European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Service tools

Cash and vouchers

/echo/file/calp-cash-transfer-programming_enCaLP - Cash transfer programming

Why is this important?

In certain humanitarian disasters, the supply of food to markets and shops is sustained, yet, the affected population loses the means to buy it. In such cases, the cash and voucher aid approach ensures humanitarian aid reaches directly those with the greatest need in a timely manner.

Cash and vouchers are quick to deliver, cost-effective and provide people in need with greater choice. Among its advantages are benefits for local economies, empowerment of the beneficiaries, and dignity and decision power to people who can choose the items they would like to buy. The cash and voucher system has shown to help the morale of those in need and also prepares the ground for linking relief, rehabilitation and development (LRRD) activities.

Cash and vouchers can be spent on a variety of products but usually food, non-food items, fuel, blankets and other essentials are the first port of call for those who need support.

How are we helping?

The European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) uses cash and vouchers and other alternative forms of humanitarian assistance only after thoroughly evaluating all options. It recognises that cash and voucher programmes have to be cautiously planned in order to prevent unintended inflation, depression or social imbalances in local markets while reaching the most vulnerable groups (women, children and the elderly).

Local markets are thoroughly analysed before a programme is put into action and local governments in disaster-prone areas are always involved when cash and vouchers systems are introduced. In most cases, a mixture of aid-delivery methods are used to meet at best the needs of affected populations.

The use of cash and voucher has been increasing in recent years. The fastest increase of use of this system has been reached in providing food assistance – up 47% in 2013. Yet, all humanitarian sectors are open to cash and voucher programmes. In most circumstances cash and/or vouchers can be provided to cover the basic needs of the affected population without pre-conditions. In other cases, where appropriate, beneficiaries may be asked to perform some activities (e.g., community work, training) in order to receive the transfer.

The future of the cash and vouchers system is looking to use technology to improve cash-based projects, through the development of humanitarian information systems, new mechanisms and other tools, such as mobile phones.

10 common principles for multi-purpose cash-based assistance to respond to humanitarian needs

During its meeting of 26/27 March 2015, Member States meeting in the Working Party on Humanitarian Aid and Food Aid (COHAFA) agreed at Working Group level to endorse the paper "10 Common Principles for Multi-Purpose Cash-based Assistance to respond to Humanitarian Needs". A meeting of European donors in Brussels in June of last year (EU Member States, Switzerland and Norway) to discuss approaches to multi-purpose cash transfers was a key milestone, effectively kicking off the discussion. It offered the opportunity to look at multi-purpose cash-based assistance from both an operational and policy perspective, and building on recent experiences in Lebanon, sought to see how such experiences could affect the wider policy discussions.

The paper is the result of collaboration with Member States and with a wide group of humanitarian actors and stakeholders, with the EU Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) acting as Secretariat. These principles are intended to complement existing guidance on cash-based assistance and policy positions on those thematic areas which lend themselves to a multi-purpose approach. Donors and their partners are encouraged to take these principles into account in designing and implementing their responses to humanitarian crises.

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