CERF basics

What is the CERF?

The Central Emergency Revolving Fund (a loan facility with US$50 million) was established by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1991 under resolution 46/182. In December 2005, the General Assembly decided to upgrade the Fund by including a grant element of up to US$450 million. The new CERF, the Central Emergency Response Fund, was officially launched in New York on 9 March 2006 by the United Nations Secretary-General.

How does the CERF work?

The Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator manages up to US$500 million, including a loan facility of US$50 million and the newly created grant facility of up to US$450 million.

The grant facility of the CERF has two components:

Rapid response grants to promote early action and response to reduce loss of life and to enhance response to time-critical requirements; and

Underfunded emergency grants to strengthen core elements of humanitarian response in underfunded crises.

How does the CERF work with other funding mechanisms?

The CERF is intended to complement – not replace – existing humanitarian funding mechanisms. The CERF provides seed funds to jump-start critical operations and life-saving programmes not yet funded through other sources. Traditional donor sources are still expected to step in and fund the majority of needs.

How to apply for a rapid response CERF grant[1]?

  • Criteria for Selected Projects
  • based on needs assessments
  • chosen from the core humanitarian programmes
  • essential for the humanitarian response (prioritized by the HC/RC and Country Team)
  • life-saving as defined by the mandate of the CERF

  • Field-Driven Decision-making Process
  • HC/RC recommends use of the CERF, identifies priority life-saving needs by consulting IASC country team
  • HC/RC submits package of proposals based on assessed needs
  • ERC approves applications
  • UN disburses funds to eligible agencies
  • Note: Agencies cannot submit proposals directly to the ERC

Triggering the process

The HC/RC, assisted by the OCHA Office in the country, if present, should signal the need for rapid response funds from the CERF. The initial communication should provide a detailed justification including:

(1) cause of the situation,

(2) number of people affected,

(3) description of humanitarian indicators and indications of any rapid deteriorations thereof,

(4) displacement figures (new displacements),

(5) implications if needs are not met,

(6) indicative budget (if available)

(7) review of fund-raising efforts to date.

This justification can take the form of a brief communication (letter, email). The HC/RC should also submit a detailed list of priority core emergency humanitarian needs following consultations with the IASC Country Team. The ERC will also proactively suggest potential uses of the CERF by alerting HCs/RCs when CERF funds may be appropriate and will urge the HC/RC to meet with the Country Team to analyze needs.

Implementation Period

For the rapid response window, funds must be committed (in financial terms) within three months. The duration of activities can be up to six months. For rapid response, expensing funds can start immediately at the day of the disaster. The Letter of Understanding between OCHA and the CERF eligible recipient will clearly specify the starting date of expenditures in such cases, and requires the reasons for beginning expensing before the funds are actually transferred to the receiving agency’s account.

Application Process

  • Apply using the CERF Application template (http://cerf.un.org) unless ERC agrees to fund against a Flash Appeal or similar document
  • If funding against an appeal, HC/RC submits summary table with list of projects and requested funding amounts for each
  • CERF grant proposal packages should not substitute but complement the development of a Flash Appeal.
  • In all cases, agencies must submit a CERF-specific budget template
  • In all cases, proposals should be sent as a package with a cover letter/e-mail from the HC/RC to the ERC and the CERF Secretariat (cerf@un.org <mailto:cerf@un.org>)

Underfunded emergencies grants

On a bi-annual basis, the Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC) invites countries that have been selected to apply for funding from the underfunded emergencies window of the CERF. The ERC selects countries based on funding data captured by the Financial Tracking Service (www.reliefweb.int/fts), recommendations from UN agencies, inter-agency consultation, and discussions with HC/RCs, as required. This decision-making process is set out in the paper, CERF Procedures for Grant Allocations to Underfunded Emergencies (dated 31 July 2007), which serves as the policy basis for allocating funds to underfunded crises.


The ERC informs the relevant HC/RCs of the funds available for each country and invites the HC/RCs to provide him with projects for funding of life-saving activities. HC/RCs, with support from the humanitarian country team (UN agencies, IOM, NGOs), identify gaps in the current humanitarian response, set priorities, and determine which humanitarian projects should be proposed for funding[2]. In countries where a Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) has been instituted, HC/RCs may use the CAP as a catalogue of projects to prioritize and identify priority projects based on assessed needs/capacities that are appropriate for CERF funding. In these cases, funding can be provided against the CAP, and CAP project sheets may be submitted in lieu of a completed CERF Application Template. In countries without a CAP, a CERF Application Template must be completed in order for the grant request to be considered.

The commitment of funds, as well as end of activities will be 31 December of the current year for the first underfunded allocation round and 30 June of the following year for the second allocation round.

Reporting requirements

At the field level, HC/RCs, on behalf of humanitarian country teams, are to submit an annual report for all the countries that benefited from allocations under the rapid response and underfunded windows. These reports should provide a broad overview and analysis of the impact of and results achieved with CERF funding on the sectors/clusters of the overall humanitarian response in country and include inputs from the concerned agencies on the ground. A template is available on the CERF website. Additionally, UN agencies need to provide financial reports on CERF grants twice a year, as well as an annual narrative report produced at headquarters level.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: