Central Emergency Response Fund Life-Saving Criteria



The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) was established by the United Nations (UN) to enable timely and reliable humanitarian assistance to people affected by disasters and emergencies. The UN General Assembly, on 15 December 2005, adopted resolution A/RES/60/124 by consensus and established CERF to achieve the following objectives:

  • Promoting early action and response to reduce loss of life
  • Enhancing response to time-critical requirements
  • Strengthening core elements of humanitarian response in underfunded crises CERF supports prioritized life-saving assistance to people in need. To ensure adherence to its mandate,

CERF defines “life-saving” by using the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality and impartiality, focusing on affected people. In doing so, CERF adopts an approach grounded in the Centrality of Protection. CERF defines life-saving actions as those that, within a short time span, remedy, mitigate or avert direct loss of life and harm to people, and protect their dignity. Common humanitarian services that are necessary to enable these life-saving activities are also permissible.


While General Assembly resolution A/RES/60/124 defines CERF’s mandate, the criteria for eligible lifesaving humanitarian action, referred to as the “Life-Saving Criteria,” codify what activities can be funded by CERF grants, and list eligible activities by sector/cluster for the Fund’s Rapid Response and Underfunded Emergencies windows. CERF has developed the Life-Saving Criteria as a guidance document for use at country level by Resident and Humanitarian Coordinators (RC/HCs) and UN or Humanitarian Country Teams (UNCTs/HCTs) for the development of applications for CERF funding. The Life-Saving Criteria are also fundamental for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and UN agencies at headquarters to support the process.

The first version of the Life-Saving Criteria was published in 2007. A revised version was developed through an inter-agency, inter-cluster collaborative process in 2009, and approved by the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) in 2010. While the General Assembly’s mandate for CERF has not changed, the humanitarian landscape in which CERF operates has evolved, necessitating an update of the Life-Saving Criteria. In developing the updated Life-Saving Criteria, in 2019 and 2020, CERF initiated a broad process of consultations with UN agencies, the Global Cluster Coordinators and the CERF Advisory Group. The new version reiterates CERF’s mandate and considers associated policy frameworks and operational contexts. The ERC approved the updated Life-Saving Criteria on 22 October 2020.


UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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