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Glossary of Terms

First published in 2011, the CALP Glossary is designed to facilitate a common understanding and harmonized use of terms and definitions for cash and voucher assistance (CVA). 

It should be noted that these definitions apply to the use of CVA in humanitarian programming and may not reflect how some terms are understood in other contexts or by other audiences. 

The glossary, last updated in 2023, is available in Arabic, English, French and Spanish in both an online and PDF format. 

It is also available in German and Portuguese but in a PDF format only. 


Showing 20 of 182 Glossary terms

Cardless ATM

A delivery mechanism where the recipient receives a cash transfer through an ATM without using a credit or bank card. The recipient accesses the transfer by inputting a unique code number provided by the agency providing the cash transfer. Codes may be provided through different means (e.g., written codes or through mobile phones).

Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) (key term)

Cash and voucher assistance (CVA) refers to the direct provision of cash transfers and/or vouchers for goods or services to individuals, households, or group/community recipients. In the context of humanitarian response, CVA excludes payments to governments or other state actors, remittances , service provider stipends, microfinance and other forms of savings and loans.
The terms ‘cash’ or ‘cash assistance’ should be used when referring specifically to cash transfers only (i.e., avoid using ‘cash’ or ‘cash assistance’ when referring to cash and vouchers collectively).
CVA has several synonyms (e.g., Cash Based Interventions, Cash Based Assistance, and Cash Transfer Programming ), but Cash and Voucher Assistance is the recommended term.

Cash for Assets (CFA)

Cash payments provided to participants for taking part in projects to create community or public assets, such as irrigation systems, roads, etc. This is a form of conditional transfer and a sub-set of cash for work relating to those work programmes which create assets.

Cash for Training (CFT)

Cash payments provided for participating in a specified training session or series of training sessions.
This is a form of conditional transfer .

Cash for Work (CFW)

Cash payments provided on the condition of undertaking designated work. This is generally paid according to time worked (e.g., number of days, daily rate), but may also be quantified in terms of outputs (e.g., number of items produced, cubic metres dug). CFW interventions are usually in public or community work programmes but can also include home-based and other forms of work.
See also Cash for Assets (CFA)

Cash in Hand/Cash in Envelope

Cash in hand is a direct cash payment to recipients in physical currency (notes and coins). This term would usually apply where the humanitarian organization manages the distribution directly without contracting the services of a financial service provider (FSP) . Cash in hand is distinct from cash over the counter which employs an FSP to deliver physical cash. Cash in hand might also be referred to as cash in envelope if the cash is provided in an envelope

Cash Over the Counter

Cash over the counter (OTC) is a direct cash payment to recipients in physical currency (notes and coins). This term applies where a financial service provider (FSP) is contracted by a humanitarian organization to provide cash payments directly to recipients as an OTC service, without requiring any form of recipient account or wallet. Remittance companies and post offices, as well as banks, might provide this service. Cash over the counter is distinct from cash in hand/cash in envelope which generally refers to interventions where the humanitarian organization directly distributes the cash themselves.

Cash Plus

Cash plus is generally defined as the combination of cash transfers with complementary interventions. While it shares features with complementary programming , it differs in that it implies that cash is pre-supposed as the core component, rather than determining all modalities via response analysis. It also implies that providing cash assistance without complementary interventions is commonplace.

Cash Transfer/Cash Assistance (key term)

Cash transfers (also referred to as cash assistance or cash grants ) describes assistance provided in the form of money – either physical currency or e-cash* – to recipients (individuals, households, or communities). Cash transfers are unrestricted by definition, which means recipients can choose how to use the assistance. As such, cash is distinct from restricted modalities including vouchers and in-kind assistance. The terms ‘cash’ or ‘cash assistance’ should be used when referring specifically to cash transfers only (i.e., ‘cash’ or ‘cash assistance’ should not be used to mean ‘cash and voucher assistance’).

* ‘Cash’ is here applied broadly to include both physical currency and different forms of e-cash/digital payments, but typically in regular use ‘cash’ refers only to physical currency (coins, notes).


Cash-out refers to the actions undertaken by recipients to access or withdraw their cash from an account or wallet, cashing a cheque, etc. Cash-in refers to the deposit of physical cash into an account or digital or mobile wallet. Cash-out and cash-in may be done via an agent, over the counter at an FSP, or through an ATM.

Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC)

Central bank digital currency (CBDC) refers to the digital form of a country’s fiat currency . A CBDC is issued and regulated by a nation’s monetary authority or central bank. A CBDC is not a cryptocurrency , which are almost always decentralized, meaning they cannot be regulated by a single authority.
NB. As of July 2022, 105 countries, representing over 95 percent of global GDP, are exploring a CBDC

[Adapted from Investopedia and]

Climate Finance

Climate finance refers to financing—drawn from public, private and alternative sources—that seeks to support mitigation and adaptation actions that will address climate change. Climate finance is needed for mitigation to reduce emissions, and for adaptation to the adverse effects, including reducing the impacts of a changing climate. Cash assistance can potentially support climate adaptations in multiple ways, including meeting existing needs, managing risk, investments in asset bases, and facilitating mobility and livelihoods transitions.

