This is a copy of a document that stated a policy of the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government. The previous URL of this page was https://www.gov.uk/government/policies/helping-developing-countries-deal-with-humanitarian-emergencies Current policies can be found at the GOV.UK policies list.

Issue

In 2010, 263 million people were affected by disasters – 110 million more than in 2004, the year of the Asian tsunami. Humanitarian disasters cost lives and can cause huge setbacks in poor countries’ development.

It’s likely that more people – particularly in developing countries – will be affected by humanitarian emergencies in the coming decades. There are many reasons for this, including:

  • rapid population growth, especially in disaster-prone areas
  • continued mass urbanisation, much of it unplanned and unsafe
  • climate change and its effects on sea levels, global rainfall and storm patterns - climate-related disasters could affect 375 million people every year by 2015, up from 263 million in 2010

To find out how you can help in humanitarian disasters, click here

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Co-ordinating the UK’s response to humanitarian emergencies

The Department for International Development (DFID) leads the UK government’s response to humanitarian emergencies in developing countries. DFID works with other UK government departments such as the FCO and MOD, international organisations such as the United Nations, charities, other aid agencies and the governments of the countries affected.

We provide predictable, long term financial support to our humanitarian partners. These include UN agencies and non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

We provide crucial humanitarian aid resources during rapid onset natural disasters and emergency conflict situations. We also deploy staff to areas affected by humanitarian emergencies when necessary, including through DFID’s Conflict Humanitarian Security and Emergency Operations Team - a contracted team of experts, advisers and officers.

Helping countries protect themselves against future disasters

Helping countries become more resilient to disasters is an efficient way of spending aid compared with giving humanitarian support.

A UK-funded study found that in Kenya - over a 20 year period - every $1 spent on disaster resilience resulted in $2.90 saved in the form of reduced humanitarian spend, avoided losses and development gains. We have commissioned a second phase of the study in Bangladesh, Mozambique and Niger.

DFID will include disaster resilience in all our country programmes by 2015. As a first step in building disaster resilience, we have developed a set of minimum standards for our country offices. We aim to meet these minimum standards in a first set of 8 country programmes by April 2013.

Implementing international humanitarian principles and policy

Through our policy and action we will make sure that British humanitarian aid delivers rapid and effective support to people who need it most, provides value for money, and protects the safety of humanitarian workers.

The UK adheres to the internationally accepted principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence in its humanitarian action. It is only through maintaining and promoting a principled approach that we can challenge those who deny humanitarian access.

Background

The last few years have seen an unprecedented number of disasters, from the massive earthquake in Haiti and extreme flooding in Pakistan during 2010, to the death and destruction caused by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011. As well as natural disasters, protracted conflicts in countries such as Sudan, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo have continued to cause suffering.

The existence of nearly a billion chronically hungry people (a humanitarian disaster in itself), primarily in Asia and Africa, exacerbates the consequences of emergencies. An average of 1,052 people die in any given disaster in less developed countries, compared to 23 in developed countries.

During humanitarian emergencies, where there is compelling and overwhelming need, DFID provides extra funding to international aid organisations if necessary to save lives. This includes providing funds to governments and local NGOs and organisations when appropriate.

In the longer term, the reconstruction of disaster-affected areas in developing countries often takes several years. The rebuilding of homes, businesses and roads is done by local people, often with money given by DFID and UK aid agencies as well as by other countries. The UK’s humanitarian policy is explained in our paper ‘Saving lives, preventing suffering and building resilience’.

Humanitarian Emergency Response Review

In March 2011, Lord Ashdown presented his Humanitarian Emergency Response Review to the UK government. The review provided a comprehensive assessment of the UK and the international community’s current response mechanisms.

The government’s response to this report committed us to several policies including making resilience a central element of our work in developing countries, so that they are more prepared to deal with an emergency should one occur.

The policy commitments in the UK government’s response will help ensure that the UK and the international humanitarian system respond in the best ways possible to future humanitarian emergencies.

Appendix 1: support to international partners

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

One of the ways we deal with humanitarian emergencies is to provide funding to partners who help victims of disasters.

We provide funding to major NGOs who respond to humanitarian emergencies, such as Save the Children and Oxfam. We do this through Programme Partnership Arrangements (PPAs) – regular blocks of funding to partners who meet our standards of effectiveness.

We also use the Rapid Response Facility, which enables DFID to release rapid humanitarian funding for pre-qualified partners. This will be done in the first 72 hours following a rapid onset disaster, spike in a chronic humanitarian emergency, or other disasters as deemed necessary.

If you are from an NGO that wants to learn how to apply for our humanitarian funding, see our detailed guidance on humanitarian funding.

Multilateral agencies – bodies like the UN and the EU – are also an important part of humanitarian response to emergencies. 44% of DFID’s expenditure goes to multilateral partners. We provide this aid on a regular basis – some of it through treaty agreements, some as part of our membership of major organisations.

You can read more about the way we work with multilateral partners and how we make this aid more effective.

Appendix 2: helping countries protect themselves against future disasters

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

Disaster resilience

Resilience means boosting a country’s ability to deal with disasters - whether it is helping people in earthquake zones build to withstand shocks or helping poor farmers to grow drought-resistant crops. Reducing the impact of natural disasters saves money, lives and livelihoods, especially in developing countries.

