IKEA and MSF tackle 'underreported' crises with new partnership model

MSF provides medical care to displaced families in Banki, Nigeria, with funding from the IKEA Foundation. Photo by: Stéphane Reynier de Montlaux / MSF

LONDON — The Global Peace Index puts the cost of current humanitarian conflicts on the world economy at $14.2 trillion and rising, with a growing funding gap of about $2 trillion per year. At the same time, the world’s biggest national donor, the United States, is weighing potential cuts of more than 30 percent. Thus many are increasingly looking to the private sector for help.

While it’s mathematically impossible to fill the huge gap with private donors and philanthropy alone, many in that sector are giving more and beginning to look into providing more nuanced, strategic resources, in addition to cash, development experts say. These evolving models of funding and cooperation offer potential new ways to provide humanitarian aid more effectively, and experts are watching them closely for their impact.

As mounting crises in Yemen, Syria, Northern Nigeria and elsewhere squeeze the budgets of humanitarian agencies, the 142 million euro, 30-staff philanthropic arm of the Swedish furniture company IKEA last year noticed that its nonprofit partner, Médecins Sans Frontière, was less and less able to afford the kind of advocacy and communications operations needed to raise the profile of its work. This was particularly true in the most fragile contexts where media attention was lacking.

Making matters more difficult, MSF had recently renounced institutional funding from the European Union in protest of its controversial migration policies, putting more pressure on its private donors, who now fund all of MSF’s humanitarian work.

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About the author

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    Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a U.K. Correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.