International humanitarian assistance rose to a record US$24.5 billion in 2014. The 2015 Global Humanitarian Assistance Report indicated that over US$200 million of this was used in cash and voucher programs. An increasing number of humanitarian actors have begun to deliver cash electronically, through mechanisms such as mobile money, mobile banking, prepaid debit cards or electronic remittance company services. The use of e-cash has the potential to increase aid transparency for all stakeholders; reduce the risks associated with moving large amounts of hard currency; and lower the cost of aid delivery.
Financial Service Providers (FSPs) are critical partners in delivering e-cash and have recognized that the humanitarian space offers viable business opportunities. Yet, FSPs also face challenges of navigating the particular needs of humanitarian response programs. For example, these programs typically require large numbers of small transactions distributed via safe and accessible delivery mechanisms to recipients who are often among the most vulnerable and underserved groups in society.
This document introduces the principles and operational realities that are common to actors in the humanitarian space. It is not intended to provide specific guidance, but rather highlight how humanitarian actors are unusual business partners for FSPs and offers ideas about how to strengthen partnerships between them.