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Humanitarian assistance and funding should be based on people’s needs and provided without discrimination. Unfortunately this is not always the case. A new report from NRC look at ways to bridge the need-based funding gap.
On 3 April 2014, NRC launched a report on needs-based funding, written by Lydia Poole and supported by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This report helps to understand the funding landscape and how it can be adapted to better assist populations affected by conflicts and natural disasters. It also looks at how the contributions of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) – key actors on the ground – can be strengthened. The report is drawn from experiences of NGOs and other actors in South Sudan, Somalia and Pakistan.
“Humanitarian financing is essential to be able to respond to the needs of men, women, boys and girls affected by crises across the world. Certain key principles guide humanitarian actors and donors, such as impartiality. This means providing assistance or funding based on need and without discrimination. However, this commitment is often not met in practice”, says Arvinn Gadgil, NRC’s Director of Partnerships and Policy.
The commitment to needs-based funding is supported by international humanitarian law and codified in various standards including the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief.
“Obtaining adequate and timely financing, and prioritising based on needs, is essential. For many actors, funding is unpredictable and inflexible and decision-making for funding allocations is not sufficiently coordinated, which can mean that some crises are more forgotten than others”, says Lydia Poole, author of the study.
NGOs play a very important role in responding to needs on the ground, but they often struggle to obtain adequate and sufficient funds to main programmes and respond to new needs (especially in a growingly competitive environment), and to contribute more in deciding on priorities. The NRC report provides several concrete recommendations to improve prioritisation of needs, coordination, principled partnerships and quality of funding, and offers interesting case studies of initiatives that aim to improve needs-based financing.
One example is the “NGO consortia approach” in Somalia. As the food security crisis escalated in Somalia in 2011 and in the absence of main food actors, a group of NGOs came together to advocate for unconditional cash and vouchers on a large scale, to assist the population. The NGO consortia played a major role in changing donor policy towards supporting the scale-up of a large cash-based response, and also advanced technological standards, evidence and learning in the area of cash transfers.
Another NGO-led initiative called “REACH” has contributed to improving the needs-basis in funding allocations by collecting information on needs, including through satellite imagery, and analysing and sharing this information with humanitarian actors and donors before, during and after an emergency.
Donors are also doing a lot to try to improve the needs-basis in their funding allocations. Examples of interesting initiatives include the Rapid Fund in Pakistan, supported by USAID, which provides rapid access to funding for NGOs as well as on-the-job capacity strengthening to help partners to manage and report on funds. Several donors have started to hold regular meetings with their NGO partners to include them in identifying priorities, or have rapid response funding mechanisms to improve emergency response, or longer-term funding agreements to support actors in planning and implementing more easily in the longer-term.
The study, which is available here, provides many examples from the ground as well as concrete recommendations, which if implemented, will improve funding for humanitarian action and our ability to meet the needs of affected populations.