In order to address the wide range of needs emanating from the COVID-19 pandemic, and particularly those of a socio-economic nature, the use of cash has been the response of choice for many governments, expanding their systems (for social assistance, public works, unemployment, pension schemes, etc). The same is true for humanitarian actors (unconditional cash, cash for work, cash+, enhanced minimum expenditure baskets).
On 19 November 2020 the Grand Bargain sub-group on linking humanitarian cash transfers (HCT) and social protection (SP) organised the webinar "Donor perspectives: What is the potential for forging stronger links between humanitarian CVA and social protection in light of COVID-19 and how can this be financed?" to provide donor perspectives on forging stronger links between the two areas, and better understand potential financing opportunities. During the webinar key donors shared their agency positions and experiences on linking humanitarian cash with social protection; information on the volume of funds that have been provided for cash transfers in response to COVID-19; key considerations for funding allocations on programmes linking HCT and SP; challenges and opportunities; and key lessons learned from their experiences.
The webinar was facilitated by Lois Austin, Grand Bargain sub-group KML Consultant, with moderation by Nupur Kukrety, Policy Specialist at UNICEF HQ. The panellists were Doerte Bosse, DEVCO, Social Protection; Heidi Carrubba, Humanitarian Advisor, FCDO; William Martin, Economic Recovery and Market Systems Advisor, USAID/BHA and Aileen O’Donovan, Social Protection Policy Lead, Irish Aid.
European Union (EU)
Doerte Bosse from DEVCO shared perspectives from the EU. She started by providing an overview of work implemented by EU agencies DEVCO, ECHO and NEAR, including the SPAN package which provides practical guidance on strengthening social protection across the humanitarian and development spectrum. She also covered geographical approach programmes such as the cash assistance programme implemented in Lebanon.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, €39 billion has been leveraged for the response, which includes measures to mitigate the socio-economic impacts. These resources helped expand existing cash programmes, through providing advance payments, top ups and easing the conditionalities – to ensure vulnerable populations are protected during the crisis. For the future of linking SP and HCT, Doerte noted how the pandemic shone a light on the critical role that social protection can play in crisis response and noted the importance of domestic resource mobilisation in building sustainable systems.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO, formerly DFID)
Heidi Carrubba, Humanitarian Advisor at FCDO emphasised the strong focus and long-standing experience of the FCDO on linking HCT with SP, through research work, programming guidance, global events, knowledge generation and management work. In addition to these, FCDO also implements programming in a number of countries, as well as supporting the SPACE initiative which provides technical support and which has been well-used since the pandemic started. In terms of allocation, Heidi noted that around 25% of FCDO humanitarian assistance supports cash programming. Heidi also outlined key challenges that donors face, such as the lack of coordination structures, lack of clear entry points and pathways, and complexity of relationships.
From USAID, William Martin, Economic Recovery and Market Systems Advisor presented the agency’s work and approach to humanitarian assistance and livelihood support programmes. As part of the Grand Bargain sub-group on linking HCT and SP, the agency views cash as an important tool to address poverty and contribute to local economy and supports major social protection initiatives such as Ethiopia’s PSNP. In 2019, USAID allocated USD 1.2 billion for a cash and voucher assistance programme. During COVID-19, USD 550 million was allocated for humanitarian assistance, some of it on social protection measures. For instance, in Ecuador USAID in partnership with WFP implemented a USD 5 million programme in response to the pandemic, which included cash and food voucher assistance. In terms of key considerations for funding allocations, William noted that alignment of programme objectives is one of the main factors for investing in HCT and SP linkage programmes.
Aileen O’Donovan, Social Protection Policy Lead, noted that for Irish Aid, reducing humanitarian need is one of the key focus areas of the agency, and within this approach a significant focus is placed on social protection, and linking it with humanitarian cash assistance. Within this framework, Irish Aid works to strengthen the whole social protection system, delivery mechanisms, accountability and sustainability. In terms of financing, Aileen noted the importance of flexibility, and that over 50% of the Irish Aid humanitarian assistance is unearmarked, and 41% softly earmarked – with around 53% being multi-year financing. As for challenges, Aileen named coordination and relationship building, and lack of clear entry points to be the major ones, and that understanding incentives of the partners and building relationship could forge a strong foundation for strengthening the linkage between SP and HCT. Finally, Aileen noted that understanding the context, the political economy and incentives of the stakeholders, as well as identifying and building allies is critical to moving this agenda forward in a meaningful way.
This webinar was part of the Linking Social Protection with humanitarian cash webinar series, of the Grand Bargain Cash Sub Group on linking social protection and humanitarian cash transfers co-led by UNICEF, IFRC, and FCDO.