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


ICAI published its review on the UK’s approach to funding the UN humanitarian system in December 2018, and awarded a green-amber score, making five recommendations.

There has been a sharp rise in global humanitarian need over this decade, driven by large-scale conflicts in Syria, Yemen and South Sudan and the mass expulsion of Rohingya people from Burma. In response to deteriorating global humanitarian conditions, the UK’s humanitarian aid has grown more than 200% since 2011, reaching £1.56 billion in 2017-18.

Approximately half of this money is spent through UN humanitarian agencies. The UN humanitarian system is large and complex, with overlapping mandates and inbuilt inefficiencies. Many efforts have been made to reform the system, including, most recently, commitments to the ‘Grand Bargain’ in 2016.



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