Globl Humanitarian Assistance Report 2020 – Key figures

Development Initiatives has published the Global Humanitarian Assistance Report for 20 years now. It provides a detailed picture of the funding of international humanitarian assistance through a wealth of accurate data.

You will find here a summary of the 4 chapters of this report.

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You will find here the PDF of the complete Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2020.

You should watch the animated summary of the GHAR 2020.

Chapter 1: People and Crisis

This first chapter draws a global image of the spread of poverty around the world. It connects this phenomenon with countries experiencing protracted crisis.

It focuses on gender, stating that “women are often disproportionately affected by humanitarian crises”, while they are also “disadvantaged by gender inequalities and vulnerabilities”. The difficulty to access gender-disaggregated data in aid spending hinders our capacity to evaluate the extent to which “women and girls are affected in humanitarian crises”. According to existing figures, “ODA1 relevant to gender-based violence (GBV) has increased gradually since 2016”. It represents, however, only 0.7% of total ODA.

Data from the report enables to create a map of people affected by crisis, and in need of humanitarian assistance. The authors estimate that 215.6 million people living in 69 countries are in need of humanitarian assistance. 57% of them live in 10 countries. Of these 10 countries, only 4 are among “the 10 countries receiving the largest volumes of funding through UN appeals”.

Chapter 2: International Humanitarian Assistance

International Humanitarian Assistance falls for the first time since 2015

“In 2019, total international humanitarian assistance from governments and EU institutions and estimated contributions from private donors decreased by US$1.6 billion to US$29.6 billion.” This is a 5% fall, which follows 4 years of growth. This sharp decrease is mainly due to “a fall in funding from governments and EU institutions, which decreased by 8%”.

On the opposite, UN appeals increased by 5%, and requirements met increased, from 60% to 64% in 2019.

The volume of international assistance provided by the 20 largest donors reduced in 2019. Indeed the trend of slower growth lasts since 2014. It was interrupted in 2018 by the exceptional contributions from the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They increased their contribution by 1.8 billion USD in 2018, and reduced it by 1.5 billion USD the next year. As a result, regional contributions from the Middle East and North of Sahara fell by 44% in 2019.

On a regional scale, only Europe increased slightly its contributions by 1.9%. This is driven primarily by “a large rise in international humanitarian assistance from the UK, rising by 24%”. 

Finally, the authors note the significant role of private donors, which contributions “have consistently made up just over a fifth of total international humanitarian assistance”.

The largest recipients, a stable group, experiencing protracted crisis

This very clear figure shows the 10 largest recipient of international humanitarian assistance in 2018.

To keep in mind :

  • Syria did not receive the largest amount of assistance for the first time in seven years.
  • The increase in assistance to Yemen is due to Middle Eastern donors: “In 2017, 29% of total funding to Yemen came from these two donors [UAE and Saudi Arabia]. By 2018, this proportion had grown to 69%”.
  • The largest recipient are a relatively stable group, because most of them experience protracted crisis.
  • Outside the 10 largest recipient, Bangladesh, Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, and Niger saw major increase in funding received.

Finally, this chapter focuses on ODA targeting disaster risk reduction. International humanitarian assistance for Disaster Risk Reduction gains importance as “climate change is likely to have (…) profound and long-lasting impacts on people’s lives”. It appears that this specific ODA is well targeted to countries at “very high” or “high” risk or natural catastrophe. ODA with primary focus on Disaster Risk Reduction represents, however, only a small proportion of total ODA, varying between 0.5% and 1.7%.

Chapter 3: Funding for effectiveness and efficiency

The total international humanitarian response in 2018 was of 31.2 billion USD. Channels of delivery of this assistance have not changed much since 2017. Governments mostly give to multilateral agencies (62%), while private donors continue to donate in majority to NGOs (89%, which represents 56% of the total funding to NGOs). When we take into account both governments and private donors, “funding to NGOs (…) as a proportion of total international humanitarian assistance decreased from 35% in 2017 to 30% in 2018”.

Sharp fall of direct funding to local and national actors

Data on the beneficiaries of funds allocated to international humanitarian aid are not easily accessible. Indeed, “beyond funding to first-level recipients, there continues to be a lack of data on subsequent transactions,” making it difficult to analyze the effectiveness and efficiency of aid spending.

Data analyzed by Development Initiatives, including OCHA FTS2 , show that direct funding to local and national actors has been significantly reduced in 2019 . Thus, in the diagram above, we can see a decrease, both in proportion and volume, in direct funding to local and national actors.

UN pooled funds, which provide a flexible, country-led funding option under the Country-based pooled fund (CBPF), increased by 25% in 2019. However, this increase is mainly due to a 55 percent increase in funding from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and not from the CBPFs.

