The Grand Bargain started as a parallel process, exploring how to raise more funds for the world’s growing humanitarian needs. After the release of the report of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing, a 30 person ‘sherpa’ process was launched with 15 donor, 10 UN/IOM, 2 RCRC movement and 3 NGO consortia involved. The result of this process has been a document that outlines 10 commitment areas, framed by a chapeau that highlights the importance of mutual respect, a peer approach and the importance of benefits being shared at all levels of implementation.
The idea of a humanitarian-development nexus is not new, however as crises become increasingly protracted, the call to overcome traditional silos is ever more urgent. This challenge, however, cannot rest on the shoulders of humanitarian actors alone. Humanitarian actors must continue to evolve and development actors must equally recognize and act upon their responsibilities relating to conflict prevention and rule of law, more effective disaster risk reduction, and continuity of basic services even during crises, in order to mitigate the impact of crises on vulnerable people. Development actors too must be present and vocal on behalf of affected people. A more holistic approach to financing is also essential to better meet the needs of the most vulnerable people facing protracted crises.
Further, while efforts to bring together humanitarian and development actors to address and end need offers advantages, the exceptionalism of humanitarian action must be safeguarded at all times. The operating principles underpinning development and humanitarian action are, and must remain, fundamentally different. Humanitarian actors, including NGOs, can only respond to human suffering during crises if they are able to operate without threat to the safety of their staff and facilities. In this regard, humanitarian operations must remain neutral and independent in order to maintain dialogue with all actors and, thereby, ensure full access and continuous proximity to affected people. InterAction calls upon the United Nations and member states to work in partnership with NGOs to increase complementarity between humanitarian and development actors, but without undermining principled humanitarian action.
While not all INGOs work in the capacity development field necessarily, the majority have partnerships with national or local actors. What is critical is that we ensure these partnerships adhere to the key principles of partnership (Equality, Transparency, Results-Oriented Approach, Responsibility and Complementarity) and are built on a platform of mutual respect. Our commitments note that INGOs have a key role to play in building the capacity of local NGOs and CSO partners and we are committed to developing quality partnerships for quality results.
The announcement of commitments is only one step. The true change will come in how they will be implemented. We must ensure that we develop a monitoring plan, holding ourselves accountable to the promises that we make. We are open to new approaches, and adaptable to ensuring they are context-specific and evidence-informed.
Above all, we must ensure that we put affected people at the center of decision-making from the start. Some commitments will require us to change how we work internally; some will require how we work with affected people or other stakeholders. All require change, incremental or instant, and this will be monitored by members and shared with InterAction.
All have a role to play in ensuring greater humanitarian action is achieved. We need an ecosystem of actors that can collaborate, share the burden and function effectively alongside one another. NGOs have greater access to populations in need than many other actors. We are thus entrusted with a responsibility to speak out on their behalf.
InterAction’s members have collectively identified the following three priority areas for reform of the UN’s humanitarian organizations:
- Adhere to the principles of Good Humanitarian Donorship: Develop common and streamlined partnership framework agreements, including guidelines, conditions, and reporting requirements. Partnership frameworks must be sufficiently malleable to allow for multi-year grants with moderate restrictions. The benefit to both international and national NGOs would be less time spent on understanding and monitoring multiple complex UN donor policies, and more time implementing.
- Introduce full transparency in the management of pass-through funds: Including clarity on and within their own budgets particularly prioritization and timeliness of partner funds disbursement, as well as their financial and human resource contributions to collective outcomes.
- Introduce a framework to better navigate the conflicts of interest that arise from the multiple roles it plays as it interfaces with implementers: Overcoming traditional silos must be done in consideration of the need to move towards an integrated structure to ensure a holistic and area-based response. This is critical to enabling humanitarian action that is as local as possible and as international as necessary.
This is the wrong framing. The question is whether the system, as currently structured, is adaptable enough to achieve the shared vision of an ecosystem of diverse actors, with affected people at the center, in which frontline and national responders receive adequate and timely resources. Respect for diversity, sharing power and funds, and flexibility in approaches are all required for this ecosystem to be better reflected in humanitarian action. We cannot give up on our current system, as for its faults, we are managing to aid millions of affected people. However, we can also not be complacent. We must seek and bring about the changes required. We must also be aware of the margins of what the humanitarian system can do, and ensure we are not alone in addressing the needs of affected people. Member states, development actors, host governments, all have a role to play.