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Mitigating risks of abuse of power in cash and voucher assistance

Since July 2018, UNHCR and WFP are jointly identifying and mitigating risks of abuse of power by private sector service providers in the delivery of cash assistance to vulnerable populations. The project involves work with financial service providers (FSPs), traders and national regulators, as well as awareness raising of cash recipients about their rights and capacity building on financial literacy.

The issue

Regular customers can usually choose between several financial service providers. People assisted by humanitarian agencies do not have this freedom of choice and cannot use this as a leverage to improve service provision. Such imbalance of power can lead to abuse of power. Many also use financial services for the first time, making them particularly vulnerable to potential abuse through the cash transaction.

Risks identified so far range from private sector agents charging additional fees, inappropriate behavior, issues around PIN and other data confidentiality, weak national regulation and the lack of understanding around the cash assistance process and delivery mechanisms, amongst others.

Project objectives

  1. Promoting appropriate behaviour by FSP agents and traders in the delivery of cash assistance by incentivizing good behaviour and developing practical training materials;
  2. Ensuring UNHCR/WFP contracts with FSPs appropriately reflect the FSP responsibility (and that of traders and other service providers) to prevent and follow up abuse cases by collaborating with national regulators to influence a favourable regulatory environment and developing standard contract clauses and codes of conduct;
  3. Increasing awareness of cash recipients on their consumer rights vis-à-vis FSP field agents, and build their capacity in basic financial and digital literacy through innovative learning channels and communication approaches.

Through a collaborative approach and joint engagement of WFP and UNHCR in-country teams, the initiative achieves additional impact by bringing together key stakeholders at decision-making levels across humanitarian agencies, the private and public sector.

The project ultimately aims to ensure that recipients of cash assistance feel protected and empowered as real clients of FSPs, with financial services extending beyond enabling the mere receipt of assistance.

The project will develop a toolkit mitigating risks of abuse of power, which will be of use for the broader humanitarian community, FSPs and national regulators. Lessons learned from partaking countries are being mainstreamed across WFP guidance, tools and legal documents.


Animation for financial service providers: Good client relations, code of conduct and fair treatment.

Animation for cash recipients: Client rights and expectations in cash assistance.

Translations of the animation for financial service providers

French: Vidéo pour les fournisseurs de services financiers: Bonnes relations avec les clients, code de conduite et traitement équitable.

Spanish: Video animado para provedores de servicios financieros

Video for financial service providers in Arabic







The content on this webpage has been developed by UNHCR and WFP does not necessarily reflect the views of the CALP Network.