“NGOs receive more than two thirds of the funding allocated from CBPFs”, however 65% of CBPF funding allocated to NGOs aimed at international NGOs, while 35% targeted local and national NGOs. CBPFs are an important source of funding for local and national actors, but they “remain a small part of total humanitarian assistance, representing just 4% of total public donor contributions in 2019”. There are also wide differences between country-based pooled funds: for instance, “the Iraq Humanitarian Fund allocated 0.9% of its funding to local and national NGOs, while the occupied Palestinian territory Humanitarian Fund allocated 36.9%”.

“Quality funding”, an option favored during the Grand Bargain, but still little used

The last part of this chapter focuses on “quality funding”, which encompasses unearmarked and multi-year funding. While multi-year funding have largely increased, “unearmarked funding as a proportion of total funding has decreased steadily since 2015”, and its volume dropped in 2019 below 2015 levels. A great increase was seen, however, regarding the use of cash and voucher assistance (CVA), which volume has grown steadily since 2015.

In 2016, at the World Humanitarian Summit, the five largest donors and the six largest UN agencies signed a document of 51 decisions to make aid more effective. This is called the “Grand Bargain“, which today has 61 signatories (24 states, 11 UN agencies, 5 intergovernmental and Red Cross organizations and 21 NGOs). Improving traceability and the flexibility of the funds allocated were major points of this report. However, the authors, here and later in the report, clearly show the difficulty of access to reliable and comparable data, as well as the lack of flexibility in the funds released. It is difficult, after reading this report, to conclude that good progress has been made by States and international donors on the points raised during the Grand Bargain.

Read more on the Grand Bargain, here, on Défis Humanitaires.

Chapter 4: Crisis financing to the Covid-19 pandemic response

Covid-19, a pandemic with multiple consequences, has a negative impact on international humanitarian aid

This last chapter analyzes crisis financing to the Covid-19 pandemic response. While requirements and needs have largely increased due to the pandemic, resources, including ODA, have reduced. Indeed, “total UN humanitarian appeal funding requirements for 2020 have already reached 37.7 billion USD, 25% higher than in June 2019”. Simultaneously, resources, such as foreign direct investment, tourism, remittances etc., fall because of the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

Development Initatives calculated that “total ODA may fall from 2019 levels of 153billion USD to, at best, 143 billion USD in 2020 (…) At worst, total ODA may fall to 139 billion in 2020 before falling further to 134 billion USD (a 12% reduction) in 2021”. These projections are likely to severely affect countries, as “ODA represents more than a quarter of all government expenditure for a third of countries within the Global Humanitarian Response Plan (GHRP)”.

In June 2020, 20% of the 37.7 billion USD of UN humanitarian appeal funding requirements had been met, “with the same proportion, on average, of requirements fulfilled for the Covid-19 appeal and for other humanitarian appeals” – donors did not prioritize Covid-19 response to other crises. Although it is a bit lower than the 23% of requirements met June last year (2019), it is higher in volume by 578 million USD.

The delivery of aid varied from usual, as a lower proportion was allocated directly to countries, with “a sixth of total allocations going to global support services”.

Repartition of total appeal funding related/non related to Covid-19

2020 – not Covid-19 related 2020 – Covid-19 related
Directly to countries’ plans 83% 74%
Support services 17%
Regional Response plans 17% 8%

Who gives and to whom? The main donors of the response to Covid-19 are the same as those providing the largest volume of humanitarian aid in 2019

As of donors, they mostly are the same as usual: “the three donors providing the largest volumes of international humanitarian assistance in 2019 are the largest donors to the Covid-19 response”. Namely the US, Germany and the UK, who provided 44% of total grants from public donors to the Covid-19 pandemic response.

The international humanitarian assistance to fight Covid-19 mostly channeled through UN agencies: “As of 24 June 2020, almost three quarters of the total international humanitarian assistance to the Covid-19 response was channeled through multilateral organizations”.

92% of this went to four UN agencies, namely:

  • The World Health Organization (38% of funding to UN agencies and other multilateral organizations)
  • The UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (24%)
  • The World Food Programme (17%)
  • The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (13%).

In comparison, NGOs received less than usual, with “just 5.1% of the total international humanitarian assistance for Covid-19 – compared to an average of 19% directed to NGOs and CSOs by governments between 2014 and 2018”.

Covid-19, what to learn from the financing of this crisis?

Let’s end this article on a positive note. There is one benefic aspect to this health crisis, that is the greater flexibility in funding it imposed on donors. UN agencies issued new flexibility guidelines, promoting re-programming of existing funding, lighter process for negotiation and disbursement, and simplification of processes such as due diligence and reporting. These aspects are in line with Grand Bargain decision to increase flexible funding. The question remains whether it will last beyond the pandemic or not?


Madeleine Trentesaux

[1] ODA – Official Development Aid

[2] UN OCHA- FTS – United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid- Financial Tracking Service