Global Policy Forum

Central Emergency Response Fund


A rising tide of armed conflict and natural disasters have led to a substantial increase in humanitarian emergencies since the 1990s. Meanwhile, many governments fail to deliver sufficient funding to the UN and its agencies, making timely responses to emergencies difficult. Based on vagaries of political expediency and the momentary media attention that drives public concerns, donor countries often give plentiful aid to some emergencies and far too little to others. Responding to these challenges, UN member states adopted a General Assembly resolution in December 2005 setting up a Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to provide "additional" and "more predictable and timely" funding to humanitarian disasters. In March 2006, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan launched the CERF and just a few weeks later the Fund disbursed its first allocation. When a disaster strikes, the CERF makes funds immediately available to the UN Specialized Agencies, Funds and Programmes as well as the International Organization for Migration so that they can react quickly and save human lives. The CERF also represents a vital step towards making emergency funding less dependent on donor countries' strategic interests. However, the Fund depends on voluntary contributions, mainly from governments, and has so far only reached half of its targeted US$500 million budget. Moreover, some NGOs argue that the CERF should have a budget of at least US$1 billion to be able to respond adequately to emergencies.

UN Documents | Articles and Reports | Links

UN Documents


UN Emergency Fund Provided Over $200 Million in First Half of 2007 (July 23, 2007)

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) declared that the UN Emergency Fund (CERF) supplied over US$200 million in aid in the first half of 2007 to countries in urgent need. The CERF was established by the General Assembly in December 2005, to "speed up relief operations for emergencies, make money available quickly after a disaster and help in financing underfunded emergencies." (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

Advisory Group Commends Progress of the Central Emergency Response Fund (May 24, 2007)

The independent Advisory Group to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) urged donors to increase support to the fund so that it will reach its targeted $500 million by 2008. The group further insisted that donor countries provide "additional" funding to the CERF, rather than re-locating funds from other humanitarian programs. (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

The United Nations Emergency Response Fund Helps 31 Countries in 2006 (January 10, 2007)

This UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) report summarizes the accomplishments of the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in its first nine months of existence. Since March 9, 2006, CERF has disbursed US $241 million to 31 countries, and 49 donors have pledged an additional US $344 million to the fund for 2007.


Secretary General's Bulletin on the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) (May 9, 2006)

In this document, the UN Secretary General provides "guidelines for the administration and management of the loan and grant components of the Central Emergency Response Fund." The document outlines how and who will govern the CERF and who can apply for funding.

The Strengthening of the Coordination of Emergency Humanitarian Assistance of the United Nations (March 8, 2006)

In resolution 60/124, the General Assembly upgrades the "Central Emergency Revolving Fund into the Central Emergency Response Fund by including a grant element based on voluntary contributions." The resolution stresses that contributions to the Fund must "be additional to current commitments" to humanitarian assistance.


Improvement of the Central Emergency Revolving Fund (October 20, 2005)

In this report, the UN Secretary General proposes to expand the Central Emergency Revolving Fund with US$500 million into a Central Emergency Response Fund. The upgraded Fund will make funding for humanitarian crises and under-funded emergencies more "predictable" and "immediately available."

Articles and Reports

2007 |2006 | 2005


UN Emergency Fund CERF and NGOs - "Progress Made, Progress to Make" (November 20, 2007)

NGOs such as Save the Children UK and Oxfam argue that the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) has made improvements during 2007. The CERF has increased dialogue with NGOs and simplified the application process for funding. However, the CERF still faces constraints in the secondary distribution level - transferring funds from the relevant UN agencies to NGOs in the field has proved to be difficult, slow and inefficient. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

The Frustrations of CERF (October 9, 2007)

Emergencies Director of Save the Children UK Toby Porter expresses his frustration with the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund. He argues that the fund, designed to better attract and coordinate funds for humanitarian assistance, is inefficient and does not sufficiently involve NGOs in the aid distribution process. His organization and many others experience increasing difficulty in obtaining donor support for new crises. Porter highlights the UN's reputation as inefficient and badly administered, thus questioning its position as the de facto aid distributor. He argues that it is more important to bring assistance into disaster areas immediately rather than arguing over who should provide the assistance. (Humanitarian Practice Network)

Save the Children's Experience with CERF in 2007 (June 2007)

Save the Children argues that excluding NGOs from direct access to CERF funding is the fund's main problem. As NGOs deliver the vast majority of humanitarian relief, exclusion from direct funding slows down the response to crises. In addition, this report proposes pre-approval procedures and project tracking systems to make the CERF more effective.

