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The State of the World’s Cash 2020 – Executive summary

23 July 2020 — By Ruth McCormack, Karen Peachey, Laura Phelps, Gaby Smith

The State of the World’s Cash 2020 provides a comprehensive snapshot of cash and voucher assistance (CVA), with significant recommendations for anyone interested in humanitarian action. This report follows on from the first report, a seminal piece, published in 2018. Since then CVA has continued to grow and is now a major part of almost every humanitarian response.  The total amount of CVA has doubled since 2016, from $2.8 Bn to $5.6Bn in 2019 and it is an increasingly important tool in the humanitarian toolbox. CVA continues to save lives and livelihoods, and to challenge humanitarian actors to think differently and deliver better. 

But barriers to greater effectiveness and accountability remain. Looking across the findings, we have seen four key shifts since the first report, all of which have been accelerated and influenced by the COVID-19 crisis:

    • The rise and rise of CVA – Global CVA volumes have doubled since 2016. 91% of practitioners have seen increased donor support for CVA, and 85% believe that it is now more systematically considered as a response tool. 
    • A multipurpose tool challenging a sector-based system – We struggle to fit cash – where use and outcomes are determined by users – into a sector-based system. 90% of practitioners see the global impasse on CVA coordination as having real operational impacts.
    • Recipients in the driving seat: in theory but not yet in practice – Programme quality is increasingly understood in terms of value for recipients, but there is little evidence that recipient perspectives are driving programmatic change.

CVA driving a more local, more plural humanitarian system, including stronger links with governments – CVA is helping strengthen links with local state and non-state actors, including through new collaborative approaches. But there is not yet agreement about what localisation means in practice.