In 2016, the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) embarked on its second decade of bringing urgent aid to the people who need it most – wherever and whenever crises strike. Established as “a fund for all, by all” in 2005, CERF continued to be one of the fastest enablers of live-saving humanitarian action around the world. The fund allocated $439 million to the UN and its partners on the front lines – at times, within hours of an emergency hitting the country.
More than half of CERF’s total funding in 2016 – $289 million – allowed humanitarian partners to jump-start or scale up urgent aid immediately in new or rapidly deteriorating emergencies. The fund also targeted more than six million people in dire need in some of the most silent and neglected emergencies, including in the Lake Chad Basin and central and eastern Africa.
In 2016, CERF responded to historic levels of need and joined the world community in adapting to the growing challenges in the humanitarian landscape. At the start of the year, the global humanitarian appeal required some $20.1 billion to provide life-saving humanitarian assistance to over 87.6 million people across 37 countries, most of which are in conflict.
Since the fund’s launch in 2006, crises have grown more severe, protracted and complex. The forces that drive them increasingly overlap and amplify each other. The consequences are profound: in 2016, the world community saved, protected and supported more people than in any previous twelve-month period since the United Nations was founded in 1945.
In the course of the year, CERF's funding enabled the UN and humanitarian partners to respond to three “mega-crises”: in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. These emergencies were so great in scale and impact that they were prioritized for the fastest, most comprehensive assistance. Their impact stretched across borders and engulfed regions, as refugees seeking safety fled into neighbouring and distant countries alike. Displacement crises dominated the year’s humanitarian picture. The number of people forced from their homes by armed conflict, natural disasters and political instability reached a record high of more than 65 million – a level not seen since the Second World War. Nearly half were children, and more than half were displaced within their own countries. The trend is growing. In 2015 and 2016, almost 70 per cent of CERF’s funding – totalling about $600 million – was allocated to operations focusing on displaced people and their host communities.
Natural disasters – from earthquakes and storms to famine and floods – have been central to CERF’s work from the fund’s earliest days. 2016 saw them gain in power and scope. Hurricanes, droughts and other forms of extreme weather underscored concerns about climate change’s potential to intensify dangerous conditions.
No disaster had greater reach than the El Niño phenomenon, which brought drought and flooding to countries from Asia and Africa to Latin America and the Pacific Islands. CERF was an early leader in the global response to El Niño, making allocations from early 2015 – a move that signalled the need for urgent humanitarian action ahead of the emergency’s most destructive phase.
"Today the humanitarian landscape in which CERF operates has changed dramatically since it started work in 2006", said former ERC O'Brien in his foreword. "The scale of humanitarian deprivation is greater than at any time since the United Nations was founded. It is the common responsibility of all Member States to ensure that CERF is sufficiently resourced in order to fulfil its mandate and respond to ever-growing needs. Every dollar invested in CERF is directly translated into stories of hope and survival for people who depend on this global “first aid” to stay alive and safe for a better chance tomorrow."