Too important to fail: Addressing the humanitarian financing gap

High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing


This is the report of an expert panel on ways to reduce the estimated US$ 15 billion funding gap for humanitarian action. The panel makes recommendations under three themes.

Shrink the needs: The most effective way to bring down the cost of humanitarian aid is to reduce the necessity to resort to it. The panel recommends:

  • Reorienting official development assistance towards the reduction and prevention of situations of fragility
  • Creating fiscal space and generating local and national capacity for crisis prevention and response
  • Promoting development finance in protracted crises and, wherever possible, moving to joint humanitarian-development financial programming
  • Changing the eligibility criteria for access to low-interest loans and grants to follow the people in need
  • Increasing the International Development Association’s Crisis Response Window funding by at least a factor of three.

Deepen and broaden the resource base for humanitarian action: The world’s five biggest donors provide nearly two thirds of the money given by governments. Prevention of the spread of instability is a global public good; therefore, providing the resources for doing so should be a collective responsibility. Specific recommendations are:

  • Establish an international solidarity levy mechanism to support the health welfare of displaced people
  • Intensify funding from new donors by ensuring that their contributions receive appropriate recognition in the key tracking systems for humanitarian funding
  • Engage the private sector to commit resources for in-kind response, with the UN Global Compact creating opportunities to tap into assets, skills and capabilities
  • Develop and promote more risk financing tools for disaster-prone countries
  • Unleash the full potential of Islamic Social Finance
  • Develop international media platforms for more systematic and predictable individual giving.

Improve delivery: The panel would like to see the major donors and aid organisations set an example for others to follow by working even closer together to drive down costs. Greater efficiency will create a virtuous circle by drawing in more funding and more participants in responding to humanitarian crises. It recommends that aid organisations and donors work more closely together towards:

  • More financial transparency
  • More support and funding tools to national first responders
  • Scaling up the use of cash-based programming and increasing coordination in its delivery.

The panel also recommends that aid organisations commit to:

  • Reducing duplication and management costs
  • Periodic functional expenditure reviews
  • More joint and impartial needs assessments
  • Listening more and including beneficiaries in decisions that affect them.

They also recommend that donors commit to:

  • More multi-year humanitarian funding
  • Less earmarking to humanitarian aid organisations
  • More harmonized and simplified reporting requirements.


High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing. (2016). Too important to fail—Addressing the humanitarian financing gap (Report to the Secretary-General). New York: United Nations.