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How the private sector helps in emergencies

Businesses are a major contributor to humanitarian action. Local and multinational companies can support humanitarian efforts by making a financial or in-kind contribution, providing a pro-bono service, supporting humanitarian appeals, engaging in advocacy and awareness of crises and promoting philanthropy amongst staff, clients and networks.

Frameworks for determining needs

In the event of a crisis, humanitarian needs are analyzed and presented via two main frameworks which lay out prioritized needs for any given crisis:

  • Flash Appeal - A Flash Appeal is issued within one week of an emergency and is triggered by the Humanitarian Coordinator (the UN official in charge of leading and coordinating assistance in a country experiencing an emergency) in consultation with all stakeholders. It provides an overview of the humanitarian needs, priority sectors for response (such as food, logistics and telecommunication), an outline of response plans as well as roles and responsibilities of actors involved in the response. It is a tool that enables the response to the emergency to be coordinated (amongst the UN, NGOs and other organizations playing a role in the response) and structured for the first three to six months of an emergency. Click here for more information on ongoing emergencies.
  • Humanitarian Response Plan - A Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) is required for any humanitarian crisis that requires international humanitarian assistance. It builds upon a humanitarian needs overview which provides an analysis of the magnitude of the crisis and identifies the most pressing humanitarian needs. It sets the direction of the response, identifies funding requirements, and establishes a framework for humanitarian action. Unlike the Flash Appeal, the Humanitarian Response Plan usually has at least a one-year planning horizon and it can be issued at any point in the year. Click here for more information on Humanitarian Response Plans.

How businesses can help

Tacloban, Philippines: In 2013, after Typhoon Haiyan devastated much of central Philippines, the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation brought together private firms and nongovernmental organizations to rebuild schools, homes and hospitals, as well as providing boats for fishermen and help to revive small businesses that had been destroyed. Credit: OCHA

1. Making a financial contribution

The humanitarian community considers financial contributions to reputable aid organizations participating in the international humanitarian coordination mechanisms as one of the most valuable and effective form of response. Businesses can make a financial contribution through various mechanisms. The OCHA-managed pooled funds are considered to be one of the most efficient mechanisms of humanitarian financing as they reduce transaction costs and allow for a better prioritization of assistance among different organizations. They enable humanitarian partners operating in countries affected by a crisis to quickly deliver flexible and effective life-saving assistance to people who need it the most. Specifically:

Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF)

CERF is a global stand-by fund that enables more timely and reliable humanitarian assistance for people affected by natural disasters and armed conflict. CERF pools voluntary contributions from donors - governments, foundations, companies, charities and individuals - into a single fund which can be used for any emergency in any country. This money is set aside for immediate use at the onset of emergencies. In emergencies, humanitarian organizations apply jointly for funding. Funds are immediately released if these proposals meet CERF’s criteria, i.e. the needs are urgent and the proposed activities will save lives. With money available immediately, relief organizations can deliver food, safe drinking water, medical supplies and other life-saving aid faster and more efficiently. For more information on CERF please visit and to contribute to CERF, please click here.

Country-Based Pooled Funds (CBPFs)

Country-based pooled funds are multi-donor funds that allows governments and private donors to contribute funding to support an emergency in a specific country. A CBPF is established when a new emergency occurs or when an existing humanitarian situation worsens. As of 2017, CBPFs operate in 18 countries. Resources are pooled and un-earmarked, empowering donors to support humanitarian organizations in providing lifesaving aid to those who need it the most. CBPFs provide rapid funding to scale up humanitarian operations, fill critical gaps and strengthen partnerships with aid organizations, including local and international NGOs. To contribute to a CBPF, please click here.

Contribute directly to individual aid organizations

Businesses can contribute directly to individual aid organizations identified in Flash Appeals or Humanitarian Response Plans.

2. Making an in-kind donation of products or services

Companies can make donations of products and services in an emergency to strengthen response efforts. Based on the core strength of the company, these can range from donations of in-kind goods such as emergency relief kits to the provision of communications, logistics or IT support. To make an in-kind donation of goods or services please visit or write to with specific information about the contribution, including the time-frame for delivery and any conditions. Contributions should comply with the Guidelines on Cooperation between the UN and the Business Sector (

3. Engaging in the Connecting Business initiative

Businesses, governments, civil society organizations and international organizations have joined forces in support of the Connecting Business initiative – a private sector-driven, UN-supported multi-stakeholder alliance that engages the private sector strategically and holistically before, during and after emergencies, strengthening the overall resilience of communities. While governments maintain overall responsibility for responding to humanitarian emergencies, local communities and private sector networks also play a crucial role in disaster risk reduction, emergency preparedness, response and recovery. The Connecting Business initiative strengthens and supports those private sector networks, with programs targeted at building individual and community resilience. Join the Connecting Business initiative at the local or global level. For more information, visit or send us an email at

4. Making a commercial offer

 If your offer is commercial in nature, please go to for more information.