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Last Updated 8th February 2023.

Early Recovery refers to “an approach that addresses recovery needs that arise during the humanitarian phase of an emergency; using humanitarian mechanisms that align with development principles. It enables people to use the benefits of humanitarian action to seize development opportunities, build resilience, and establish a sustainable process of recovery from crisis“. The Early Recovery Cluster was led by UNDP, as seen in this diagram, and Early Recovery Clusters and Sectors existed, and still do, in a number of contexts.

However, an Evaluation of the Global Early Recovery Sector in 2018 noted the declining relevance of the sector. The evaluation notes that “the concept of Early Recovery and the legitimacy of a dedicated Early Recovery Cluster have not taken hold. Despite significant efforts by the [Global Cluster for Early Recovery – GCER] over more than a decade, the concept of Early Recovery is still not clear to many stakeholders and the humanitarian community at the country level has not accepted it fully”. The Early Recovery sector has also struggled from the issue of interpretation. What is an ‘Early Recovery’ activity and what is not? As a 2010 ODI report noted, everything from income generating activities in the Agriculture sector, to building education infrastructure, to road rehabilitation in Logistics could be seen as Early Recovery. In addition, at the time of writing, there is no GCER website anymore (an archived version can be found here).

Everything on this page regarding the funding trends of Early Recovery needs to be seen in the context of this declining visibility of the sector.

How much funding is the Early Recovery sector forecast to receive in 2022?

Funding to the Early Recovery sector is forecast to be between $228m and $345m in 2022. Our central estimate is $279m. For reference, the Early Recovery sector received $129m last year.

This forecast is based on our 95% probability range. In other words, we are 95% sure that funding will be between $228m and $345m. Below are the other forecast ranges for the Early Recovery sector. As we become less sure about our forecast, the range narrows. So for example, we think there’s a 50% probability that funding will be between $258m and $301m.

But we need to put this into context. What does the forecast mean in terms of reaching the funding that is required for the sector (also known as the funding requirement)? The total funding requirement globally is determined by how much is needed in each context. Given that we don’t have the information yet we have projected the funding required for 2022 and compared that to the funding forecast. If you hover over the donut below you’ll be able to see the chances of reaching 25%, 50%, 75%, and 100% of the funding that is required.

We think that there’s a remote chance that the sector will receive 25% of what is required, let alone 50% or more. The funding requirement is $1.9bn, thus making it near impossible to reach funding anywhere near this level, or even a quarter of it.

How does the 2022 forecast compare to previous years?

Unsurprisingly, given the preamble, the funding required for Early Recovery has declined since 2016. In 2016, the funding requirement for Early Recovery was $827m. Four years later, and the funding requirement had declined to $489m in 2020. The 2021 requirement of $1.4bn, and 2022 requirement of $1.9bn, goes against this trend, however. This is a huge jump given the funding requirements in recent years. This is due to the fact that RRPs (notably the Syria 3RP) have split out funding requirements amongst sectors, and it is not all put into one ‘Multi-sector’ bucket, but instead into sectors such as Early Recovery and so on.

In tandem with the decline in the funding requirement in recent years, funding received to the sector has also declined. Funding has declined by over a half across the last six years, from $233m in 2016, to $112m in 2021.

Our forecast is that Early Recovery will receive somewhere between 12% and 18% of the projected funding requirement. Our central estimate of $279m would be a significant jump on last year’s amount – but there’s quite a large range of possibilities on either side of this number.

Due to the general decline of Early Recovery as a distinct sector, this trend in both requirement and funding received is not surprising. Yet, we should distinguish between funding decreasing and funding becoming less visible. With the decline of Early Recovery as a distinct sector, it may not be that funding is declining, but that funding is not being recorded. As the 2018 evaluation pointed out, “UNDP has continued to be successful in raising funds for recovery programmes, mainly from development funding sources and outside the cluster. As a result, Early Recovery and UNDP’s own recovery work outside the country cluster total five to 10 times the funding received for ER through the cluster. The evaluation team found that the GCER has contributed to this mainstreaming success and overall funding increase, and that ER is now firmly rooted in the humanitarian system, although the ER cluster is not.”

It is important to highlight that Early Recovery continues to be a distinct cluster or sector in several contexts, including Syria, Cameroon, and Nigeria. Indeed, $308m of the $489m funding requirement in 2020 was driven by Syria and Nigeria alone.

Similarly, the number of contexts reporting Early Recovery funding is declining. Whilst 22 different contexts reported some Early Recovery funding in 2016, this declined to only 12 contexts reporting in 2020. Interestingly, this is also accompanied by an increase in the number of funding flows that are multiple sector and include Early Recovery (e.g. Early Recovery and Health, Early Recovery and Nutrition etc.). Only 2 funding flows like this were reported in 2016. Fast forward four years, and the number of records like this increased to 44.

