Cash Transfer Programming in Armed Conflict: The ICRC's Experience

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This report looks at the ICRC’s experience of using cash transfer programming (CTP) in armed conflict. The ICRC has increased its use of cash and vouchers in recent years and is very encouraged by the clear benefits of cash transfer programming in certain situations. The ICRC is enthusiastic about the benefits of CTP and realistic about when it is best to use it. Our experience and evidence show that cash is an essential tool in humanitarian action in armed conflict and a valuable option in responding to a wide range of the needs people have in such situations.

The report focuses on the ICRC’s experience in Yemen, Nigeria, South Sudan, Lebanon and Ukraine, among others, and our own operational analysis confirms many of the positive findings from other policy and academic studies referred to in this report.
The purpose of this report is to share some of the ICRC’s experience of using CTP in armed-conflict environments and so inform and influence the wider policy debate around cash, especially in relation to its use as a tool in principled humanitarian action in armed conflicts.


The methodology of this report is qualitative, based on collection of both primary and secondary data, as follows:

• Literature review of cash transfer programming evidence, reviews and reports both from ICRC operations and the wider humanitarian sector.
• Key Informant Interviews (KII) with ICRC staff. The KIIs sought to gather views, experiences and perceptions of cash transfer programming in ICRC operations.
• Two case studies from situations of conflict and protracted crisis: Nigeria and Lebanon. These case studies concern economic security programmes where cash was used and include interviews with people supported by the ICRC, as well as KIIs with ICRC staff.


The many important benefits of CTP are well known and, in the ICRC’s experience, they apply equally well in situations of armed conflict, increasing people’s dignity, power, autonomy and choice in how they manage their survival and recovery. CTP can also offer greater operational flexibility and achieve wider social and economic multiplier effects beyond its specific purpose. CTP may also initiate, maintain or recover people’s financial inclusion during the disruption of conflict.


Our experience warns against an unthinking “rush for cash” in humanitarian action.
Strong pressure to use cash or vouchers without adequately assessing the context – particularly one based on cost-efficiency calculations – can put humanitarian organizations in a difficult situation. Pressure to set targets based on inputs and outputs (the scale of CTP) rather than outcomes (humanitarian impact) as a condition for receiving financial support could bias humanitarian action towards “cash-ready” environments and away from impartial, needs-based analysis. Vulnerable communities in areas where CTP is not feasible or the best way to achieve intended outcomes could be overlooked or offered a form of humanitarian aid that is inappropriate for them.