Emerging Themes from London Cross Sector Dialogues

Future Humanitarian Financing aims to bring fresh thinking to address the growing problem of how we meet the financial costs to responding to humanitarian emergencies. The purpose of the initiative is to discuss the potential of new and emerging approaches to financing and investigate how these might support a more open and adaptive humanitarian endeavour as well as new models fit to meet the changing nature and scope of humanitarian crises.

In October and November, the Future Humanitarian Financing Initiative convened its first cross sector dialogues, bringing together over sixty experts from the Humanitarian, Development, Academic and Financial Sectors across two morning events to discuss emerging models including Development Impact Bonds, Crowdfunding platforms, Disaster Risk Insurance and the increasing role of the private sector.

It was clear from both events that a more open and inclusive humanitarian enterprise is needed and that the existing humanitarian architecture is exclusive of many important actors. During the second dialogue Dr Sara Pantuliano, Director of the Humanitarian Policy Group at the ODI provided participants with an overview of HPG’s research into the Changing Humanitarian Landscape, particularly the increasing importance (or rather an increasing recognition of the importance) of Rising Global Actors. Through discussion, many participants also reflected on this and the need to reconfigure the existing humanitarian system to reflect the full diversity of financing and responding actors emerged as a key theme in both dialogue events.

The case for more engagement with the private sector has been a topic of discussion in many forums on Humanitarian Financing and the London Dialogues was no exception. However what was clear from discussions in London is that it is not about more engagement, but rather the right type of engagement, that the key to possible future mechanisms of Humanitarian Financing. The private sector is not just a cash dispenser and Humanitarian actors, in their engagement with private sector actors, have not yet taken full advantage of opportunities to benefit from the expertise, capacity, resources and influence of the private sector. With this in mind there is a need to better understand the specific interests and comparative advantages of the private sector actors and determine areas or ‘shared value’ opportunities for joint ventures. Participants from both the Humanitarian and Private Sector also suggested that this topic needed to be approached with a sense of realism that has previously been lacking and that the sector needed to move away from generalised rhetoric around improving partnerships and be more realistic about working with the private sector and their ability to maintain a principled approach. As one private sector participant challenged ‘Do you really want to work with us?’

“Do you really want to work with [the Private Sector]?”

A Challenge to the Sector from a Private Sector Participant at a London Dialogue event, improved engagement with the private sector can offer a lot of potential both in terms of funding and efficiencies but Humanitarians must be realistic about the aims and objectives of private sector actors in order for such partnerships to work effectively.


A full summary of the London dialogue events can be found here along with summaries from Dialogue events held in Amman, Bangkok and Dakar.

The Future Humanitarian Financing Initiative aims to be an evolutionary piece of research, drawing on the expertise of experts from across different sectors and regions. To join the discussions please comment your reactions below, complete our polls, or email aneal@cafod.org.uk with any ideas or suggestions. You can also follow discussions on the Future of Humanitarian Financing on twitter: @FutureHF

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