Image by UN Women/Fahad Kaizer | Distribution of "dignity" kits to migrant workers returning to Bangladesh
  • Report
  • 17 November 2022

Overhead cost allocation in the humanitarian sector

Development Initiatives, in partnership with UNICEF and Oxfam, conducted this research on overhead allocation in the humanitarian sector on behalf of the IASC Results Group 5. This work informed the development of guidance which has now been endorsed and published by the IASC.

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Executive summary

Humanitarian donor and intermediaries' ICR sharing practices vary widely. Sufficient overhead provision ensures effective programme delivery and localisation.

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Chapter One


There is no harmonised approach to indirect cost recovery. This study aims to identify areas of good practice to inform a guidance note on overhead allocation.

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Chapter Two

What are organisations’ current overhead cost allocation practices?

INGOs and UN agencies employ a range of ICR sharing models. Some are now developing policies to ensure fairer provision of overheads to implementing partners.

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Chapter Three

What does good overhead allocation practice look like for local and national partners?

Local and national partners support harmonised overhead policies where donors provide unrestricted funding that covers both direct and indirect project costs.

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Chapter Four

Equitable overhead provision: barriers and opportunities for change

Fair overhead allocation is contingent on trust and advocacy. International organisations must overcome financial and regulatory barriers to enact change.

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appendix one

Mapping of INGOs and UN agencies

A comparison of current INGO, UN agency and Red Cross Red Crescent overhead allocation practices.

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appendix two


Thank you to those who contributed to and supported the publication of this report.

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