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Increased flexible funding from Belgium enables FAO to better respond to food crises

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At a time of unprecedented humanitarian needs, the Government of Belgium has increased its contribution to FAO’s Special Fund for Emergency and Rehabilitation Activities (SFERA) to grant FAO the necessary flexibility to determine how funds are allocated in the context of an emergency.

Belgium has provided USD 12 million for the period 2021-2022. Of this amount, over USD 4.2 million are for the Agricultural Inputs Response Capacity (AIRC) window and 1.8 million for the Anticipatory Action (AA) window, for each of the two years. This generous grant represents Belgium’s largest contribution to SFERA, adding to a total of over USD 62 million (20 percent of the total funding received) allocated since this Special Fund was established in 2004. For the first time, the contribution also extends the duration of support covering programming for a two-year period instead of one year as for previous allocations.

Belgium has long been a pioneer of flexible funding. As one of the signatories of the Grand Bargain, Belgium agreed not only to give more but to give better by progressively increasing the proportion of flexible funding in recent years which reached a record high of 58 percent in 2020, largely exceeding the Grand Bargain target of 30 percent.

Predictability and flexibility of funding is essential to enable FAO to react quickly when disasters strike, to take early action to mitigate any signs of impending crises and to prepare for future crises. The support provided to SFERA has allowed Belgium to be one of the first and most active resource partners to respond to emergencies.

Thanks to flexible funding from Belgium, between 2018 and 2020, FAO allocated over USD 14 million to 31 countries all over the world, reaching over 1 million beneficiaries with urgent agricultural inputs and anticipatory actions to mitigate and respond to the impact of the crises. The types of emergencies that have been addressed were related to natural disasters, extreme weather events, the COVID-19 pandemic, plant pests, animal diseases, conflict, pastoral crises and economic shocks. Funds were used to protect and recover agriculture-based livelihoods, improve food security and restore the dignity of vulnerable households while increasing their resilience to future shocks and reducing dependency on food aid.

SFERA was approved by FAO’s Finance Committee in May 2003 and formally established in April 2004 to address the increasing frequency and magnitude of emergencies, and therefore the need to access funds quickly. SFERA’s main features are the following:

  • helps FAO to kick-start or quickly scale up operations capacities, and rapidly respond to Level 3 emergencies and other humanitarian crises;
  • reduces the time between funding decision and action on the ground, saving between two to three months compared with standard funding mechanisms and average time for funding approval;
  • can be used throughout the year based on emerging needs (i.e. in response to COVID-19);
  • has a global reach as any country in the world can benefit from SFERA funding, provided that the criteria are met; supports AA and a proactive anticipatory humanitarian system;
  • facilitates the mobilization of additional funding from other resource partners; and
  • plays a critical role in coordinating a collaborative, longer-term response focusing on strengthening livelihoods, and resilience capacities and strategies.

The AIRC window channels pooled funds from resource partners towards the immediate procurement and delivery of time-critical inputs, while the AA window enables FAO to act early once an impending threat has been identified, before disaster losses are sustained or livelihoods are compromised. In addition to these two windows, in 2020, funding from Belgium also contributed to the COVID-19 window of the SFERA, which was created to respond to the impact of the pandemic on food security and nutrition, in line with the Global Humanitarian Response Plan for COVID-19.