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The interdependence between Cash Transfer Programming (CTP) and the environment in humanitarian response

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Cash Transfer Programming (CTP) is increasingly used for humanitarian response with the recognition that CTP can not only greatly complement the provision of in-kind assistance during emergencies but also empowers affected populations to decide their own priority needs and how best to meet these using available local resources.

From an environmental perspective, the use of CTP introduces both new opportunities and additional complexity in the interaction between humanitarian relief and environmental impacts. Negative environmental impacts may emerge when markets and local supply chains are unregulated and unsustainable or when the type of goods and services procured inadvertently increase climate vulnerability or disaster risk. It should be noted that neither cash nor in-kind assistance is inherently ‘environment neutral’. Complementary programming such as the inclusion of education or provision of basic information for awareness raising in CTP can help to increase environmental awareness.  At the same time, CTP may create opportunities for addressing environmental challenges:

However, unconditional, unrestricted or multipurpose cash grants can also increase environmental risk. Shelters may be constructed regardless of environmental conditions, and in a manner which increases vulnerability to disasters such as storms and floods. Sourcing local materials may compromise fragile environmental conditions (for example by overusing wood and sand), and create harm in the long-run. If the amount of cash transferred is insufficient, beneficiaries may choose materials which are less environmentally sustainable, unhealthy and/or of lower quality. Strong regulatory policies are key to ensure that the materials sourced are sustainable and of high quality.

Current criteria for CTP modality selection broadly fall in three themes: context, markets and protection. While there are no standardised metrics tying these criteria to the environment, clear linkages across the themes highlight opportunities for mainstreaming environment in cash programmes:

Context: local environmental conditions impact the feasibility of CTP where the scale of beneficiary need and the availability and sustainability of local natural resources should be taken into account.

Markets: Markets define the viability of local supply chains to support cash-based responses. Where markets function effectively and regulation exists and is enforced, the environmental burden of local demand for materials are easier to manage. However, sustainability of inputs remains a concern, as environmental impacts may be displaced to the broader region. Where local markets are limited, sourcing of materials may put strain on immediate area resources.

Protection: in the context of modality selection, protection broadly refers to a mandate to ‘do no harm’, which extends to the physical environment. Lower quality materials or poor construction techniques undermines sustainability and community resilience. More actively, ‘building back better’ for the environment suggests opportunities to improve community environmental management by mainstreaming environment in technical assistance. The article on the protection cluster provides further guidance on the relation between protection and the environment.

Suggested steps for addressing environment in CTP:

Resources

Report / Study

Looking Through an Environmental Lens: Implications and opportunities associated with Cash Transfer Programming in humanitarian response

In this report, the authors explore the r/ship b/n Cash Transfer Programming and the environment in humanitarian action in light of the rise in cash-based assistance and the changing landscape of humanitarian modalities. The expansion of cash-based response introduces both new opportunities and additional complexity in the interaction between humanitarianism…

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Report / Study

Cash Transfer Programming – Implications and Opportunities

Report by the UN Environment/OCHA Joint Unit which explores how the expansion of cash-based humanitarian responses introduces new opportunities and issues in the interaction between humanitarianism and environment.

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Report / Study

The Environmental Impact of Cash and Voucher Assistance

Cash and voucher Assistance (CVA) has been used widely in humanitarian programs. Like all types of humanitarian operations, CVA can have environmental impacts. This includes but not limited to soil pollutions, an increase in CO2 emission, etc.

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Report / Study

ECoP Briefing Paper: The Environment and Rights in Poorly Regulated Construction Markets: Considerations for Emergency Cash Based Interventions

This briefing paper published by the Environment Community of Practice (ECoP) revolves around the provision of cash in the aftermath of crisis or during protracted displacement and potential impacts on the environment. The provision of cash can help people access the things they need such as food, shelter or energy.

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Case Study

Environment and Disaster Management – Investigation of Environmental Issues in Cash Transfer Programming

Project led by LSE Students which investigates the environmental issues associated with cash transfer programming.

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