Capacity building strengthens the ability of the humanitarian sector to provide aid effectively. Its goal is to help organisations to adjust well to the latest developments in the sector, improve quality of response, test new approaches or adopt new ways of working, as well as to improve cooperation and collective response to crises. Capacity building involves sharing knowledge, expertise and good practices so that organisations can react to emergencies better and faster. Working in a coordinated and complementary way will in turn increase the organisations’ potential to respond to humanitarian needs in an effective and efficient manner.
Humanitarian settings have changed dramatically over the past decades. Protracted conflicts, the widespread violations of International Humanitarian Law, the shrinking humanitarian space, the increased presence of armed non-state groups, recurrent emergencies caused by climate change and poverty, scarcity of resources for a growing world population, increasing urbanisation, and high numbers of displaced populations all raise new challenges for the humanitarian sector.
The capacity of humanitarian organisations to deliver aid via traditional means is stretched to the limit. Even though funds for humanitarian assistance have increased significantly over the past few years, global needs have increased disproportionately, and less than half of the humanitarian needs in 2020 have been met.
Humanitarian organisations, both local and global, need to learn to operate in the face of new challenges and cooperate better with each other to maximise their impact for people in need.
The European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) helps increase the response capacity and shape the governance of the international humanitarian system through the Enhanced Response Capacity (ERC) funds. In 2020, the European Commission allocated €5 million for ERC funds.
The ERC provides seed funding to initiatives that introduce and develop new approaches and ways of working, for the benefit of the humanitarian sector. These initiatives need to fit within the overall humanitarian architecture and provide assurances as to its impact and viability, to ensure continuity of work and sustainability of resources, so that every euro spent has the greatest possible impact on the lives of the most vulnerable people.
The ERC funds focus on specific priority areas that are determined annually and are likely to contribute to an overall improvement of humanitarian action. Examples include:
In previous years, the ERC has also supported the capacity of humanitarian organisations to improve the treatment of malnutrition, respond to urban humanitarian crises, use solar energy for sustainable water supply in refugee camps, increase access to care for survivors of gender-based violence, and use cash transfers for affected populations in emergency settings.