The UK’s approach to funding the UN humanitarian system

DFID has a strong strategy for using its funding and influence to strengthen UN humanitarian agencies and global humanitarian practice, but its record to date in promoting practical reforms is mixed.

Score: Green/Amber
  1. Status: Completed
  2. Published: 18 December 2018
  3. Type: Performance review
  4. Subject: Humanitarian assistance
  5. Assessment: Green/Amber
  6. Location: Bangladesh, Iraq, Lebanon, South Sudan
  7. Lead commissioner: Alison Evans

Read the approach paper

Our approach

This review looks at how well DFID has used its position as a major donor to improve the value for money and effectiveness of humanitarian aid spent through UN agencies.

The review set out to focus on core funding – that is, unconditional funds paid to the central budgets of UN agencies, which can be allocated flexibly for central functions or to particular emergencies. The methodology included a strategic review, UN organisational reviews, and country and thematic case studies.

Review questions

The review answers the following review questions:

  1. To what extent have DFID’s choices of funding channels and mechanisms for UN humanitarian agencies been relevant to its strategy and objectives for strengthening the humanitarian system?
  2. Has DFID’s funding of UN humanitarian agencies led to improvements in their individual management, practices, capabilities and performance?
  3. Is DFID’s funding of and influence on UN humanitarian agencies likely to strengthen the overall performance of the international humanitarian system?



Published 10 May 2018

Evidence gathering


Review publication

Published 18 December 2018

Government response

Published 12 February 2019

Parliamentary scrutiny

IDC hearing 13 March 2019

ICAI follow-up

Published 23 July 2020