Humanitarian Action

Enabling more efficient and secure cash-based humanitarian assistance

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132 million people worldwide need humanitarian assistance. The World Economic Forum has facilitated the development of six principles for safe and efficient cash payments to crisis-affected populations.

The impact.

When the UN Secretary-General issued a call for innovative ways to improve cash-based humanitarian assistance, the World Economic Forum responded by bringing together 18 organizations to create guidelines for public-private cooperation on humanitarian cash transfers.

The guidelines are outlined in the Principles on Public-Private Cooperation in Humanitarian Payments and show how the public and private sectors can work together to deliver digital cash payments quickly and securely to crisis-affected populations. Since its publication in 2016, the report has served as a valuable resource for organizations, humanitarian agencies and government leaders seeking to increase the effectiveness of humanitarian aid and advance financial inclusion.

“The principles lay a solid foundation for the private and public sectors to complement each other and deliver humanitarian cash payments at scale with maximum efficiency and effectiveness. Putting these principles into action will help bring real and positive impact for those who need it the most.”

Stephen O’Brien, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator (2015-2017)

What's the challenge?

With more than 132 million people worldwide requiring humanitarian assistance, the gap between the need for aid and available funding is growing. To address this gap, humanitarian responses must become more efficient and effective at delivering aid to those who need it most.

Cash assistance has been recognized as a faster and more effective form of humanitarian aid compared to in-kind assistance such as food, clothing or education. Cash transfers give more control to their beneficiaries, allowing them to prioritize their own needs. They also have a proven track record of fostering entrepreneurialism and boosting local economies.

However, to disburse cash payments quickly and effectively in challenging environments, humanitarian actors need to harness the technology and expertise of private-sector partners. Public-private partnerships can link poor and often remote populations with financial systems that can provide assistance over time.

Our approach to humanitarian assistance.

As the International Organization for Public-Private Cooperation, the World Economic Forum was in an ideal position to guide the creation of these public-private partnerships. Over a six-month period beginning in May 2016, the Forum’s Platform for Shaping the Future of Financial and Monetary Systems convened a working group of humanitarian actors and private-sector representatives to develop a set of principles for public-private collaboration on cash-based humanitarian assistance.

At our Annual Meeting 2017 in Davos-Klosters, many of the world’s largest financial service providers, IT and telecommunications companies and international organizations announced their commitment to these principles. The 18 signatory organizations are:

  • Telecommunication and IT companies: Ericsson, GSMA, SAP and Tata Consultancy Services
  • Financial service providers: Mastercard, PayPal, Segovia, Visa and Western Union
  • International organizations: European Commission, United Nations Development Programme, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, World Food Programme
  • Cash Learning Partnership
  • Consultative Group to Assist the Poor
  • Electronic Cash Transfer Learning Action Network
  • Mercy Corps

These principles have been used as a framework to ensure easy, timely and secure access to cash payments during humanitarian crises.

“The needs of the recipients are at the heart of these principles.”

Hikmet Ersek, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Western Union Company
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