Rapid Response

Applying for Rapid Response Grants

CERF rapid response funds help UN agencies and their partners respond quickly to new humanitarian needs. Rapid response funds help support life-saving, humanitarian activities in the initial stages of a sudden-onset crisis or for slow-onset crises. They may also be used to respond to time-critical requirements or a significant deterioration in an existing emergency.

Rapid response funds are disbursed as soon as possible. They can be used as soon as a disaster occurs and must typically be expended within six months. CERF encourages UN agencies to make use of the option to choose an early start date, up to 6 weeks prior to disbursement.

Rapid response allocations must be line with CERF’s criteria for eligible life-saving humanitarian action as defined by CERF’s mandate. 

The provision of rapid response funds is a Country-driven exercise whereby:

  • The RC/HC requests use of CERF Funding and identifies priority life-saving needs by consulting the humanitarian country team.
  • The ERC decides on the request*. 
  • The RC/HC submits an application package including a strategy and of project proposals.
  • The ERC approves applications.
  • CERF disburses funds to the UN agencies.

All UN Organizations (excluding OCHA) are eligible for funding, However, NGOs cannot directly request for the same. 

*Agencies cannot submit proposals directly to the ERC.


Rapid response funding was initiated by the General Assembly in 2005. It provides funding for three types of situations:

  1. Sudden-onset emergencies
  2. A rapid or significant deterioration of an existing humanitarian situation
  3. Time-critical interventions

Application process

A rapid response allocation is a collaborative process and is managed by a country’s RC and/or HC. Following consultations with the humanitarian country team, an RC/HC sends a request for rapid response funding to the CERF secretariat. 
Requests are accepted throughout the year. The CERF secretariat will review the requests and the ERC will make the final decision.

Once the ERC has decided to make a CERF allocation, the country team, under the leadership of the RC/HC, compiles a CERF application, including a strategy and projects.

Rapid response applications will include humanitarian projects that are critical to a country’s emergency. Projects should:

  • Respond to the needs of a sudden-onset emergency, rapid deterioration of an existing crisis, or time-critical intervention, e.g. in case of slow-onset emergencies.
  • Demonstrate access/capacity to implement, be essential for the humanitarian response, and prioritized by the HCT and the RC/HC through a consultative process.
  • Comply with the Guidance on CERF Life-Saving Criteria and any other CERF guidelines.
  • Jump-start or initiate an emergency response. Funds should not be used to support a previously existing emergency response.  CERF will not fund 100 per cent of an emergency’s project requirements except in rare circumstances.

Implementation timeframe

Funds should be committed and project activities completed within six months of the date that CERF disburses funds (CERF disburses funds directly to a recipient agency’s headquarters).
In situations where agencies expense funds before CERF disburses funds, the agency may request an earlier disbursement date. Up to six weeks prior to CERF’s intended disbursement date and should not be before the emergency actually occurs.