• Consultancy
  • 15 March 2023

Leaving no crisis behind with assistance for the triple nexus: Humanitarian, development and peace funding in crisis contexts

This report, produced by Development Initiatives and SIDA, finds that protracted crisis countries increasingly rely on humanitarian assistance over funding for development and peace objectives.

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About this report

This report seeks to analyse the balance of humanitarian, development and peace financing in crisis settings according to the most recently available 2021 data. It was prepared by Niklas Rieger of Development Initiatives via the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s (Sida) Helpdesk on Human Security and Humanitarian Assistance.

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The nexus vision as per OECD recommendations seeks to always support crisis prevention, to foster development wherever possible and humanitarian action only when necessary. This includes prioritising longer-term funding to reduce risks and vulnerabilities in crisis countries to ensure they are not left behind in meeting their development goals and to reduce needs over time. However, sharply increasing humanitarian needs in recent years call the implementation of this vision into question. The analysis of official development assistance (ODA) below seeks to analyse the balance of humanitarian, development and peace financing in crisis settings according to the most recently available 2021 data. It mostly focuses on the 30 countries with humanitarian response plans (HRPs) in 2021 and for historical analyses considers the 21 protracted crisis countries with HRPs all throughout 2017 to 2021. The views expressed below are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those held by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency as funder of this work.

Countries experiencing humanitarian crisis are at risk of being left behind in terms of ending extreme poverty by 2030 due to a lack of development assistance relative to poverty levels. For countries with available poverty data, HRPs receive on average less than a quarter of development assistance per person of that for other aid recipient countries. The lack of development assistance relative to poverty may be due to challenges for development actors of working with government counterparts in some crises. However, treating the presence of government partners as a precondition for development assistance risks leaving people behind, with the long-term needs of a large and growing number of people in crises unaddressed by either development or humanitarian funding, when development partnerships with civil society may also be possible. The lack of up-to-date poverty data in some crisis countries, for example in Afghanistan, Venezuela and Libya, additionally represents a blind spot for development actors in their efforts to leave no one behind.

Protracted crisis countries increasingly relied on humanitarian assistance in 2021, reaching a five-year high of 41% while ODA supporting peace reached a five-year low at 11%. This shift is contrary to the DAC recommendations on the Humanitarian-Development-Peace (HDP) nexus, which emphasised a move from delivering humanitarian assistance to ending need.

Extremely fragile countries, most of which with HRPs, similarly relied to a large extent on humanitarian funding in 2021. This underlines the risk of assistance in fragile contexts not sufficiently focusing on peace efforts and conflict prevention, but primarily on meeting immediate humanitarian needs. This finding is reinforced by 20 of the 24 countries with very high INFORM conflict risk receiving 10% less ODA for peace objectives. There is a need for increased peace assistance in such contexts, given the impact of conflicts on eroding development gains and growing humanitarian need.

Crisis countries also received little funding for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction relative to their vulnerability to climate change. Countries with HRPs were among the highest risk scores of potential disruptions from climate change as per the ND-GAIN index. However, crisis contexts consistently received lower shares of their ODA for climate change adaptation than other countries with comparable climate risk. Countries like Afghanistan, Sudan, Yemen and the Central African Republic are at particular risk of falling behind as climate change accelerates, given they receive only 1% or less of their ODA for climate change adaptation while experiencing very high levels of vulnerability to climate change.

Funding for disaster risk reduction (DRR) seems on average to target by countries with higher disaster risks. However, the very low levels of DRR funding in nine HRP countries with high or very high disaster risk show that there is still some progress to be made to follow through on the nexus directive to prioritise ‘prevention always’.

The share of development assistance provided by DAC and multilateral donors to crisis countries reveals the limits of ODA loans to provide support them. Countries in debt distress, which often overlaps with those experiencing crises and therefore most in need of financial assistance, are limited of receiving only international grant assistance. This highlights the need to prioritise development grants in order to prevent countries that are unable to borrow from being left behind in their development progress.

The balance of assistance received by individual crisis countries across the HDP nexus varies greatly and should be a starting point for further inquiry. Country-specific follow up is required to establish why development assistance decreased in crisis countries and whether it would be possible to instead maintain or adapt development programming to continue addressing the root causes of crises, build resilience and prevent or reduce the risks of further disasters. This should be tied to country-specific nexus financing strategies that set the target balance between humanitarian, development and peace funding in a given context. Those strategies should be accompanied by timely and subnational data on development, humanitarian and peace assistance. This data would inform better donor coordination and could help ensure that vulnerable populations in regions within countries that are at risk of or affected by crises are not left behind.

Such multi-stakeholder efforts at the country level, with clear policy support from global donor and multilateral headquarters, are urgently required to shift the balance of international assistance back towards the nexus vision of collectively reducing and ultimately ending humanitarian need.

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Authorship and contact

Responsibility for the content rests entirely with the authors and Sida does not necessarily share the expressed views and interpretations. Queries on the report can be directed to Niklas Rieger, Senior Analyst at Development Initiatives ([email protected]); Claire Devlin, Senior Adviser at the Sida helpdesk hosted at Saferword ([email protected]); and Maria Thorin, Humanitarian Nexus Adviser at Sida ([email protected]).