Justine Greening, International Development Secretary

Investing in disaster resilience helps countries and communities to be much better prepared to cope and recover quickly when disaster strikes. The UK’s humanitarian policy, ‘Saving lives, preventing suffering and building resilience’, explains how the UK will assist countries build resilience to crises and respond to humanitarian need. We have produced an approach paper on disaster resilience, along with a 2-page overview

This is of growing importance with the expected increase in the severity and frequency of shocks as a result of climate change, resource scarcity and urban migration. In 2011 alone, 302 disasters claimed nearly 30,000 lives, affected 206 million people and inflicted damages worth at least US$366 billion.

We have committed to build disaster resilience into all our country programmes by 2015. This is a Structural Reform Plan commitment.

We have developed a set of minimum standards for our country offices. The first step of this is conducting a Niger Background Report

Progress is already being made. Minimum standards have been reached in a first set of eight countries: Bangladesh; Ethiopia; Kenya; Nepal; Malawi; Mozambique; Uganda; and Sudan. For example, in northern Kenya, we are improving the coordination between social protection, education, nutrition and private sector development investments, which together have a key role in reinforcing resilience. We are also making sure there is flexibility in our investments, so that they can provide early response to early warning of potential disaster.

More detailed country and sector case studies can be downloaded:

Cost Effectiveness of Disaster Resilience

Investing in disaster resilience in advance of shocks or in the early stages of a crisis is more cost-effective than humanitarian response when a disaster is in full swing. These investments lessen needless suffering and loss of life and, by protecting livelihoods, help communities recover much more quickly.

To demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of investment in disaster resilience and early-response, we commissioned research amongst pastoralists in Kenya and Ethiopia and agricultural communities in Bangladesh, Mozambique and Niger. It was found in Kenya that - over a 20 year period - every $1 spent on disaster resilience resulted in $2.90 saved in the form of reduced humanitarian spend, avoided losses and development gains. In Bangladesh the equivalent figure was $5 for every $1 spent. A linked study demonstrated that significant benefit can be gained from providing multi-year finance for humanitarian operations, rather than short-term, fixed funds. These benefits include lower operational costs, increased flexibility for early response and greater predictability.

The reports from this study are available below:

Political Champions for Disaster Resilience

Donors and partner countries have now made strong commitments to integrate disaster resilience into humanitarian assistance and longer-term development investments. The challenge now is to implement these policies on the ground: how to back Governments to integrate disaster risk into development plans; how to generate common assessment of risks and joint plans for tackling them that draws in both humanitarian and development assistance; and how to make sure individual investments are aligned with these and have the flexibility to build resilience? This is no small task. To help, an informal group of donors, recipient countries and the private sector was formed. The Political Champions for Disaster Resilience is co-chaired by Justine Greening, UK’s Secretary of State for International Development, and Helen Clark, UNDP’s Administrator, members include Bangladesh, CARICOM, EU, Japan, Mozambique, OCHA, Sweden, UAE, USA, Willis Re and World Bank.

At its meeting in Washington DC on 19 April, the Group focused on two issues. The first was on building resilience in specific countries and regions, which is at the heart of the Political Champions’ agenda.

Haiti was identified as a potential country where the Group could support the Government in getting greater focus and investment in reducing and managing disaster risk. Justine Greening and Helen Clark led a visit of the Group to Haiti in April 2012. There was agreement with the Government to focus on three core areas. The first is backing the Government’s inclusion of disaster management in its development plans. The second is making sure donors’ investments build resilience. The third is starting to put this into practice in a number of areas of the country.

The second issue was stimulating the private sector, in particular insurance. The level of insurance penetration is lowest where vulnerability is increasing. In developing countries just 5.0% of direct losses are insured compared to 40% in developed countries. There are a range of factors preventing the penetration of insurance. They include lack of risk data, regulatory failures, insufficient scale of transactions, high start-up costs and lack of confidence in insurance products. Given the challenges in getting insurance market penetration in lower income countries, it was agreed that a fresh and energised conversation is needed between the public sector and the insurance sector to assess the opportunities and to agree on a joint package of investment to stimulate the market.

Another linked piece of work is improving the use of public finance instruments to stimulate private sector engagement in building disaster resilience. A further component is on disaster risk assessment and financing, with the initial focus on Pakistan. Together, these initiatives provide the opportunity to engage the private sector very practically and constructively.

Appendix 3: implementing international humanitarian principles and policy

This was a supporting detail page of the main policy document.

We provide humanitarian aid to help countries deal with disasters.

Through our policy and action we will ensure that British humanitarian aid delivers rapid and effective support to people who need it most, provides value for money, and protects the safety of humanitarian workers.

We have the greatest respect for the neutrality, independence and impartiality of humanitarian agencies, and the extraordinary job done by humanitarian workers in the most difficult of circumstances. It is only through maintaining and promoting a principled approach that we can challenge those who deny humanitarian access.

The UK’s humanitarian policy paper, ‘Saving lives, preventing suffering and building resilience’ explains how the UK will help build resilience to crises and respond to humanitarian need. In the paper, we make a series of commitments to:

  • build resilience in all countries where we work and recognise the importance of anticipation, humanitarian leadership and innovation
  • address the UK’s commitments to deliver aid according to need and need alone
  • adhere to international laws on humanitarian action
  • respect humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence
  • apply the Good Humanitarian Donorship principles

As well as covering sudden emergencies, the paper also deals with the challenges of complex, chronic humanitarian situations. It outlines the UK’s ambition to work with others to find new ways of acting quickly in ‘slow onset’ disasters to stop them from becoming major emergencies.

For more information about our plans to provide humanitarian aid, see DFID’s conflict, humanitarian and security operational plan for 2012 to 2015.