5-year evaluation of the central emergency response fund. Synthesis report: final draft


This evaluation provides an assessment of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) between 2006 and 2010. Intended to inform debates at the United Nations General Assembly on the delivery of humanitarian assistance, it highlights the strengths and weaknesses of the CERF, and provides recommendations at the policy and operational levels to improve its effectiveness.

Data sources include: 16 case studies based on visits to six CERF countries; a desk-based review of CERF operations in 10 other countries; visits to UN headquarters in Geneva, Rome, and New York, and six donor agency headquarters. This data was then analysed according to the CERF’s Performance Accountability Framework, and criteria for efficiency, effectiveness, relevance and appropriateness.

Key findings:

  • The CERF acts as a catalyst for enhanced implementation of humanitarian reform processes where there is effective leadership and commitment to humanitarian reform. However, where processes led by UN agencies are less inclusive and transparent, CERF funding highlights structural weaknesses. This leads to increased distrust and acrimony, and increased competition for sharing/allocating the funds.
  • The CERF has increased the predictability of funding flows for new emergencies at the global level through the underfunded window (UFE) and through supporting less well-funded common services such as transport and communications which often receive low donor attention. However it still remains less predictable at the country and sector levels. In countries where there is a locally managed Common Humanitarian Fund (pooled fund), CERF funding integrates well into joint planning and monitoring of activities with cluster members, including national and international NGOs.
  • The CERF promotes early action and acts as a primary driver for launching strategic emergency responses.  UN agencies are able to start-up activities using their own emergency reserves, where the CERF can be used either as a supplement or to reimburse loans. CERF Rapid Response (RR) triggers other advance funding mechanisms within agencies with immediate effect utilising the Letters of Understanding.


The evaluation offers a range of recommendations for a range of actors including donor agencies, cluster leads, the CERF Secretariat, including:

  • The integration of CERF and ERF processes could be developed to maximise both processes of prioritisation and monitoring.
  • Strengthen the funding base for CERF by promoting it to existing and potential new donors as an effective and accountable humanitarian funding.
  • Improve monitoring, evaluation and learning systems (MEL) to improve CERF impact.


Channel Research. (2011). 5-year evaluation of the central emergency response fund. Synthesis report: final draft. Ohain: Channel Research.