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New CaLP Case Study: Voices and Views of Beneficiaries on unconditional Cash Transfers - Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal and Philippines

With the aim to include the voices of recipients of unconditional cash transfers within the ongoing humanitarian sector discussion about the use of cash in crisis and disaster-affected settings, this study funded by the IFRC asks beneficiaries of unconditional cash transfers – as the primary stakeholders in this type of programming – what works and what doesn’t work in their particular setting and uses their experiences to contextualise this.

Providing cash in humanitarian emergencies is expanding and the topic is well under discussion within the humanitarian sector with topics ranging from high-level consideration of cash as a tool to transform humanitarian aid, the significance of cash as a way to support beneficiary choice and dignity while stimulating livelihoods and economic recovery, and the retooling of aspects of the current humanitarian architecture is called for by some to support cash transfers at scale.

This purpose of this publication is to include the voices of recipients of unconditional cash transfers within the ongoing humanitarian sector discussion about the use of cash in crisis and disaster-affected settings.

The study asks beneficiaries of unconditional cash transfers in three countries, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nepal and Philippines, what works and what doesn’t work in their particular setting and uses their experiences to contextualise this. The study is small, but the questions the same as those engaging policy makers: what works about unconditional cash transfers? And, what should be changed or improved? 

A field research, conducted during August and September 2015, was supported and staffed by in-field humanitarian partner organizations (IFCR,NRC and  UNICEF)who have been directly involved in unconditional cash transfer programs. A total of 111 beneficiaries of unconditional cash transfers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nepal and Philippines were engaged in a series of focus group discussions. The discussions were complemented by a quantitative survey that explored some of the key dimensions of quality programming, including operational ease of use, issues of dignity and choice and on expected or perceived impacts.

That cash provides flexibility to meet varying needs and the resulting choice this gives to recipient households was widely appreciated and acknowledged as a positive benefit.Receiving cash on time and in a flexible manner meant that households expressed a wide range of spend, and they were able to identify their own priorities.

The impact of the cash transfers on participants’ dignity is highlighted through some of the quotes directly from participants who talked of cash “ending humiliations” and turning them from “burdens” to accepted and respected members of the community; and this is reflected in some of the stated benefits of cash. For example, cash had allowed recipients to re-engage in social commitments, an important part of culture in all study countries. Amidst the countless challenges and disruptions, being able to contribute and to make joint decisions made recipients feel empowered and respected.

When asked how unconditional cash transfers can be improved, participants felt that an increase in the volume of cash would mean that multiple objectives could be met. Of course, the value of assistance is driven and determined by many factors in each setting and specific interventions are designed for specific purposes; but, participant feedback makes a clear call for the expansion of cash programmes to go deeper in meeting needs.Whilst discussions at a global level focus significantly on efficiencies that can be sought in cash transfer programming, the voices of recipients affected by crises calls clearly for progress that enables the use of unconditional transfers for multiple purposes.

This report commissioned by CaLP benefitted from the generous support of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The publication can be download here.

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