The debate about cash assistance for humanitarian and development aid has shifted. The World Food Program distributes an estimated one-third of its aid in the form of cash. Recent studies on cash assistance--such as the International Rescue Committee’s impact evaluation report, Emergency Economies: The Impact of Cash Assistance in Lebanon --have found that cash assistance has a positive impact on recipients and their local economies. These studies also increasingly point to the influence that digital payments may have in fostering the growth of inclusive financial ecosystems that deliver economic benefits long after the end of crises.
This event will explore the potential of digital payments as a cash transfer modality for long-term economic development. Can the ecosystems built to transfer cash for humanitarian or other aid be used to extend financial services to underserved populations? Can these digital pathways be used to deliver other types of aid? Can these systems be robust enough and have the necessary safeguards to contribute to economic resilience for recipient communities? What partnerships must be forged to effectuate these ecosystems and how can we balance potentially competing interests between third-party providers, such as banks or credit card companies, recipients, and aid agencies? What data and customer protections should be put in place? How can we ensure equitable access to the most vulnerable of aid recipients (youth, women, refugees, and individuals with disabilities, for example)?
Follow the discussion online using #DigitalAidPayments and following @NewAmerica.
Team Lead, Digital Finance, USAID
Remarks on Emerging Evidence:
Senior Director for Economic Programs, International Rescue Committee
Research Associate, Overseas Development Institute in London
Senior Policy Analyst, Asset Building Program, New America