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.
NGOs can hold the humanitarian system accountable in a variety of ways:
- Request that coordination meeting minutes (HCT and cluster) are regularly shared with members and accurately reflect meeting discussions.
- Follow up on feedback provided; if comments were not taken on board in a strategic or operational document such as an advocacy statement, joint needs assessment, Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), cluster response plan, Strategic Response Plan, etc ask why, document the response and escalate if necessary.
- Every part of the architecture requires a document that explains its role and function in country, often in the form of a Terms of Reference (TOR).
- If a cluster, a country-based funding mechanism and/or the HCT does not have such a document request that it be drafted and finalized in a consultative manner.
- As cluster members, review and provide feedback on Cluster TOR and management arrangements.
- As HCT members, review and provide feedback on the HCT TOR.
- Engage with global and high-level missions.
- If a cluster or HCT is not fulfilling its mandate, raise the issue. Try to resolve it in-country by engaging with the NGO coordinating body, Cluster Lead Agency (CLA), OCHA, and the Humanitarian Coordinator if necessary. Document your dialogue.
- Inform your headquarters and potentially one of the global NGO consortia if the humanitarian architecture in-country is not fit for purpose.
NGOs have a range of accountabilities within the humanitarian architecture.
At the country level NGOs should:
- Understand the humanitarian architecture in both theory as well as local practice.
- Take the time to share major humanitarian decisions and discuss the strategic objectives of the response with partners and local community leaders.
- Be engaged, pro-active and strategic in your interactions with the NGO consortia (if it exists) clusters, OCHA and the Humanitarian Country Team.
- Devote time/human resources to co-lead a cluster at the national or sub-national level.
- Utilize and contribute to collective resources such as humanitarianresponse.info
At the global level NGOs should:
- Understand the humanitarian architecture in both theory as well as function in the country programs within your purview.
- Bring field realities to policy discussions via the IASC task teams, reference groups, research institutes and the global NGO consortia.