Country-Based Pooled Funding Mechanisms: Mapping and Comparative Analysis
This study contributes to a broader effort to achieve clarity of purpose for Country Based Pooled Funds (CBPFs). These Funds, at the disposal of UN Humanitarian Coordinators (HC)s, tend to operate in fragile and conflict-affected states (FCAS), settings that absorb a high proportion of global humanitarian assistance. In FCAS, the humanitarian system plays a wide variety of roles, ranging from strictly life-saving response to disaster preparedness and resilience building. Whether or not the system as a whole should play a broad or narrow role remains a constant source of debate. Critical to analysis in the context of FCAS is the relationship between humanitarian and other forms of assistance: development (in the broad sense); recovery; disaster preparedness; stabilization; and the delivery of basic services in the absence of state systems. To better define the purpose of CBPFs, the report explores the interrelated issues of alignment and breadth of response: should these funds, in support of the humanitarian system, be focused on life-saving assistance, or should they should take a broader approach to humanitarian response, across the breadth of OCHA’s mandate and including components like early recovery, disaster preparedness and resilience building?
Looking at both Emergency Response Funds (ERFs) and Common Humanitarian Funds (CHFs), this report examines the ambiguity of focus within each mechanism. It addresses how CBPFs can be better aligned, both with one another and with other aspects of humanitarian response (including development and preparedness funding). Additionally, the report takes a forward looking approach to identifying what the breadth and scope of response should be within CBPFs, as well as their balance of strategy versus responsiveness and their capacity for incorporating resilience. Using an analysis of key financial data, global and country-level guidelines and evaluations, and annual and financial reports, this study situates CBPFs and their broader purpose as a humanitarian response mechanism in the context of current global policy debates. It undertakes a comparative analysis of ERFs and CHFs using global guidance and evaluations, and country case studies to situate the global analysis. The case studies examine the CBPFs present in the DRC, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Yemen, Pakistan and Haiti. Each one considers questions of size and scale, and especially how the CBPFs support Consolidated Appeals Processes or alternative response plans. They also provide examples of complementary action between CBPFs, the CERF and other funding streams.
The study concludes that ERFs and CHFs, while nominally different for historical reasons, are more similar than stated in the long-standing guidance. Global guidance in place at the start of the research period was separate for ERFs and CHFs and tended, in places, to conflate the scale and the purpose of the Funds, and to cement unhelpful delineation between the two such as the explicit reference to NGO funding in the ERF guidance. The country studies confirm that while ERFs do tend to be smaller overall than CHFs, some (notably Pakistan and Haiti) have been very substantial and Ethiopia continues to be so. Other large ERFs have adopted strategic allocations, ultimately suggesting that the scale of any given Fund is as important a factor in its potential use as is its designation as a CHF or ERF. An overarching conclusion of the study, therefore, is that CHFs and ERFs should be viewed as variations on a single type of funding mechanism, albeit with a range of scales and a variety of funding modalities. The characteristics of CBPFs should be driven primarily by the context in which they operate. Funds should be aligned with strategic priorities when scale allows and also responsive. CBPFs should be needs-driven and provide funding to the actors best placed to respond the needs targeted. OCHA’s updated guidance note, along with new management arrangements in OCHA FCS, takes significant strides in this direction, recognising the similarities between ERFs and CHFs and the need to rationalise and harmonise policy support to them.
The country studies include ERFs which have suffered from rapidly diminishing support, notably those that were set up, or re-energised as primary conduits for funding in the aftermath of natural disasters. As such, the study identifies the need to ensure that careful consideration is given to the opening of CBPFs in the aftermath of rapid onset emergencies. While it is clearly useful to have a pooled funding instrument in the aftermath of a large scale response, as one part of a set of funding tools (including the CERF and the START Fund), the capacity for funding levels to diminish quickly has to be taken into consideration and a flexible approach to Fund management considered. As well as being adapted to the context, CBPFs must be fit for purpose in terms of adequate management capacity. If a more flexible approach to activation and de-activation of CBPFs is considered, the management of human resources in an equally flexible and responsive fashion is critically important.
The report draws additional conclusions on the question of whether CBPFs should take a narrow or broad view of humanitarian assistance and/or support recovery, preparedness and early action. The advice from numerous evaluations is consistent and predictable: in the majority of cases, and especially for small ERFs, they have been designed to provide responsive allocations to unforeseen shocks or critical gaps; and CHFs, by virtue of having an emergency reserve, have had the same responsive capacity. Over and above this capacity, the CHF model has supported the UN led annual planning and prioritisation cycle. Guidance in place at the start of the research period allowed for considerable flexibility. CHFs have offered a much greater scope to support preparedness, early action and recovery if these are identified as priorities by the collective humanitarian system.
In addition, the issue of size and scale presents an interesting challenge to the suggestion that CBPFs should play a central role in resilience. In cases where CBPFs face a reduction in size, there is a clear tendency for them to re-prioritise in such a way that narrows their purpose towards acute needs. As a result, identifying resilience as a key role and responsibility of CBPFs may be problematic. Successfully funding resilience and preparedness requires a more stable funding source than CBPFs can currently offer. The report concludes that a better model would see development, recovery or preparedness instruments complementing humanitarian pooled funds and making cross referrals. Coordination, or indeed any kind of interaction between humanitarian and recovery, preparedness or any other type of funding instrument in the case study countries, was strikingly absent.