[Adapted from and Godfrey Wood (2011)]

Closed Loop Payment Systems

A system in which the institution that issues the payment method also provides the acquiring infrastructure. Closed loop payment methods (e.g., payment card, mobile wallet) can only be used on the acquiring infrastructure of that same institution, i.e., they can only be used with a specific retailer or platform/system. E-vouchers are commonly provided via closed loop systems.

Commodity Voucher

Commodity vouchers can be redeemed at participating vendors for goods or services selected by recipients from a pre-determined list of items/services of specified types and quality. They may provide some choice in terms of vendors and market locations. Commodity vouchers are typically significantly more restricted than value vouchers .
Interventions where recipients collect goods of a fixed, specified quantity and type directly from a vendor, with vouchers exchanged only as proof of entitlement (not of value, nor providing options on what can be selected), are frequently categorized as using commodity vouchers. Given the lack of recipient choice, this approach is more accurately categorized as in-kind assistance , with vendors playing the role of distributor.

Complementary Programming (key term)

Complementary programming is the combined use of multiple modalities and/or activities to address needs and achieve a specific outcome or outcomes for a given target group of aid recipients. Complementary interventions can be implemented by one organization or multiple organizations working collaboratively. It can include both incorporating multiple modalities or activities within one project or programme, and/or linking the target population to assistance provided by other sectors or organisations. This approach is premised on the evidence that programmes are more effective where they incorporate the different factors contributing towards achieving outcomes and addressing needs. Ideally this will be facilitated by a coordinated, multisectoral approach to needs assessment and response analysis. To that extent complementary programming is an expression of good programming , or at least a critical part of it.
Complementary programming shares many features with integrated programming and is a central component thereof. The main distinction between the two is that while complementary programming focuses primarily on the intervention level and achieving a limited number of outcomes (either sector specific, multisectoral, or cross-sectoral) for a specific group of recipients, integrated programming is more focused on the broader processes enabling multi-modality, multisectoral, and people-centred interventions, for example at a response level.

Conditionality (key term)

Conditionality refers to prerequisite activities or obligations that a recipient must fulfil to receive assistance. Conditions can be used with any kind of transfer (cash, vouchers, in-kind, service delivery) depending on the intervention design and objectives. Some interventions might require recipients to achieve agreed outputs (which can include purchasing specific goods or services) as a condition of receiving subsequent tranches. Examples of conditions include attending school, building a shelter, attending nutrition screenings, undertaking work, training, etc. Cash for work/assets/training are all forms of conditional transfer. Unconditional transfers are provided without the recipient having to do anything to receive the assistance, other than meet the intervention’s targeting criteria (targeting is separate from conditionality).
Conditionality is distinct from restriction (how assistance is used) and targeting (criteria for selecting recipients).

Cost-Transfer Ratio

Cost-Transfer Ratio (CTR) is the ratio of administrative/implementing costs to transfers, or the administrative cost of making a $1 USD (or other currency unit) transfer to a recipient. It calculates the ratio of all administrative/implementing costs (e.g., staff time, targeting, transfer fees, etc.) to the value of the assistance transferred to recipients throughout the programme. CTR is expressed as the formula: Total Non-Transfer Costs of the Intervention/Total Net Value of Transfers to recipients. For example, a cost-transfer ratio of 0.20 means that for every $100 received by beneficiaries, it costs $20 in operations for it to reach them. Comparing this ratio across programmes helps inform analysis of how design choices affect a programme’s cost efficiency. Comparative analysis should focus on what the cost drivers are within a particular programme, recognising that these can be affected by multiple factors, e.g., context, timing, target population, etc.

[Adapted from IRC (2015)]

Critical Market Systems

The specific market systems that are most urgently relevant to the target population’s needs.
Essentially those markets that have or could have a major role in meeting the essential needs of the target population [PCMA]


A cryptocurrency is a digital or virtual currency that is secured by cryptography, which makes it nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend. Most cryptocurrencies are based on blockchain technology and have their own blockchain. Cryptocurrencies typically serve as a medium of exchange or store of value. Cryptocurrencies are generally not issued by any central authority and allow direct transactions between individuals without the intervention of an intermediary, such as a bank.
Crypto tokens are a subset of cryptocurrency, which are built on top of existing blockchains (e.g., Ethereum) and can serve multiple functions. While crypto tokens, like cryptocurrency, can hold value and be exchanged, they can also be designed to represent physical assets or more traditional digital assets, or a certain utility or service. 

[Partially adapted from Investopedia and Gemini]