May 1, 2019

Money matters: delivering cash to people in crisis – considerations for Strategy 2030

By David Peppiatt, Director of Humanitarian Cash Assistance, British Red Cross

Much has been said about cash aid (I use this as a far from perfect shorthand for delivering cash and voucher assistance). Is it really a game changer for the humanitarian system or just hype?  Will humanitarian aid in 2030 be marked by a shift away from delivery of relief in-kind to digital transfers of money?  Will financial service providers become some of our main operational partners in the future?  Whatever the answers to these questions, it is clear cash, particularly in the form of digital payments, will be a far more integral part of the aid system than was the case when we embarked on our last strategy in 2010.  Cash, it seems, will be the new normal.

Let’s start by acknowledging some of the transformative benefits of cash.  In the right context, evidence from cash programmes has shown this can be a more efficient and more direct model of aid delivery with less overheads and, therefore, helping ever-tightening aid budgets to go further.   Experience of recipients highlight how cash enables choice, dignity and ultimately a more empowering form of aid than a food parcel or relief handout.  It can help catalyse the recovery of livelihoods and, in most contexts, it is better for local markets than trucking in aid from outside.  Donors are convinced; it is no longer a question of “why cash?” as aid agencies are now asked, “if not cash, why not?”  The focus, therefore, is less on the “why” but rather on the “how” cash aid in the future can be delivered most effectively. […]

As we reflect on the potential role of cash as an enabler in our new strategy, here are a few key opportunities and risks to consider:

Cash and the digital revolution […]

– The potential for new partnerships […]

– Linking humanitarian cash transfers to social protection and development […]

– Globalisation and localisation of cash transfers […]

– Dignity for people in crisis […]