UN Secretary-General António Guterres has described the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) as "a United Nations success story." I couldn't agree more. Since its creation seventeen years ago, the Fund has proven to be one of the fastest and most effective ways to finance global humanitarian action. It would be very welcome if more people were aware of the Fund and would donate to CERF. The Emergency Response Fund finances humanitarian aid that goes where it is needed most urgently.
What is CERF
The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund is a global humanitarian fund and one of the quickest vehicles for delivering humanitarian assistance to the world's most vulnerable people in times of crisis, anywhere. CERF is managed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Emergency Relief Coordinator administers CERF on behalf of the UN Secretary-General.
The Central Emergency Response Fund, established by the UN General Assembly in 2005 as the UN's Global Emergency Response Fund, is funded primarily by UN member states. However, CERF also accepts donations from corporations, foundations and individuals. Over the past seventeen years, 140 member states, regional authorities, nongovernmental organizations and private donors have donated to the Emergency Fund. Since 2005, CERF has provided more than $8 billion in assistance to hundreds of millions of people in more than 110 countries and territories. That figure includes more than $2.7 billion for underfunded crises.
CERF has an annual funding target of one billion U.S. dollars, which unfortunately has never been reached until now. The amount represents about 2 percent of total annual humanitarian needs. The Central Emergency Response Fund is designed to complement, not replace, existing funding mechanisms for humanitarian assistance.
Humanitarian needs are growing
Humanitarian needs have risen to all-time highs in recent years. In 2023, the United Nations estimates that a record 339 million people will need humanitarian assistance and protection - a significant increase from 274 million people at the start of 2022. The UN and its humanitarian partner agencies plan to assist those in need across 69 countries in 2023, requiring $51.5 billion.
The case for effective humanitarian funding has never been stronger, especially in light of the fact that far too little funds are raised each year. International donors have committed $24 billion for 2022 through mid-December, but needs are growing faster than funding. According to OCHA, the funding gap for humanitarian operations has never been greater and currently stands at 53 percent ($27.6 billion).
Humanitarian organizations are therefore forced to decide to whom they will allocate the scarce funds available. The scarcer the funds, the more severe and far-reaching the consequences of these decisions. CERF cannot solve the problem of underfunding, but has instruments to mitigate it at least.
CERF’s rapid response funds help UN agencies and their partner organizations respond quickly to emerging humanitarian needs. CERF’s funds for underfunded emergencies are used to scale up and sustain protracted relief efforts to avoid critical gaps where no other resources are available.
CERF rapid response funds - Rapid assistance in new crises
The rapid response funds instrument enables timely, effective and life-saving humanitarian action by UN agencies and partner organizations to kick-start emergency response wherever new needs arise. The instrument provides funding for three types of situations: sudden-onset emergencies, a rapid or significant deterioration of an existing humanitarian situation, time-critical interventions.
Under the rapid emergency response, humanitarian action was launched in Ukraine on the day of the Russian invasion. In 2022, the instrument also enabled rapid response efforts to weather-related emergencies in Pakistan, Nepal, and Cuba, among other places. CERF allocations can mean the difference between life and death for people affected by conflict, hunger, climate disasters, and other humanitarian emergencies.
CERF funds for underfunded emergencies - Urgently needed assistance in existing crises
The underfunded emergencies instrument provides assistance to existing crises - often forgotten crises or protracted crises. When a humanitarian emergency doesn't make the headlines, donations tend to remain low as well, making it extremely difficult to provide life-saving assistance to people in dire need.
In 2022, a quarter of a billion U.S. dollars was allocated to support humanitarian operations in 23 underfunded crises in Africa, North and South America, Asia and the Middle East. Funding decisions for underfunded crises are based on a detailed analysis of more than 90 humanitarian indicators and consultations with stakeholders. The aid goes to the world's most vulnerable people, those most in need of humanitarian assistance.
The Central Emergency Response Fund prioritizes those most likely to be marginalized and left behind, including people with disabilities, the elderly and children. While the humanitarian community around the world is being severely tested, CERF's focus on underfunded crises remains more important than ever.
In 2022 alone, CERF provided US$700 million to support millions of people in 40 countries. The largest government donors this year were Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Norway, Denmark, Canada, Belgium, the United States, and Italy.
Particularly in difficult economic times, CERF is a strong pillar in helping millions of the world's most vulnerable people. In crises around the world, the Central Emergency Response Fund gives people a lifeline of hope. Make sure that more funds are raised and that at least the goal of one billion US dollars is met. Be a role model for companies and foundations to contribute as well. Be a reminder, not least to governments of UN member states, to provide CERF with the best possible funding.
Donate to CERF now
Please note: Your donation may only be tax deductible in the United States.
United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)
Other ways to donate
You can find more organizations to which you can donate under: DONARE: Humanitarian Crisis Relief, DONARE: Refugees and IDPS , DONARE: Children in Need, DONARE: Hunger and Food Insecurity, DONARE: Medical Humanitarian Aid, and DONARE: Faith-based Humanitarian Organizations.