NGOs' role and opportunities with the Grand Bargain: Follow-up questions

On 3 March, the last online session in PHAP’s and ICVA’s learning stream on humanitarian financing took place with more than 200 online participants. The event focused on the Grand Bargain process and its implications for NGOs in specially three areas: increasing support to local and national responders, harmonized and simplified reporting, and the humanitarian-development nexus.

The webinar featured presentations from three experts – Anne Street from CAFOD, Jeremy Rempel from ICVA, and Sara Sekkenes from UNDP – after an overview of the Grand Bargain provided by Melissa Pitotti from ICVA, and followed by an opportunity to ask questions after each presentation. Apart from answering questions live during the event (which you can listen to in the event recording), the guest experts have also answered follow-up questions from the event participants, which you can now find on this page.


“When are annual reports on progress on Grand Bargain due and when will a consolidated report on progress be produced? Is there a one-stop place (website) to go for all information related to the Grand Bargain?”
 - Regional director, INGO, UK & humanitarian advocacy manager, INGO, France

Melissa Pitotti

After the webinar, the appointment of the new Grand Bargain Secretariat was announced. Paulette Jones, in her new role on the GB, working with the Facilitation Group, will be supporting information management and reporting, and liaising closely with the leads of the ten workstreams taking forward the commitments, as well as with other signatories and stakeholders in the process. Paulette is located with the IASC Secretariat in the Palais des Nations, Geneva. You can reach her on the new GB Secretariat e-mail: [email protected].

Information on the GB can be found here. However, the GB's new Secretariat is creating a new webpage for the GB to house even more content. GB signatories have been asked to submit their updated self-reports by 27 March 2017. These will be published on the GB website. An independent annual report will be finalized in May 2017, and launched at the GB signatories meeting to be held on 20 June 2017.

"NGOs are often the first responders to a crisis, but in general the first-responder role should be actually taken up by the state. Only if the state is not able to respond, NGOs and other humanitarian actors should fill in this gap. How are national and local governments affected by crises addressing the Grand Bargain and all related reforms?"
 - Standards and preparedness advisor, INGO, Germany

Melissa Pitotti

The Grand Bargain was negotiated by a limited number of stakeholders. Therefore, apart from the government of Turkey, national and local governments were by and large not present during the negotiations. However, the Grand Bargain negotiations concluded with an agreement by all participants to be more inclusive going forward. This is particularly important for the workstreams related to national and local responders, participation revolutions (which includes affected populations, not just governments) and the humanitarian-development nexus.

"What does participation revolution workstream in the Grand Bargain process mean for NGOs?"
 - Analyst, Austria

 Melissa Pitotti

Kate Halff of the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response (SCHR) is co-convening this workstream, and she notes that the Grand Bargain “participation revolution” workstream aims at:

- incentivizing effective “participation” of people affected by humanitarian crises, namely putting the needs and interests of those people at the core of humanitarian decision making, by actively engaging them throughout decision-making processes.

- making specific actionable recommendations that incentivize buy-in by all Grand Bargain signatories and emphasize the benefits of “participation” as a way of working. Ultimately, the implementation of these recommendations will result in positive outcomes for crises affected people, in terms of (1) their ability to influence the design and implementation of the response, (2) their feedback on what’s working/ not working acted upon, (3) information needed to make informed decisions about accessing assistance and staying safe.

"There is no standardized definition of 'local' actor, but in practice, for instance among Charter4Change’s partners, do you consider INGOs’ local branches in a country 'local' actors?"
 - Founder, INGO, Switzerland

Anne Street

Establishing what are the definitions of national and local humanitarian actors is important to being able to track the GB commitment to deliver 25% of humanitarian funding to national/ local actors. A survey to elicit the views and opinions of national and local actors on what constitutes a national actor has been in circulation closing on 23 March 2017. Through the IASC Humanitarian Financing Task Team+ (HFTT+)’s Localization Marker Working Group we have worked hard to disseminate this survey and get feedback.

Different actors have different views on what is the definition of a national actor, but by and large it appears that most national NGOs would not consider as a national actor a large international NGO founded in the global north which has registered in a country of operation where it implements humanitarian programs.

“The localization marker seems to focus primarily on definitions (what is 'a local agency', what is 'direct funding'). While this clarity is needed, a truly useful localization marker should measure where a humanitarian response falls on the localization continuum: is it blind to localization, sensitive or transformative? (very much like the gender marker). Are there plans for this tool to go beyond definition into measurement of depth of localization?”
 - Humanitarian partnership coordinator, INGO, Switzerland

Anne Street

There are 2 types of markers: one which would be quantitative would merely track funding flows. A second type is a qualitative marker which as described tracks the quality of funding in relation to ‘localization’. This second type of marker is more accurate as a ‘policy’ marker, which would aim to change behavior. A marker could also seek to combine elements of both types.

The Localization Marker Working Group of the IASC HFTT+ is currently finalizing it proposals for what type of tool(s) is needed to respond to the Grand Bargain localization workstream commitments.

“One of the problems we see is that donors in conflict countries are reluctant to have more local partners but want to have larger projects with less partners, and thus there is less access for local actors. How does this align with the Grand Bargain workstream on support to local and national responders?”
 - Director, local NGO, Afghanistan

Anne Street

This is true not just in conflict contexts, as many donors do not have staff at an operational/ program level, and the administrative burdens of funding a lot of small actors are too great in a time when many donors are cutting back on overheads, and asking their partners to work in large consortia. In some respects, this is a contradiction with the GB localization workstream aspirations. But we must explore ways that address this, and which still meet donor due diligence requirements; for example, exploring the use of pooled funds (both UN-led and NGO pooled funds such as START and the upcoming fund which will be set up by NEAR).

