Independent Review of the Value Added of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in Bolivia

Evaluation and Lessons Learned
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The CERF has become a significant resource for natural disaster response and has been called upon frequently since its inception in 2006. The CERF was the largest humanitarian donor to Bolivia in 2010 and is the second largest to date in 2011. Although relations between humanitarian actors in the government, UN and INGOs are relatively open, the broader political context and the nature of funding flows mean that, in the event of a natural disaster, there is no single, jointly constructed response plan to which the CERF contributes. By extension, the CERF is not highly relevant to INGOs, given their access to alternative humanitarian funds. For UN Agencies and government, however, (‘technical’ ministries and sub national government in particular) it is recognised as highly important source of funding. The CERF is perceived to fill a number of gaps and there is anecdotal evidence to suggest that it was used for a range of important interventions for flood-affected populations in 2010, whether or not these interventions were the most time critical.

The range and nature of disaster risk in general mapped onto the low population density and poor infrastructure in Bolivia means that any response system that has to be invoked irregularly to trigger an external response is likely to be somewhat inefficient. Practical, operational, inter-agency disaster preparedness plans are required for at-risk areas. Risk reduction and community preparedness are on the agenda through DIPECHO and NGOs and UNICEF is working on a preparedness initiative. At the systemic level, however, many respondents were pessimistic, however, about the prospect of building specific government capacity for disaster preparedness. The significant challenges in developing stronger national systems make the CERF, in relative terms, an attractive resource. There also seems little real prospect of Bolivia receiving significantly more bilateral funds from traditional donors to the global humanitarian system and, as such, Bolivia looks set to continue to call upon the CERF. A major challenge for the fund within the specific context of Bolivia, therefore, is to distinguish between instances where the CERF adds genuine, ‘life saving’ value and where it is treated as an easy target in a resource scarce environment. Such a distinction could only realistically be made by the RC, as part of a more direct management role in the CERF process.