More efficient assistance for crisis-affected populations

The World Economic Forum facilitated the development of six principles designed to ensure safe and efficient cash payments to crisis-affected populations.

The challenge

Almost 130 million people worldwide need humanitarian assistance, and the gap between the need for aid and available funding is growing. This means the humanitarian response must become more efficient and better adapt to the contexts in which it operates.

Cash assistance is increasingly recognized as faster, more effective and more beneficiary-centred compared with in-kind assistance such as food, clothing or education. Cash assistance means people affected by crises can prioritize their own needs. It also has a proven track record of fostering entrepreneurialism and boosting local economies.

To optimize the efficiency and impact of cash transfers, humanitarian actors must harness the technology and expertise of private-sector partners. Public-private partnerships mean quicker and more efficient transfers in challenging environments. These partnerships can link poor and often remote populations into financial systems that can deliver assistance over time.

The strategy

“The needs of the recipients are at the heart of these principles.”
Hikmet Ersek, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Western Union Company

The World Economic Forum responded to the UN secretary-general’s call for innovative thought leadership on cash-based assistance by facilitating the development of principles to guide public-private cooperation in humanitarian payments.

The Forum convened a working group comprising 50% humanitarian actors and 50% private-sector representatives to develop the principles over a six-month period. The resulting guidelines detail how humanitarian and private-sector actors should work together to deliver digital payments. This cooperation is essential if the benefits of new technologies are to be fully realized and achieve greater scale.

These efforts formed part of one of the 14 Forum System Initiatives:

System Initiative
Shaping the Future of
Financial and Monetary Systems

The System Initiative on Shaping the Future of Financial and Monetary Systems aims to build a more efficient, resilient and equitable international financial system. It does this by providing a platform for all stakeholders to connect, identify shared needs, and collaborate to achieve actionable solutions.

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The impact

The Forum published the Principles for Public-Private Cooperation in Humanitarian Payments and supporting guidelines in 2016. The principles are:

Build strategic partnerships pre-crisis to prepare for response
Design the transfer mechanism
Collect data that is relevant, proportional and standardized/shareable
Protect, empower and serve the customer
Encourage coordinated approaches
Build institutional capacity for partnerships

The new principles complement the Barcelona Principles – guidance for the effective use of digital payments in humanitarian response, elaborated by humanitarian and development actors.

At the Annual Meeting 2017 in Davos-Klosters, many of the world’s largest financial service providers, global IT and telecommunication companies and the international humanitarian community committed to the 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 United Nations Development Programme, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, World Food Programme
– The European Commission
– Cash Learning Partnership
– Consultative Group to Assist the Poor

“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 Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator