Humanitarian funding: ‘A crisis within a crisis’

Humanitarian funding: ‘A crisis within a crisis’
23 June 2023

By the Climate Centre

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres this week said that halfway through the year, the UN has only received 20 per cent of the funds needed under its global humanitarian appeal, and this was causing “a crisis within a crisis”.

“UN agencies have already been forced to reduce food aid in Syria, Bangladesh, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Afghanistan and Yemen,” he told (09:46) the annual Humanitarian Affairs Segment of the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

“Without a solution to the finding crisis, further cuts are inevitable,” he said in a video message to the opening session of the three-day ECOSOC segment, which was ending in Geneva today.

The theme for this year’s HAS was strengthening humanitarian assistance amid “unprecedented global humanitarian needs”, rising food insecurity, protection issues, and climate change, organizers said.

In his own opening remarks, Geneva-based OCHA chief Ramesh Rajasingham said: “Climate change is already profoundly impacting the humanitarian landscape,  challenging community resilience, increasing competition for resources, stretching countries’ capacity to recover, and rolling back development gains.

“We need much more investment in disaster preparedness, adaption, and climate-resilient infrastructure, particularly for the most vulnerable countries and communities.

‘It requires much bigger political decisions and we need to have the guts to take them’

IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain – speaking (35:31) at an ECOSOC meeting on promoting resilience, sustainable solutions and recovery in climate-related disaster contexts – said people were facing new crises before the last ones had been addressed, meaning that “the current system is not able to cope”.

Without more resources, he added, “I think we do need the humility to accept that humanitarian interventions are not able – or will not be able – to deal with the issues we have in the world today.”

Mr Chapagain continued: “It does require much bigger political decisions, and we do need to have guts to take those political decisions and, frankly, stop delegating the political issues to humanitarian actors.”  

The Red Cross Red Crescent took part in two of four high-level HAS panels this year.

Describing the latest drought in Kenya as the worst the country had seen, with some usually non-arid counties falling into crisis, Kenya Red Cross Deputy Secretary General for Programmes, Annette Msabeni, said: “It is very important to invest in preparedness; early action and anticipatory approaches are very critical.

“Without doing this, we will be failing our communities,” she told (01:14:09) a panel on what the UN called “the unprecedented global challenge of food insecurity and the risk of famine”.

Other Movement contributions to this year’s HAS included a side-event on “learning, mental health and well-being of crisis-affected and displaced children and youth,” where Under Secretary General Xavier Castellanos was on the panel.

Heat adaptation

Climate Centre Acting Director Julie Arrighi offered (01:23:03) three key messages to another panel focused on strengthening humanitarian assistance in the face of climate change.

“The first is that we must take anticipatory action to scale with agreed actions … that include, for example, providing cash assistance directly to those most likely to be affected by a predicted flood, so they can evacuate their family and livestock out of harm’s way well in advance.

It was also vital, she said, to strengthen coordination and coherence across the climate, humanitarian, and development nexus for more effective climate action.

“Humanitarians move from crisis to crisis while donors and development banks continue to invest in long-term development. These investments need to be brought together for integrated solutions.” 

An example was a new US-supported investment through the National Societies of Indonesia, Bangladesh, Tanzania, and Honduras, for coastal and heat adaptation, blending “short-term early warning systems with long-term adaptation” in built-up areas.

And thirdly, it was important to show that finance is channelled toward activities that are identified and implemented by local actors “best placed to identify adaptation and risk-reduction solutions”.

IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain told an ECOSOC meeting this week this week that people were being overtaken by successive crises, and this was threatening to overwhelm the humanitarian system. (Photo: IFRC)