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Flawed funding models and preparedness

In the current humanitarian system, agreed coordinated plans for post-disaster action will not be sufficient on their own. The existing financing system for humanitarian response does not currently support preparedness and anticipatory response actions.

The global humanitarian system is funded by voluntary contributions, commonly sought after the disaster has happened through appeals to the public and donor governments. In many cases, donors are ‘benefactors’ for a good cause, but being generous after a disaster is too late. All too often, monies pledged by donors do not materialise in full and are part of a complex political and economic interplay between states, politicians and voters. National and local governments struggle to rapidly reallocate funds from other budgets.

Money given for preparedness results in disasters not happening in the first place, and yet there is limited glory in that for funders. Should a disaster occur simultaneously with another newsworthy event, media coverage of the disaster is crowded out, resulting in lower than expected public donations. We need to review the uncertainties of funding response and the difficulties of operating in the highly politicised post-disaster arena.

There’s a further challenge to contend with: while we are in a position to monitor, assess and forecast many events now, the effective financial planning needed to support preparedness plans is not secure and reliable.

Your task

Read the sections titled ‘A flawed funding model’ and ‘The consequences’ on pages 15-22 of Dull Disasters by Clarke and Dercon (2016). It is available as a downloadable PDF in the downloads section at the bottom of the page.

In your view, what are the three most significant consequences of the current humanitarian response funding system? Give reasons for your choices in the comments area.


Clarke, D. J., and Dercon, S. (2016) Dull Disasters?: How Planning Ahead Will Make a Difference [online] New York: Oxford University Press. available from https://doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198785576.001.0001 [21 April 2020]

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This article is from the free online course:

Humanitarian Action, Response and Relief

Coventry University