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Time for Change: Harnessing the Potential of Humanitarian Cash Transfers

2017 — By Sarah Bailey, Paul Harvey

This synthesis report examines the effectiveness of humanitarian cash transfers in Ukraine, Iraq, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Mozambique and Nepal. These case studies are building on the work of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers. The Panel concluded that cash transfers are not used enough in humanitarian responses and not used in ways that take advantage of their transformative potential.

The case studies found impressive developments. Cash transfers were central to the humanitarian response in Ukraine, and were provided on a much larger scale in Nepal than in the past. At the same time, however, aid agencies and donors are missing out on meaningful opportunities to harness the efficiency and effectiveness of cash transfers because of restrictive interpretations of mandates, organisational self-interest and incentives to continue with well-established approaches.

One logical approach would be for donors to pool resources, or at least coordinate closely, to fund large-scale cash transfer responses to meet basic needs where this is appropriate. Funding a single organisation or combination of organisations working together reduces the need for every agency in a response to maintain separate capacities to assess, monitor and deliver cash transfers.

The report doesn’t provide new recommendations to add to those made by the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Cash Transfers and the Grand Bargain commitments. What is needed are not more recommendations, but consolidated efforts to implement existing ones.