The UN Central Emergency Response Fund One Year on (March 9, 2007)

Although the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) aims to provide "a rapid and more equitable response to crises," surveys and field data have revealed "very damaging delays" in some cases. This Oxfam International report argues that urgent reforms, such as greater NGO access, are necessary for the Fund to fulfill its potential. Oxfam further calls on donor countries to honor their promise of US$500 million in funding, and to increase that amount to $1 billion as the CERF becomes more effective.

Exclusion of NGOs: The Fundamental Flaw of the CERF (January 29, 2007)

This Save the Children paper argues that an "inherently inefficient" distribution of funds limits the effectiveness of the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). NGOs are not allowed direct access to the CERF funds, so the money must pass through several levels of UN bureaucracy. This not only delays the flow of aid to crisis situations but also, due to increased administrative costs, reduces the amount of money that actually reaches the ground.


Taking the Next Step: Implementing A Currency Transaction Development Levy (December 2006)

A "minimal" tax on currency transactions would allow countries to generate the funds necessary to meet the Millennium Development Goals. This Stamp Out Poverty article proposes a 0.005% development levy on all foreign exchange transactions, which would then provide funding for clean water, health resources, and the UN Central Emergency Response Fund. This proposal, however, as opposed to many other currency transaction tax proposals, does not aim to curb harmful currency speculation.

UN Disaster Relief Fund Makes First Donations for Under-Resourced Emergencies (May 10, 2006)

The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), launched by the United Nations to respond quickly to humanitarian crises, redistributes a third of its money to chronically under-funded emergencies. Five months after its creation, CERF for the first time provided such funding to 11 African countries and Haiti. Of the targeted US$450 million, governments have only pledged US$254 millions to the Fund. Worse still, out of those pledged funds, donor countries have only come through on US$159 million. (UN News)

Global Emergency Fund - Major Donors Missing in Action (March 2, 2006)

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which officially begins its operations on March 9, 2006, continues to fall short on funding. Countries like the US, Japan and Italy have so far not pledged any money to the fund. The CERF would allow the UN to respond rapidly to natural catastrophes as well as humanitarian crises around the globe. The more independent structure of the fund would particularly benefit crises with little media or political attention. (Oxfam)

New Fund Promises Enhanced Aid Response (February 14, 2006)

The United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) represents a new approach to humanitarian crises. It enables the emergency relief coordinator, responsible for the allocation of all aid, to take immediate action without the need to confirm available funding with donor governments. However, rich governments have only pledged US$185 million of a targeted US$500 million so far. (Integrated Regional Information Networks)

Fixing the Humanitarian Aid System (January 2006)

This article likens the international emergency relief system to a "lottery" where media coverage decides which countries receive aid. Furthermore, donor governments' tie their decreasing contributions to their economic and political interests. Africa Renewal calls for a more predictable and fair distribution of aid funds and urges governments to support initiatives like the United Nation's Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). In addition, the article clarifies the controversy between food-shipments and locally bought food.


New UN Global Emergency Fund Needs Immediate Pledges to Save Lives (October 24, 2005)

Oxfam International has published a paper on how rich countries failed to finance the UN Central Emergency Revolving Fund (CERF). The US, Belgium, Italy, France, Canada and Australia have failed to pledge money to the fund, which aims at responding to humanitarian disasters like the earthquake in Pakistan and famine in Niger. This paper argues that the lack of funding to UN humanitarian initiatives severely undermines the organization's operations in response to emergencies.

Let's Put on Some Institutional Muscle (October 19, 2005)

The international response to natural disasters such as the South Asian Tsunami, Hurricane Katrina in the US and the earthquake in Pakistan was neither prompt nor coordinated enough. Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown and Secretary of State for International Development Hilary Benn point out the dire need for better funding for UN agencies. Countries should increase their donations to the UN's Central Emergency Revolving Fund and the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Additionally, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank should offer emergency assistance to disaster-struck countries. (International Herald Tribune)


Links and Resources

Central Emergency Response Fund

Homepage of the UN's Central Emergency Response Fund, set up to provide "additional" and "more predictable and timely" funding to humanitarian disasters.



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