Skip to main content
News and Blogs
Published on 25 June 2024

Christian Aid has long recognised that giving people money rather than things is a fast and effective way to assist those impacted by humanitarian emergencies.

In 2023, an eighth of all our project funding and a fifth of all our humanitarian project funding was used this way. At the same time, Christian Aid is committed to the localisation of aid, putting power and resources in the hands of those affected by crisis. This allows them to make decisions that are right for themselves, their family and their community. 

Read the full report now

Localising cash assistance

In recent years, there's been a wide debate about how cash and voucher assistance (CVA) can be localised. We've noticed that this debate is often founded on several assumptions:

  1. We need to bring more local actors into the aid system to help with the design and delivery of cash assistance.
  2. The best way to achieve scale and efficiency gains is by harmonising approaches and often this involved linking with existing government social protection schemes.

Neither of these are inherently wrong. In fact, these ideas are doing a great deal to drive positive change in the international aid sector. However, they are not the full picture. 

Image credits and information i
Farmers like Taindonzwa with are being equipped with life-changing farming techniques that'll help feed the next generation. Credit: David Brazier/Christian Aid
Grandmother Taindonzwa Kapfudzaruwa with her husband and some of her grandchildren sitting in front of their home.

Challenges for local responders

Firstly, not all local responders want to be part of the international system. Many may wish to either fill gaps that the larger system has left, or simply change their existing activities onto a humanitarian footing in response to a crisis.

For example, those working with marginalised groups may now want to continue working with these people, but offering humanitarian aid as well as their existing services.

Secondly, ‘mutual aid’ and other locally led responses, such as local church groups, already do reach a vast scale, but international agencies find this hard to recognise because we don’t have a strong way of measuring and counting it.

Empower communities facing crisis

Your donation will put the power back in the hands of communities and families facing crisis. Help provide those affected by conflict and natural disasters with immediate essentials like cash, food and water.

Two approaches to localising CVA

In our new discussion paper and briefing note who hold the levers of design - insights and ideas for cash and locally led response, we explore how there is a difference between localising institutional CVA , which focuses on equipping local actors to work within international CVA systems, and enabling CVA as part of locally led response, which focuses on equipping international aid systems to support and strengthen endogenous responses.

Image credits and information i
Arjan Guyo (standing), Development Facilitator from Christian-Aid partner organization AFD (Action for Development), facilitates a meeting of the Barimel Radio Listening Group Credit: Indrias G. Kassaye
Arjan Guyo (standing), Development Facilitator from Christian-Aid partner organization AFD (Action for Development)), facilitates a meeting of the Barimel Radio Listening Group, Gondoroba Kebele (sub-district), Arebore Community, Hamer District, South omo Zone, Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples Region (SNNPR), Ethiopia. Sitting at left in green shirt is Gumadi Oto.

Working together for better aid

We hope that this distinction can carve out a space where international donors will develop tools and processes to work with local groups and spontaneous responders on their terms rather than asking them to adapt to international standards.

This is not to say all standards are wrong, but we believe there should be space to redraw the relationship between the institutional aid world and local responders. The aim is to complement wider aid efforts by recognising that affected communities are always the first and the last responders to any crisis, continuing to work towards long term recovery and development years after international agencies have completed their programmes.

Donate to our Emergency Fund Appeal

Help support families in urgent need in the world’s hard to reach conflicts.

More from Christian Aid

Emergency Fund Appeal

Christian Aid has created a special Emergency Fund to ensure that when there are emergencies that don’t make the headlines in the UK, we'll be able to respond swiftly to support families in need.

Who holds the levers of design?

Insights and ideas for cash and locally led response.

Campaign with us

We have a new UK government. What an opportunity to meet your newly elected MPs.