The 2011 UN CAP appeal: Did humanitarian aid just get cheaper?

Uploaded: 09/12/2010 Author: Alexandra Spencer

Global Trends Scale of Needs
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The 2011 UN consolidated appeals process (CAP) is the largest to date, targeting a huge 50 million beneficiaries and requesting an unprecedented US$7.4 billion in humanitarian aid. But what does the 2011 UN CAP appeal really tell us about global humanitarian needs and what progress has been made to improve the evidence base that justifies this request for that US$7.4 billion?

Not surprisingly perhaps, the UN CAP chapeau document explains that the global humanitarian situation is complicated. Some situations have improved, some changed little, others have worsened, and in 2011 the humanitarian community will still be contending with the aftermath of two ‘mega-disasters’. Reference is made to the rising cost of humanitarian response, which has been pushed up by the rising costs of food and fuel. The number of beneficiaries targeted in the 2011 appeal is far higher than in any previous year, but it is not clear whether overall the global needs are greater, or whether the ambition of those organisations participating in the CAP is greater.

So what do the funding requirements tell us about humanitarian needs?

To begin with, surprisingly, the amount requested per beneficiary is US$89 lower in 2011 than in 2010.

Collectively, the consolidated appeals which are both in the 2010 and 2011 CAP appeal are collectively requesting 10% less funding in 2011 than in 2010. The most significant growth in initial requirements is in Yemen, which demonstrates a 25% growth in requirements. Uganda has ‘graduated’ from the CAP process and no longer has a consolidated appeal.

So if the requirements of the usual suspects are down, where does the growth in overall requirements lie? In the simplest terms, in Haiti, which was subject to a flash appeal in 2010 and has now entered the CAP as a consolidated appeal in 2011 with a large initial requirement of US$907 million. There are two other new entries, Djibouti, US$39 million and Niger, US$187 million, both of which had flash appeals in 2010.

Initial requirements for UN consolidated appeals 2010 and 2011. Source: UN Humanitarian Appeal 2010, 2011

Between 2010 and 2011, the number of beneficiaries targeted in the UN CAP appeal has increased by 20 million people. Yet the requirements have in comparison increased a relatively modest amount, only around US$300 million.

While we do not have target beneficiary numbers available for each country in the 2010 CAP, we have already seen that requirements amongst the usual suspects are down. The new entries into the CAP account for only 3.62 million targeted beneficiaries (Djibouti 120,000 people; Haiti 2.1 million people; Niger 1.4 million people). So those ‘new’ 16.4 million targeted beneficiaries, who are not in Haiti, Niger or Djibouti, must lie amongst those countries whose overall requirements are down.

Requirements per beneficiary are on average US$89 less in 2011 than in 2010. While the talk in certain donor capitals is of ‘value for money’ in aid, it seems unlikely that this could have yet enabled the humanitarian community to respond to the needs of 67% more people for just 4% more humanitarian aid. Perhaps what we ought to be asking is how the target beneficiary numbers are arrived at.

There is still so much we don’t know about the scale of needs and the adequacy of response. Many actors are working to improve processes, standards and capacity in needs assessments and these should ultimately contribute to an improved evidence base. Currently however, no CAP is created equal – each follows their own locally determined processes for establishing the needs and requirements and while country level innovations have improved the evidence base of several consolidated appeals, there is no clear direction in this year’s CAP chapeau document as to which approach the UN endorses. Listing target beneficiary numbers is a huge improvement on earlier appeals that should facilitate comparisons across appeals and across time, but a little more transparency around how those figures are determined would also be welcome.

It is not only the scale of demand however which is less than clear, the cost of supplying humanitarian aid might well have significantly altered in the last five years. In making claims for increasing amounts of humanitarian aid, it might also be time to look seriously at the costs of delivering aid – including the impact on aid budgets of rising commodity prices and the cost of delivering aid in highly insecure environments. In 2011 the GHA programme hopes to get to grips with some of these questions…. watch this space!

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Alexandra Spencer BW

About the author:
Alexandra Spencer

Alex is a Research Assistant working with the GHA team. She supports the team with the production of its core products; GHA report, Country Profiles and briefings. At present, she is also supporting GHA’s research into private funding in the humanitarian sector. Currently, Alex is studying for her undergraduate degree in Economics and International Development from…