Research released today by Save the Children UK says that the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which was created almost a year ago to accelerate funding for agencies addressing rapid-onset emergencies, is inefficient and actually reduces the amount of money going directly to work on the ground.
The fundamental flaw of the CERF mechanism is that non-UN aid agencies, like Save the Children, are not allowed to receive direct funding from international donors, despite the fact they are usually first on the ground and deliver more than half of all emergency relief.
Basically, where NGOs like Save the Children traditionally get their money directly from donor governments to implement aid programs on the ground, the creation of large funding pools like the CERF mean the introduction of two new 'middle men' into the equation: the CERF itself (located in Geneva) and the UN agency dispensing the cash in country to the receiving NGO. I recently evaluated a similar fund called the Rapid Response Mechanism and found more positive results in terms of impact for beneficiaries. Donors tend to like the CERF and other UN-created funds because it fits with donor governments' desires to see a more robust, accountable UN. NGOs are divided on whether the new middle men are an added value, and Save is clearly opposed.
Their points about overheads are valid. Both UN agencies and the aid agencies carrying out project work are entitled to take a 7% cut of donor funding to pay for overheads and support. Save the Children’s research finds that, if both the UN agency and the implementing aid agency take overheads, only 86p per pound reaches the beneficiaries compared to 93p if non-UN agencies were given funding directly.
Save the Children is calling on the UN, and specifically the CERF board members, to cut out the middle-man and change the rules to allow aid agencies to access the fund directly in the same way as UN agencies.
Read the SC-UK report here: Exclusion of NGOs: The Fundamental Flaw of the CERF