Five-Year Evaluation of the CERF


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The completion of the General Assembly-mandated Five-year Evaluation of CERF in August 2011 is a significant achievement that will inform improvements in the Fund’s effectiveness, and its accountability to humanitarian partners, donors and beneficiaries. The independent evaluation analyzed CERF activities from 2006 to 2010. Data was collected through 16 case studies (six country visits and 10 desk reviews) and interviews at UN and donor agency headquarters. The evaluation highlighted CERF’s strengths and weaknesses and provided recommendations to improve its effectiveness.

Overall, the evaluation provides a positive assessment of CERF’s first five years of operation and notes that the Fund achieved the objectives of its original designers. The evaluation found that CERF strengthened humanitarian coordination, and has become a vital part of the humanitarian system. The evaluation also highlighted areas for further operational improvement, particularly at the country level. In 2011, the CERF secretariat began to address the evaluation findings and recommendations through a Management Response Plan (MRP).

Summary of Evaluation findings

  • CERF increases the predictability of humanitarian funding through its rapid response window at the global and country levels. Predictable funding through the underfunded window also improved at the global level, though less so at the country and sector levels.
  • CERF promotes early action. Agencies were more willing to start relief activities with their own emergency reserves, knowing that some initial costs could be recovered through CERF. This improved humanitarian responses, particularly in poorly funded common services.
  • The CERF secretariat has adopted an increasingly service-oriented culture and has improved its processes, procedures and information management in line with the recommendations of the two-year evaluation of CERF completed in 2008. CERF secretariat staff have improved responsiveness and decision-making by developing clearly-defined life-saving criteria and accountability, with more transparent information systems and a Performance and Accountability Framework (PAF).
  • CERF complements and is reinforced by the wider humanitarian reform processes. However, the introduction of CERF funding sometimes underscored the underlying challenges to UN agency processes and coordination in the field. In some instances, increased competition for funding led to acrimony among humanitarian partners when CERF processes at the country level were poorly managed by the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator.
  • In countries with a locally managed Common Humanitarian Fund, CERF funding is well integrated into joint cluster planning processes. CERF and Emergency Response Fund processes tend to be managed separately.
  • CERF’s reliance on UN agencies’ internal assessment and monitoring systems is an operational weakness, as processes and methodologies can vary widely.
  • CERF has become more accountable, although some challenges remain. Dependence on UN agency reporting systems has led to multiple reporting lines and inadequate monitoring. Without a mandate for the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) to monitor CERF-funded projects, there is no formal mechanism to ensure that agency recipients of CERF funding account to the HC for project achievements or set-backs. Accountability is further complicated by a lack of objective evaluation information for CERF-funded activities.
  • While CERF’s rapid response disbursements to UN agencies have become quicker, there have been noted delays in sub-granting funds from recipient UN agencies to implementing partner NGOs in the field, which is independent of CERF processes.

Management Response Plan

The CERF secretariat developed a Management Response Plan (MRP) to address evaluation findings and recommendations in consultation with UN agencies, IOM, NGOs and the United Nations Controller’s Office. The MRP was approved by the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, and implementation of the actions contained in the plan will be tracked by the CERF secretariat. Evaluation findings will be used to focus on CERF and partner performance areas that offer scope for improvement. Updates to the MRP will be provided in advance of bi-annual CERF Advisory Group meetings.