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Multi-year humanitarian funding in Pakistan

Research reports

Written by Simon Levine

For many years, voices within the humanitarian world have been pointing out a central paradox of emergency aid flows. Because emergency funds are aimed at meeting pressing, even life-threatening, needs they are almost always provided for operations limited to six months to a year. However, many crises are long-lived and most humanitarian funds go to protracted crises, giving rise to a situation where money goes to a crisis in very short cycles over many years.

This, it has been argued, prevents the development of longer-term strategies for addressing crisis needs, limits agencies’ ability to plan for continuous presence (potentially undermining everything from staff development and the ability to understand the changing and complicated contexts in which crises unfold, to the ability to respond to the first signs of a crisis) and prevents operational agencies from responding in more cost-effective ways that would give greater value for money for limited international aid resources.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) engaged with this critique by piloting business cases that offered financing of up to four years for partners working in longer-term emergencies. The aim was for multi-year humanitarian funding (MYHF) to enable emergency aid to be delivered more effectively, more cost-effectively and in ways that helped address underlying causes of vulnerability.

DFID also commissioned a four-year thematic evaluation following the initial MYHF business cases in four countries: Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Sudan. This report presents the learning from that thematic study in Pakistan, and explores the following questions:

  • Are vulnerable individuals and households more resilient to shocks and stresses as a result of the work of DFID-funded, and other, interventions? What lessons can be learned about how to best enhance resilience in protracted crisis?
  • How do investments in resilience contribute to or compromise delivery of humanitarian outcomes?
  • Has the availability of contingency funding enabled DFID and its partners to respond more quickly and effectively when conditions deteriorate?
  • To what extent does DFID multi-year and contingency funding provide better value for money than annual funding for DFID and partners?
Simon Levine and Lewis Sida

5 October 2020: updated online to correct authorship.