Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2015

Executive summary

Humanitarian financing is in the spotlight now as never before. This is for two reasons: firstly the urgent resourcing challenges of meeting the wide and multidimensional needs of more people; and secondly the unique opportunities to find solutions, in the form of the 2015 and 2016 global processes on risk, development, climate and humanitarian action.

Bringing these issues into stark focus in 2014, the Ebola virus disease outbreak and the conflict in Iraq tested humanitarian assistance in very different ways and added to the escalating emergencies and protracted crises elsewhere, including in Syria and South Sudan. Compared with in 2013, 10.7 million more people worldwide were affected by disasters caused by natural hazards, while conflict and persecution pushed the numbers of displaced people to the highest level ever on record.
Far East Asia has consistently been the region worst affected by natural hazards over the last decade. In contrast, the geographic and economic context of forced displacement is shifting. Driven by the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, there are now more displaced people in the Middle East region than in Africa, and more displaced people in middle income countries (MICs) than in low income countries (LICs). This means a shift in planning and resourcing for response and resilience – the roles of refugee-hosting governments, notably Turkey, and of Gulf donors are central to the humanitarian financing effort.

In response to this rising scale and changing nature of needs, international humanitarian assistance rose for the second year running, reaching another record high. Up nearly a fifth (19%) from the previous year, contributions totalled US$24.5 billion.

Increases in humanitarian assistance came from both public and private donors.
International humanitarian assistance from governments and EU institutions increased by 24% in 2014. All of 2013’s ten largest donor governments gave more in 2014, and many gave their largest contributions of the decade. While many of these were the same as in previous years, Saudi Arabia joined the group of the largest contributors. Combined, international humanitarian assistance from donor governments in the Middle East increased by 120% from 2013, largely in response to conflicts in the region.

Private contributions rose by an estimated 8% – less steeply than contributions from governments. This assistance from individuals, companies, corporations, and trusts and foundations accounted for around one-quarter of international humanitarian assistance last year. Tending to favour disaster over conflict response, private donors as a group were the largest international humanitarian contributor to the Typhoon Haiyan response in 2013 and the third largest to the Ebola response in 2014, according to UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s Financial Tracking Service (FTS).

In 2014, US$12 billion of international humanitarian assistance went to meet requirements from UN agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and other responders, set out in UN-coordinated appeals. While this was an unprecedented level of support, it was not sufficient to meet the record request of US$19.5 billion. The unmet requirements of US$7.5 billion (38%) were also the highest to date. This global shortfall continued to play out unevenly between crises: the gap between the best- and worst-funded UN appeals grew to 78 percentage points in 2014 – the largest difference since 2008.

Funding was concentrated to a small number of countries both within and beyond the UN-coordinated appeals. Funding to five major acute emergencies in 2014 – those designated Level 3 (L3) by the UN: Syria, the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, Iraq and the countries affected by the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa – received 57% of total reported funding last year. This is a significant increase in the proportion of funding to L3 emergencies from the previous year (36%). Donor preferences and competing demands meant that certain crises remained ‘forgotten’, including many contexts not covered by international appeals.

How humanitarian assistance gets from the donor to the crisis-affected person matters. The timeliness, cost-effectiveness and appropriateness of response are all affected by ‘channels of delivery’ and by the length and nature of transaction chains.

Almost half international humanitarian assistance (48%) from government donors continued to go first to six UN agencies with key roles in humanitarian coordination and response in 2013. UN-managed pooled funds remained important channels to meet surges in demand and address underfunded emergencies in 2014. Though relatively small, they mobilised a greater volume (US$1.1 billion) yet lower share (4%) of the total international humanitarian response for the second consecutive year.
NGOs directly received 18% of humanitarian assistance reported to the FTS in 2014, of which the vast majority was initially channelled through international NGOs.

Despite widespread acknowledgement of the important role of national and local NGOs in humanitarian action, data from 2014 suggests that their direct share of the total has halved from 0.4% in 2012 to 0.2% in 2014.

The proportion of international humanitarian assistance channelled to the government authorities of affected states has increased from the previous two years but remains low at around just 3% of all assistance reported to the FTS in 2014. Donors outside the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) show a greater willingness to provide humanitarian assistance via crisis-affected governments.

The increase in displaced populations is reflected in how humanitarian resources are being spent. For the second year running, ‘multi-sector’ assistance for refugee response dominated both appeal requirements and funding. Detail on spending beyond broad sectoral categories remains difficult to ascertain. Cash and voucher programming has undoubtedly become more prominent in recent years. However, the exact amount of funding apportioned to cash programming is not visible within current financial reporting. The same is true for disaster risk reduction and also for gender equality, despite a ‘tracker’ intended to assess all programmes for their contribution to gender equality.

While early action and rapid response are critical, two-thirds (66%) of humanitarian assistance from DAC donors alone continues to go to long-term-recipient countries – due to protracted or recurrent crises. New financing mechanisms to respond to recurrent risks are emerging. At the same time, UN-coordinated appeals have evolved in response to changing realities, with a continuing trend towards multi-year appeals with a resilience focus.

There is wide recognition that international humanitarian assistance alone is neither sufficient nor appropriate to address the scale and complexity of today’s crises, or the underlying drivers of instability, poverty and vulnerability. Countries at high risk of crisis are home to most of the world’s poorest people. Some 93% of people living in extreme poverty are in countries that are either politically fragile, environmentally vulnerable or both. Yet while domestic governments should and often do take the lead in risk reduction, crisis response and resilience-building wherever possible, the reality is that national and local resources and capacities are often most lacking in the very places most vulnerable to crisis, especially in many conflict-affected contexts.

International resources therefore remain important, but their availability can be limited for crisis-affected countries. For example, levels of foreign direct investment and remittances are lower than to other developing countries. Further, commitments to peacebuilding and statebuilding goals have yet to translate into significant and predictable financial support, while climate adaptation financing often fails to reach the people most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.

What is known about crisis-affected and crisis-prone countries demonstrates the importance of harnessing multiple resources to systematically address the impact of crisis, reduce risk and end poverty. However, there is still much that is not known – and better data is needed. Many of the tools and platforms to inform a better response already exist and the necessity of specific crises is driving innovation in some places. The challenge is in generating their use at scale.