As cash gets more and more attention from international humanitarian agencies, the OECD has decided to put its stamp of approval on the innovative form of assistance by publishing a guide on cash-based humanitarian response planning. Aptly titled Cash-Based Response, the document aims to provide interested professionals with the proper tools to better deliver cash solutions. It declares that, in the right context, cash can be more effective, efficient, and cheaper than in-kind aid, while benefiting the local economy.
Using case studies from around the world, the paper offers valuable lessons on issues that donors must consider before and during the programming process. A complaints-and-response hotline helped to maintain accountability in Port-au-Prince, Haiti; the Philippines leveraged links to existing social protection mechanisms; and The Cash Learning Partnership (CaLP)reinforces co-ordination and cooperation by uniting stakeholders to make the best use of cash as a humanitarian tool.
According to the OECD, there is new policy momentum for putting cash at the centre of humanitarian response. The organisation recommends it most in urban areas or crisis zones in middle-income countries. Cash gives beneficiaries more control over their lives and allows them to carry on with more dignity as they choose how to satisfy their own needs. It can also support harmonisation between relief efforts and recovery in the long term and promote cooperation between response programs and local social safety nets.
Traditionally, donors have found the approach of in-kind-aid—commodities or cards with categorical purchase restrictions—more attractive for humanitarian programs. Organisations like Give Directly, on the contrary, believe that direct cash transfers are less costly and more efficient. They cut out intermediaries, all the while allowing for easier evaluation of their programmes, thus creating a new level of transparency. Many traditional aid agencies recognise the power the of cash in helping communities recover. The International Red Cross and the International Red Crescent now include cash transfers as part of their broader operations to disaster victims, using mobile systems but also banknotes and vouchers. More than half of IFRC’s emergency operations have consisted of cash transfers since 2016, even reaching 85% over the first eight months of 2016.
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