Cash in conflict debate gains momentum in London this week

17 October 2018

The debate surrounding cash assistance in conflict is back on the agenda this week, as Cash Week 2018 gets under way in London.

A series of events and workshops are taking place across the capital, including a panel discussion on Thursday (18 October) building on last month's Red Cross Cash Conference which delved into key issues surrounding bureaucracy, placing trust in communities, and data protection risks.

Jo Burton, the ICRC's lead cash expert who's attending Cash Week, said: "There's a perception that in conflict, as opposed to disasters, that everything stops functioning – there's nobody on the street, there's no transport, no markets and no healthcare facilities.

"But that's just not the reality. These things can be disrupted, but life goes on and people find ways to adapt. So this idea that you can't use cash in conflict because there's nothing to buy and there are no services is just not accurate."

Cash transfer programming – where money is provided, often electronically, to families caught in conflict – is widely acknowledged as a vital form of support, and often more effective than handing out food and other supplies because people can prioritise their own spending depending on their specific needs.

A recent ICRC report, 'Cash Transfer Programming in Armed Conflict: The ICRC's Experience', suggests that although cash is often best in conflict, it is not always the most appropriate solution. It also argues that delivery of cash assistance is a 'tool of humanitarian action', rather than a success in itself. 

Cash Week, organised by the Cash Learning Partnership, runs until Friday 19 October.