OCHA in 2009 Cover Download Hi-res PDF (6.4 MB)

G. Good Humanitarian Donorship:
Funding Trends in 2009


OCHA relies heavily on unearmarked funds. They give the organization more flexibility and autonomy in the way it allocates its resources and helps it to ensure adequate cash flow to all of its mandated activities. A key tenet of OCHA’s resource mobilization strategy is to secure increases in unearmarked funds from donors and, where possible, tie such commitments into multi-year funding frameworks. Chart 4 shows the top 10 donors of unearmarked funds. In 2009, 40 per cent ($63 million) of OCHA’s income was unearmarked, continuing the trend of previous years and showing a slight decrease ($3 million) from 2008. Following OCHA’s outreach, nine major donors increased their unearmarked contributions in their local currencies. However, three major donors’ increases were completely offset by the strong dollar, resulting in net decreases. Six of the major donors held their unearmarked contributions steady, of which three resulted in net decreases due to exchange rates. Only three donors actually decreased their unearmarked contributions in local currency; two of these decreases were directly due to the financial crisis and one was compensated by increased loose earmarking. Sixty-six per cent of OCHA’s unearmarked income was spent on Headquarters’ activities and the remainder was spent in the field.

Chart 4: Top 10 Donors of Unearmarked Funding (PDF 36kb)


In 2009, nine of the top OCHA donors significantly increased their earmarked contributions, in many instances due to increased and more coherent OCHA outreach and follow up. The combined total increases from the European Commission, the United Kingdom and the United States amounted to over $13 million. However, Norway and Sweden reduced their earmarked funding to OCHA in national currency. Adverse exchange rates also diminished the dollar value of both donors’ earmarked contributions. Five smaller donors decreased their earmarked funding to OCHA. In total, OCHA secured an additional $12 million in earmarked funds from existing donors for 2009, despite the adverse effects of the strong dollar and the actual decreases. Eighty-two per cent of OCHA earmarked income was earmarked for country offices and 7 per cent for regional offices (an increase following an initial regional office ‘marketing’ effort). Seven per cent of earmarked funding was for Headquarters.

Chart 5: Earmarking Trends 2006-2009

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Broadening the donor base

The number of OCHA institutional donors (governments, international organizations and others) decreased between 2008 and 2009. This seems to be mainly because OCHA attracts “new” donors primarily when there are high-profile, sudden-onset emergencies, such as Cyclone Nargis in 2008 and the Haiti earthquakes in 2010. Thirty-five Member States provided funding (three less than in 2008). Western countries continued to provide the vast majority of contributions to OCHA, despite an effort to recruit new donors from outside the traditional international donor community. This effort will be re-doubled in 2010, building on CERF’s success.

Chart 6: Origin of OCHA’ donors by regional grouping

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Timeliness of payment

Timely disbursement is critical to alleviating OCHA cash management challenges, particularly given the heavy reliance on voluntary contributions and the fact that OCHA may incur expenditure only against cash received and not against pledges. In 2009, 49 per cent of paid contributions were made in the first half of the year, down from 61 per cent in 2008. This disappointing downward trend impedes the smooth continuation of ongoing activities. Unpaid pledges, while recorded as income, cannot be used until the cash contributions are actually received, so the time lag between pledging and receipt of donor contributions is critical. As OCHA does not have access to a large reserve account, it cannot incur expenditures until pledges are followed through disbursement. Donors are encouraged to continue efforts to provide timelier funding and to increase the proportion of contributions transferred during the first half of the year to 75 per cent. OCHA will work further with donors to address this issue in 2010.

Chart 7: Timeliness of Disbursement

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As part of the effort to secure predictable funding, OCHA is prioritizing the negotiation of multi-year funding agreements. In 2009, a new multi-year funding arrangement (covering unearmarked contributions) was signed with Norway. OCHA also initiated discussions on new, multi-year funding frameworks with Denmark and Switzerland, and separately with Australia and New Zealand to plan in advance for the update of these respective multi-year funding agreements upon their expiry, so as to realign them with the new OCHA Strategic Framework for 2010-2013. OCHA now has multi-year funding arrangements in place with five donors: Australia, Belgium, New Zealand, Norway and the United Kingdom. OCHA also aims to increase predictability in its earmarked funding. To this end, it plans to explore a model agreement for flexible and predictable earmarked funding with various donors in 2010.

