European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

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EU Member States back cash-based humanitarian assistance

A woman affected by a typhoon receives EU-funded cash assistance in Cambodia, 2014.
A woman affected by a typhoon receives EU-funded cash assistance in Cambodia, 2014. Photo Credit: DCA/CA Charles Fox
A woman affected by a typhoon receives EU-funded cash assistance in Cambodia, 2014. Photo Credit: DCA/CA Charles Fox

Cash assistance is quick to deliver, cost-effective and provides people in need with greater choice and flexibility.

This week, the Council of the EU adopted Conclusions on multi-purpose cash-based humanitarian assistance recognising this type of aid as an efficient and effective response to humanitarian needs. This is a major step by the EU Member States which makes EU humanitarian aid more people-centered.

Among the advantages of cash assistance are the empowerment of beneficiaries and the transfer of decision power to people who can choose what to buy to meet their most pressing needs, as well as benefits for local economies. In addition, such assistance enhances protection, is provided in a gender-sensitive manner and, by building self-reliance, it helps create conditions for reducing aid dependency of communities in the future. 

Nevertheless, there is no 'one size fits all' answer to humanitarian needs and the individual cash-based programmes must be well-designed and context driven.

The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) has increasingly supported cash assistance in recent years. The fastest increase has been reached in providing food assistance: today over 30% of EU food assistance is provided via cash transfers.

Cash programmes can be used in all humanitarian sectors. Yet, where appropriate, beneficiaries may be asked to perform some activities (e.g., community work, training, vaccinations for their children) in order to receive the transfer.

The future of cash assistance is looking at technology to improve cash-based projects through the development of humanitarian information systems, use of new mechanisms and other tools (such as mobile phones), as well as biometrics for better targeting of beneficiaries.

The Council has reaffirmed its endorsement of the ten common principles for multi-purpose cash-based assistance and invited the EU and its Member States, as well as their humanitarian partners, to take the principles into account in designing and implementing responses to humanitarian crises.

Publication date
26/06/2015