This suggests a growing trend to Early Recovery funding being less visible in the data, even if funding is still being received. The value of those 44 funding flows in 2020 was $82m. Yet it is difficult to say whether all $82m went to Early Recovery activities. Some of that $82m may have done, but a lot of it will be for other sectors. This circles back to the discussion previously about what counts as Early Recovery, particularly when looking across sectors.

Turning our attention back to the forecast, we think that it’s almost certain that the Early Recovery sector will experience ‘real growth’ this year – that means funding received growing faster than the funding requirement. In this story, we’ve defined a real humanitarian recession as two consecutive years of a growing funding gap. 

We’ve already had two years of a growing funding gap, and thus Early Recovery is currently in a humanitarian recession. But the good news is that it will come out of recession this year.

How does the 2022 forecast compare to other sectors?

Our central estimate of $279m for Early Recovery puts the sector in 11th place. Earlier in the year we had thought that Child Protection would end up in a similar range, but given the unexpectedly strong performance of Early Recovery it is almost certain that the sector will end up 11th in the rankings.

The current state of things

The state of play in 2022 by the end of December goes against the trend of previous years. $181m has been received by the end of December – this is the highest funding at this point in the year in the last 5 years, and already surpasses the year total of any year since 2017.

Turning our attention to previous years, the general decline of Early Recovery funding was noted previously, declining by nearly two thirds since 2016. Yet, the picture above tells a slightly more complex story. We can see here that funding for the Early Recovery sector in 2018 and 2020 was roughly at the same level, whilst 2019 funding was particularly low, and it seems that 2021 tracked 2019 levels.

One question that occurs is what were the drivers of the 2019 and 2020 funding – given that they ended up at quite different end points. In 2020, Yemen drove nearly half of the funding ($49.8m), followed by substantial amounts for Syria ($33.4m) and Iraq ($27.3m). Compare this to 2019, and we see zero funding for Yemen, and some funding for Syria ($27m) and Iraq ($17m). The 2019 figures were also driven by the Central African Republic and Nigeria. This begs the question, to what extent can 2020 levels be sustained in the long run if the primary drivers of funding are only a few contexts?

Features of the Early Recovery sector in 2021

Only five contexts had an Early Recovery funding requirement in 2020 according to FTS, yet this increased to 19 contexts reporting that Early Recovery funding was needed in 2021. Better reporting of what is required is great. What is not great is that 11 contexts didn’t report any Early Recovery funding at all.

The success stories in the Early Recovery sector were the Humanitarian Response Plans in Iraq (45%), Mozambique (41%), and Nigeria (29%). These were the only sectors to receive over 25% of what was required.

Again, it’s important to note that not all funding may be captured here. The extract above regarding UNDP’s early recovery funding being ‘five to ten’ times greater than what is received for Early Recovery through the cluster is important to bear in mind. It’s also important to keep in mind the funding that is Early Recovery plus other sectors, which is not recorded above as we can’t disaggregate it.

Early Recovery was quite a diverse sector in 2021, with no one sector contributing more than 40% of all funding. The top donors were the US Government (34%), the European Commission (9%), the Norweigan Government (8%), the Syria Cross Border Fund (7%), and the Japanese Government (7%).

Using the Herfindahl Hirschman Index, the sector is considered unconcentrated, with a score of 1,438. As per the caveats in previous sections, the GCER evaluation noted that funding to UNDP for Early Recovery activities are far greater than what may be recorded, and so the above diagram may not be the complete picture of who is funding Early Recovery.

Whilst three UN agencies (IOM, ILO, and UNDP) are the only organisations to receive over $10m in Early Recovery funding for response plans, the sector is quite diverse in terms of recipients of funding. International NGOs such as ACF, DRC, and Mercy Corps receive a significant amount of funding – though almost all organisations with recorded funding are international.

2021 Forecast

Last year’s forecast can’t yet be judged against what the reality was as the 2021 numbers aren’t ‘final’ yet, despite it being 2022 already. It varies year-to-year, but there is still a non-trivial amount of funding that is logged after the end of the year. Therefore, we can’t really judge last year’s forecast until some point later in 2022. It’s at this point that we’ll do a post-mortem on our 2021 forecasts and see how well we did.


The usual health warning: FTS doesn’t capture everything. It is a platform that relies on voluntary reporting by organisations. But it is the most comprehensive source of data for humanitarian funding.

For forecast methodology, click here. We’ll be keeping a record of all our forecasts and success over time, which you can find here.

To find out methodology and sources for other things on this page which aren’t the forecast, click here.

Note: Numbers in ‘The current state of things’ graph may differ from elsewhere on the page as the data was extracted on a different date (13th January 2022) than other numbers that also show how much was received in 2022 (e.g. the column chart).