“There is a lot of discussion about promoting local and national responders’ capacity building, but there are very limited funding opportunities for this. Are there any initiatives from donors specifically funding local capacity building programs?”
 - Head of international projects, academia, France

Anne Street

ECHO has an Enhanced Response Capacity budget line. In the current call, which closed in January 2017, localization was one of the priority sectors. As NGOs we should be advocating to donors which have signed the Grand Bargain that they explore ways to expand their funding to support the capacity enhancement of national actors as part of their commitments under the Grand Bargain Localization workstream.


“Do you think that the Grand Bargain will actually open more funding to local NGOs while keeping the standards for quality and accountability of humanitarian assistance?”
 - Representative, INGO, Switzerland

Anne Street

Yes. The Grand Bargain has put localization of humanitarian financing firmly on the policy agenda, and signatories are exploring how they can respond to this. It is unlikely that bilateral donors will be able to substantially increase direct funding to local NGOs, but this challenge may encourage them to invest more funds in capacity support to enable national actors to grow their programs, and deliver humanitarian aid to the agreed quality and accountability standards.

“How will the current due diligence requirements for donor funding be addressed to create a more empowering and realistic process for local and national NGOs?”
 - Freelance consultant, UK

Anne Street

This is a complex area, as due diligence is often extremely burdensome not just for national actors, but for INGOs as well. The IASC HFTT has done some work which relates closely to this to try to roll out harmonized Partner Capacity Assessment forms.

"Which of the donors are seriously implementing the localization commitments? Which one is leading by example?"
 - Political advisor, INGO, Netherlands

Anne Street

The Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) group of 42 donors has a workstream on localised preparedness and response in their current workplan. The activity is led by Australia, the country is currently exploring various initiatives to increase the range of ways that they respond to localization. Other donors are also interested in taking this forward, including Switzerland (which co-leads the Grand Bargain workstream on localization), the EU through ECHO, Canada, and Sweden.

“Will the Grand Bargain, especially through the localization of aid (25%), somehow marginalize or pose a threat to smaller INGOs which mostly rely on big donors (i.e. ECHO, DFID, USAID)? What do you think is needed for INGOs to change on an institutional level to remain relevant in this new localization of aid 'mandate'?”
 - Field coordinator, INGO, Switzerland

Anne Street

In some ways one could argue the opposite: most of the biggest INGOs are operational agencies which primarily deliver aid directly to crisis affected people, whilst many of the more partnership-focused INGOs are not the largest agencies (with one or 2 notable exceptions). We are unlikely to see donors directly funding national NGOs to any great degree for some time to come.

Operational INGOs are only likely to change the way they work if the policy environment changes and it becomes a requirement by donors to work through and with local actors.

“If you wish to fulfill 100% of donor requirements of all donors, how can the burden be actually reduced? Shouldn’t flexibility be the key to simplify reporting?”
 - Policy officer, INGO, Germany

Jeremy Rempel

A significant focus of the analysis completed last year on the subject of donor reporting was to look across a wide range of donors and understand how much overlap existed between current reporting requirements and guidance. This was the basis for what we are calling the "10+3" approach recommended by GPPi, who conducted the analysis. Essentially it was determined that 80% of requirements across donors could be met by reporting on ten common dimensions. By selecting three additional dimensions from a menu of topics, the remaining 20% could be met. So the reduction in burden comes from the fact that it is effectively possible to meet 100% of the requirements of most donors by using a single report framework - rather than multiple frameworks that now exist. I would encourage those interested to look through the GPPi study.

Beyond a simple technical solution, there is also a need to ensure that we better understand informal reporting burdens (e-mail correspondence, additional information requests, etc.) to ensure that the overall burden is understood and managed, not just formal report frameworks. And burden can depend largely on perception. When the value and use of reporting is not well understood or communicated, it will be more burdensome on staff.

So, there is work to be done! But through the planned pilot efforts that will start shortly, we hope to make significant progress on both reducing burden, and maintaining the quality and usefulness of donor reporting.

"In my work I can see that donors are unwilling to unseal their development and relief funding streams proving to be a major blockage for humanitarian agencies. In this context (though DFID, ECHO and other donors are becoming more flexible), how does the Grand Bargain plan to overcome that hurdle?"
 - Freelance consultant, Switzerland  

Sara Sekkenes

Donors are also a part of the Grand Bargain signatories, and the dialogue around this piece needs to continue. For example, through the Copenhagen high-level meeting (on the New Way of Working roll-out) a part of the engagement is around financing models and solutions for better humanitarian/ development coherence. This is an element that we need to work on jointly in 2017 to look at best financing solutions that incentivize the system to achieve collective outcomes.

"Sara, in the New Way of Working that you mentioned throughout your presentation, how are you considering and including other, non-traditional responders (not NGOs), e.g. community philanthropists, corporates, etc., or even non-State armed groups?"
 - Freelance consultant, UK   

Sara Sekkenes

The purpose of the New Way of Working is to find a new joint modality of implementation that goes beyond just the work of the UN, but looks at collective outcomes of all humanitarian actors and development workers in a particular situation that have a role in constructively contributing to solutions under the Sustainable Development Goals of the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development.

You can access the rest of the Q&A as well as further resources on the event page.