Study on the Added Value of a Reformed Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) - Revised final report,19 March 2015

Originally published


Barnaby Willitts-King

Executive Summary

  1. The Central Emergency Reserve Fund set up under UNGA Resolution 48/182 in 1992 was expanded to become the Central Emergency Response Fund in December 2005, with a grant element target of $450m. It has been well funded, surpassing this funding target in four of the nine subsequent years.

  2. The gap between funding and needs as expressed in Humanitarian Appeals has been widening in recent years. The rise in Appeal amounts has not been matched by commensurate growth in humanitarian donor contributions, although these are at record levels. CERF has remained at its 2005 targeted level of funding.

  3. Nonetheless, ten years on from its expansion, CERF remains a significant donor.
    This is measured both by volume and in terms of its perceived comparative advantage in responding in a timely and strategic way to both rapidly deteriorating/rapid onset and underfunded crises.

  4. Recipients, donors and other stakeholders such as NGOs would generally welcome an expansion of CERF as a way to fill the funding gap. However three caveats are that the funds should be i) additional rather than re-allocated, ii) not tied to any changes that could undermine the good standing of CERF, particularly the success of the life-saving criteria in keeping the fund focused and iii) at a level achievable as a new target.

  5. The appetite for radical change in functioning therefore seems limited. Increased funding could make incremental change by providing larger grants to existing crises and projects, or by providing more grants to underfunded crises, where small amounts of funding can sometimes have a disproportionate positive impact.

  6. Key areas where stakeholders formed a consensus on minor adjustments to CERF if the fund size was expanded, were: i) greater openness to early action to improve response; and ii) greater flexibility over allocation of funds between the UFE and RR windows.

  7. More far-reaching changes discussed included an expanded CERF role in L3s/mega crises and the potential for additional windows or a focus on preparedness. Findings were inconclusive on the merits of a new or revised fund for L3s or mega-crises, both in terms of the specific way it might work and CERF’s role. Additional windows or funding preparedness were not considered appropriate.

  8. A major barrier to expansion is uncertainty over where the additional funds would come from. A parallel study on assessed contributions has looked at whether this could realistically be a source, but this study finds that a pragmatic increased target would be in the range of $500-750m.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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