Cost-Effectiveness in Humanitarian Aid and Development: Resilience Programming

4th October 2018
Author: Athanasios Manis

The results of the review show a gap in the literature in terms of providing conclusive evidence/data and analysis about the cost-effectiveness of resilience-related responses. Most of the reports, papers, briefs and notes that were reviewed tend to make normative assertions as to how important is to provide humanitarian assistance early enough, and to direct efforts towards helping to protect, restore and improve livelihood systems with the objective of building resilience for populations that experienced humanitarian disasters. Only two studies were found that addressed the issue of cost-effectiveness: Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery, 2018; and DFID, 2012. The first report of 2018 discusses how “building back better” in the form of stronger, faster and more inclusively could reduce the cost of future disasters in several countries as well as globally. The report concludes that resilience building in terms of better planning and constructing can not only reduce future costs but can also ameliorate the effects of damage. Nevertheless, the report has a limited scope and does not compare cost-effectiveness of ‘building back better’ with other forms of resilience-related actions, such as developing training programmes and boosting the entrepreneurial spirit among individuals. The second report, written in 2012, provides evidence about how the effectiveness of resilience-building actions can significantly outweigh their cost. Although the rest of the documents that were reviewed did not present specific evidence/data regarding cost-effectiveness, they manage to highlight indirectly certain conceptual, empirical and methodological challenges vis-à-vis the study of cost-effectiveness of resilience-building measures. The BRACED report (2018) raised further significant empirical and methodological questions. It showed how levels of overall resilience change over time and that perceptions of recovery differ between female and male-headed households. This has two implications for future research that tries to address cost-effectiveness of resilience-building initiatives. The first is whether data gathering reflects effectiveness over a period of time or at a specific moment. The second is that the resilience measurement in terms of effectiveness and impact should take into consideration the ‘inside’ story as well – the perceptions of individuals and communities affected by disasters, so that externally defined measurements reflect the realities on the ground more accurately and plausibly.

Download Report
Suggested Citation

Manis, A. (2018). Cost-effectiveness in humanitarian aid and development: Resilience programming. K4D Helpdesk. Brighton, UK: Institute of Development Studies


4th October 2018


Continent: Global