OCHA Donor Support Group

The OCHA Donor Support Group (ODSG) is an informal group that provides financial, political and technical support towards fulfilling OCHA’s mandated coordination activities. The group currently consists of Australia (Chair), Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States and the European Commission. Members commit to annual funding of a minimum threshold (currently $0.5 million), preferably unearmarked.

ODSG’s goal is to support OCHA in fulfilling its mandate by acting as a sounding board and a source of advice on policy, management, budgetary and financial questions. The group also acts as a mechanism for feedback, donor consultation and the exchange of views on OCHA’s strategic priorities, new project initiatives, evaluations and reviews. The group discusses concrete measures that members may take individually or collectively to assist OCHA in better fulfilling its mission and goals on the basis of the humanitarian principles. The group also encourages a widening of donor support for OCHA on the basis of the principles.

ODSG meets regularly at the technical level in Geneva and New York, and annually at the high level. In addition, an annual ODSG field mission is undertaken to evaluate the work of OCHA at the country level. Donor members are invited to the mission at senior level from capitals or Permanent Missions. The Chair and OCHA are jointly responsible for organizing the mission, through consultation with the other ODSG members. The Chair drafts a mission report in consultation with mission participants and OCHA.

OCHA Resource Mobilization Strategy

In 2009, OCHA fund-raising was guided by a resource mobilization strategy developed early in the year, following an assessment of needs and challenges, and building on the findings of an external review of OCHA’s resource mobilization and fund management practices. The 2009 strategy called for an OCHA-wide, proactive and coherent fund-raising approach backed by enhanced analysis, and more effective targeting and marketing of OCHA added-value, and the services provided by the Office for Member States.

The top priorities identified in 2009 were to encourage donors to increase their overall support for the Office by providing a greater share of their funding without earmarking and by consulting closely with OCHA before earmarking to avoid overfunding high visibility offices. A funding target of $160 million for 2009 was set. This target would have been exceeded but for the impact of the strong dollar on major European currencies, coupled with decreased earmarked funding from a major donor.

Lead responsibility for implementing the OCHA strategy in this area lies with the Donor Relations Section (DRS) in Geneva. The section’s primary responsibilities are to solicit contributions, negotiate funding agreements, and ensure regular reporting on the results of OCHA work and use of funds. DRS also manages the day-to-day aspects of the Office’s engagement with ODSG, including the relevant aspects of the monthly ODSG meetings, the annual ODSG field mission and the ODSG high-level meeting.

Note on OCHA Trust Funds

Income and expenditure against OCHA budget is managed through two trust funds and the Special Account for Programme Support. The Trust Fund for the Strengthening of OCHA was established in 1974, pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 3243. This fund is financed mainly from unearmarked voluntary contributions to cover Headquarters’ staff and non-staff costs incurred in the discharge of the mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly.

The Trust Fund for Disaster Relief Assistance was established in 1971, pursuant to General Assembly Resolution 2816. This fund receives earmarked and unearmarked voluntary contributions to finance humanitarian coordination and relief activities.

Earmarked contributions provided for specific projects or countries are accounted for separately. The fund’s activities fall within two main categories: OCHA-mandated activities, which OCHA implements under its Annual Plan and Budget primarily in the field, and Specially Designated Contributions (SDCs), which are implemented by OCHA partners and cannot be used for OCHA coordination. See Annex III for more details on SDCs, including the Emergency Response Funds.

The Special Account for Programme Support funds OCHA administrative costs and common services provided by the United Nations in support of OCHA extra-budgetary activities. Income to this account is derived from programme support levied on direct programme expenditure of the OCHA trust funds. This levy is 3 per cent on grants to NGOs and 13 per cent on most expenditure incurred by OCHA activities.