Understanding Humanitarian Funds - Going Beyond Country-Based Pooled Funds

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Pooled funds have become a significant part of the humanitarian landscape and financing toolbox over the last decade. Their numbers have grown, more donors are channelling funds through them, and more humanitarian actors are looking to them as a means of financing. The level of information exchange and learning between the funds, however, do not seem to match the expansion in pooled funds.

With recent commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), including by some States to increase their contributions to the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and country-based pooled funds (CBPFs), pooled funds are likely to be more in the spotlight. Such pooled funds – and possibly others – are receiving heightened attention as they may provide a way to meet (at least in part) several of the commitments in “The Grand Bargain”, including to channel 25% of financing to “local national and responders as directly as possible” by 2020.1 This focus will put greater pressure on the various pooled funds to ensure transparency and efficiency; guarantee robust procedures to comply with donor conditions; and respond to prioritised humanitarian needs without imposing undue burdens on humanitarian actors.

The overview provided by the study will hopefully encourage greater learning between pooled funds and help to avoid actors working in silos. This study maps the various pooled funds, available for humanitarian response and resilience programming, identifies good practice and lessons, and provides recommendations for the existing pooled funds, which may also be useful for new and future pooled funds.

The study finds that improvements have been made over the years in how pooled funds are managed and administered, with numerous lessons to be drawn:

• Agreeing on the fund’s priorities and mechanisms is essential to the smooth functioning of a pooled fund. Such agreements contribute to the trust and confidence that stakeholders place in the fund. The agreed mechanisms and tools should clearly prioritise effective humanitarian response, based on humanitarian needs and principles.

• Transparency and openness about procedures, tools, decisions, and funding allocations further help to build trust. As with many aspects of humanitarian response, pooled funds should be prepared to provide, receive, and respond to feedback in a timely manner.

• Having an impartial secretariat or support unit that is seen as serving all stakeholders impartially can further contribute to ensuring confidence in a fund’s management, administration, and procedures.

• Having a small group of stakeholders of a pooled fund definitely makes it easier to build trust.