Five questions about the Grand Bargain

Many millions of people suffer from disasters and conflicts. Globally, there is not enough funding to provide all these people with relief according to the minimum international standards. Therefore, humanitarian aid has to be organised as efficient as possible. Donor governments used to have different views and expectations about this than implementing organisations. However, in 2016, a group of donor governments, NGO’s and UN-agencies signed an agreement on the organization of aid called ‘the Grand Bargain’. It has been three years now. How did the Grand Bargain work out?

1. What did donors and NGO’s agree upon in the Grand Bargain?

The Grand Bargain is an agreement about changes in the working practices of donors and aid organisations. It aims to deliver an extra billion dollars over five years to people in need of humanitarian aid. These changes – organised in 10 workstreams- include increased financial transparency, gearing up cash programming, greater funding for national and local responders (localisation) and cutting bureaucracy through joint needs assessments and harmonized reporting requirements. The Grand Bargain also aims to bring about a ‘Participation Revolution’: greater inclusion of people receiving aid in making the decisions, which affect their lives.

2. Who signed the agreement?

ZOA is pleased to be a part of this Grand Bargain and – together with many global partners – stands at the forefront of providing improved humanitarian assistance. Currently, there are 61 signatories (24 Member States, 21 NGOs, 12 UN agencies, two Red Cross movements, and two inter-governmental organisations). Government signatories are for example, The Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom, Canada and the United States; other NGO signatories include organisations such as Oxfam, Save the Children and IRC.

3. How did the Grand Bargain change ZOA’s way of working?

Many of the commitments are already part of ZOA’s operational procedures. For instance, reports in IATI to increase financial transparency. ZOA is also an active member of the CHS Alliance to increase the participation of people who are receiving the relief assistance.

Refugees from South Sudan in Uganda – one of the countries that experiences a major funding gap. Article continues below the photo. 

Refugees from South Sudan get to Uganda

However, the Grand Bargain has influenced our priorities. To live up to the agreements of the Grand Bargain, we turned ‘localisation’ into one of the focus points of our strategy. In our hybrid model, we have always combined the strengths of our own operational capacity with local partnerships whenever possible. This allows us to remain flexible and respond according to the needs and opportunities of its beneficiaries. Now, local partnerships are becoming increasingly important. As we have local presence in our programme areas, we are well positioned to enhance the effectiveness of our local partners through joint programming and on-the-job training. At the same time, ZOA emphasizes the importance of mutual learning, as both parties benefit from each other’s experience and expertise.

4. Does the Grand Bargain already deliver to its promise?

Not yet. In most of the 10 workstreams, the different views of the signatories require further debate and research, before we can reach concrete results. For instance: at one hand, the implementing agencies ask for less bureaucracy and paperwork, whereas donors require more compliance in order to minimize risks. Minister Sigrid Kaag from the Netherlands has been asked by the signatories to use her influence and network to remove political obstacles or to unlock stalling processes.

However, in some areas there are concrete results. For instance in the areas of Cash and Voucher Assistance, where donors and implementers have found common ground on how to provide this cash assistance in the best way. Moreover, in the area of reporting, the signatories have all agreed to use the same single reporting template, so we can submit the same report to different donors and still comply with their requirements. This really cuts bureaucracy.

The coming two to three years will be used to further discuss remaining obstacles and to fine-tune the results for the different workstreams.

5. What is the way forward?

We are responsible to our beneficiaries and to our constituency to offer the right assistance in an efficient way. We must do better as a sector and we have to do this now. ZOA is convinced that the discussions in the different workstreams are necessary to improve the assistance to people in vulnerable situations. The number of people who suffer from disasters and conflict will remain high, that is why we have to make sure that we deliver our aid as efficient as possible. It will not be easy to always agree with all the donors and all the other implementing organisations, but we must try. In the meantime, our emphasis in our strategic plan is on implementing the commitments of the Grand Bargain.

Click to read ZOA’s Strategic Plan Every Life Matters.