2,346 million
*2005 excl. Tsunami
$781 million
$518 million

However, it is only thanks to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) that 2007 funding levels are close to the historical average. CERF has contributed 40% ($68 million) of the total funding to date for 2007 flash appeals. By contrast, in 2006, CERF provided only 11% ($24 million) of total flash appeal funding. Some donors appear to take the view that their contributions to CERF replace their previous direct flash appeal funding. This has prompted speculation that the CERF process could replace flash appeals, at least in the early phase of disaster response. However, there are several counter-arguments to this: (1) CERF is a funding mechanism (‘supply side'), while the flash appeal is a strategic planning forum ('demand side'); (2) donors, including CERF, need a common action plan to serve as the basis for their funding decisions; (3) funding needs for most disasters exceed what CERF can provide; (4) non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have funding needs that CERF cannot directly provide but flash appeals can highlight. OCHA has advised that flash appeals and CERF applications should be developed in parallel, with the flash appeal noting the amount committed by CERF, and CERF in effect kick-starting the response to the flash appeal. This has been practiced in most 2007 flash appeals.

Fixing the weaknesses in flash appeals

What are the key weaknesses observed in this year’s flash appeals, and how to fix them? To ensure that they contain adequate information and mapping of needs, capacities on the ground, and who is planning to cover what (including entities that choose not to list their projects in the flash appeal, such as the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the affected country government, and some NGOs), the IASC will further streamline the flash appeal template to clarify to country teams, particularly development-oriented ones, the nature and extent of the minimum information, analysis, joint planning and decisions they are expected to produce immediately. In particular, the first appeal – which should be issued within six days of a disaster at most (3) – usually should aim to be a minimal immediate needs document with a skeletal action plan confined to needs that are already evident (including those that are reasonably inferred), and conservative funding requests. The country team should develop a second, fuller edition of the appeal whenever enough information and capacity is available (usually a few weeks later).

Confidence can be increased in flash appeals' funding requests by comparing them to generic estimated costs for addressing needs in each sector, as some global cluster leads produced in 2006. Such estimates could serve as a budget starting point for flash appeals, saving time and making the appeals more consensual. The difficult question of how much early recovery to include in a flash appeal's rapid first edition could be resolved with a common-sense approach in which key start-up funding requirements (i.e. those covering the deployment of early recovery advisors in support of the Resident Coordinator, a rapid inter-agency assessment and the development of an early recovery strategy) are immediately included in initial flash appeals, with specific early recovery projects incorporated as well if they address needs that have already been reliably assessed or reasonably inferred, and moreover have a strong rationale for starting immediately.(4) Further early recovery projects that are justified by subsequent information and synchronized with government recovery plans can be proposed in the appeal's revised edition.

To reduce the element of surprise in rapid response, elements of the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) charged with disaster preparedness should combine efforts to develop a prognosis and detailed risk mapping of disaster-prone countries and likely needs and capacities. Outreach and training to non-humanitarian country teams should intensify, with a priority on disaster-prone countries. IASC emergency disaster management mechanisms should be agreed in advance, and governments (coordination counterparts, civil protection and/or natural disaster management authorities, line ministries) should be informed about possible coordination and funding mechanisms. Contingency plans should serve as a road map to development-oriented country teams to assist their rapid transition to disaster mode once a disaster strikes. They should specify roles, responsibilities and funding schemes (as stated in the latest guidelines) and they should be continuously updated and integrated with development and information management tools in order to improve, or sometimes even pre-empt, flash appeals. As well as promising better disaster response, such steps are also in line with the One UN agenda of making the diverse parts of the system, including the humanitarian and developmental parts, seamless.

Improving the synergy between CERF and flash appeals

CERF's purpose of being the fastest donor to sudden disasters gives opportunities for synergy with flash appeals. For example: CERF could replace flash appeals in the sense of funding the most urgent projects within days on the basis of a skeletal strategic plan and best available needs data, to be followed by a more detailed analysis and appeal with well-assessed humanitarian and recovery needs (which might justify a second CERF allocation). To implement this option, CERF may have to relax the amount of project detail required on its funding applications. Also, donors will have to forge a consensus on CERF–flash appeal interaction: some donors are increasing their contributions to CERF and apparently intending to reduce their flash appeal funding accordingly, while others state clearly that CERF funding should not replace flash appeals. The Montreux donor retreat planned for February 2008 could aim to achieve consensus on this point.


(1) All dollar signs in this document denote United States dollars. All funding figures are as of 15 November 2007 unless otherwise noted.

(2) For the gradual-onset disasters – floods and drought – the date of the first international report is cited.

(3) Or of its declaration, in the case of slow-onset disasters.

(4) For example, it was clear immediately after the Tsunami that artisanal fishing boats were destroyed – no sophisticated inspection was needed – and that the sooner they were replaced the sooner aid dependence would end. By contrast, appealing for a project to develop plans to relocate communities living in disaster-prone coastal areas to less risky areas on higher grounds can probably wait a few weeks for more solid assessment.




The reduced number of CAPs for 2008

The surge in flash appeals in 2007

New best practice in 2008 CAPs

Humanitarian financing innovations: replacing the CAP or depending on it?

Humanitarian funding in 2007

- Funding inside and outside appeals: a measure of humanitarian reform and Good Humanitarian Donorship

- Number of donor governments to CAPs

- Requirements per beneficiary

- Which donors are shouldering the burden most?












ANNEX 1: Excerpt from Central African Republic's Prioritization System

ANNEX 2: Excerpt from DR Congo's Prioritization System

ANNEX 3: Requirements and funding for the 2007 appeals

ANNEX 4: Requirements per organization for the 2008 Appeals

Note: The full text of this appeal is available on-line in Adobe Acrobat (pdf) format and may also be downloaded in zipped MS Word format.

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