Giving Compass’ Take:
• There is significant opportunity for philanthropy to address the global humanitarian crises. The Conrad N. Hilton Foundation lays out how funders can step up to make an impact.
• How can philanthropy help prevent crises from arising? What are the best ways to address the needs of impacted populations during and after a crisis?
• Philanthropy will need help from tools to make an impact. Find out how technology is helping tackle development issues.
The need for humanitarian assistance is severe, global, and growing. Today, humanitarian crises – events that present a critical threat to the health, safety, security, or well-being of a group of people – affect over 125 million people in every region of the globe.
Funding is increasing but not fast enough, and not to all places in need. Funding for humanitarian assistance reached a record high of $28 B in 2015, a 40% increase since 2011. The donor pool is highly concentrated – three-quarters of all funding comes from 20 government donors, with the top five government donors providing almost half of all funding. Private foundations contribute a tiny ~1% of total humanitarian assistance.
Beyond the gaps in funding, the changing nature of crises has created new challenges in the landscape. Crises are increasingly long-term. In 2015, there were 6.7 million refugees living in situations of protracted displacement; the average length of these situations is 26 years.
The humanitarian sector is aware of these challenges, and energy to reform the sector is growing.
Private philanthropic actors – both corporate and family-funded entities – have a unique opportunity to catalyze change in the humanitarian landscape. Although private philanthropies only comprise ~1% of total humanitarian assistance, they bring three core assets to the table. First, flexible funding: philanthropies can deploy funding quickly and flexibly towards higher-risk or long-term strategic efforts. Second, convening power: they can use their relationships and voice to convene unconventional or new actors (such as other institutional private donors and high net worth individuals) to shift dialogue and policy. Third, strategic expertise: they can deploy specific expertise in sectors relevant to humanitarian assistance, e.g., logistics, technology, data analytics.
The humanitarian system is facing a critical juncture where it must adapt to the shifting landscape of crises. Philanthropy, with its flexible, risk-tolerant capital and its unique networks and expertise, can play a key role in this adaptation. By working hand-in-hand with the existing institutions in the humanitarian sector and local partners, philanthropies can both help provide immediate relief to underserved populations and also invest in sustainably reducing the need for relief itself.