Three ways the Grand Bargain is poised to make real difference for humanitarian implementers

At the end of last year I posted a blog wondering whether the Grand Bargain (What is the Grand Bargain?) would be over by Christmas.  I am pleased to report that is not the case. In January I was part of some key meetings with peer NGOs, the IASC humanitarian finance task team and representatives of the Good Humanitarian Donorship Initiative.  At these meetings, it was clear that the Grand Bargain has been gaining traction with donors and is starting to drive changes that will make a real difference in the field.

Donors like ECHO and UN agencies like OCHA now have significant processes going on internally to work on implementing the Grand Bargain commitments.  In February, ECHO will be compiling reports from each Grand Bargain signatory on their work so far.  Progress will be presented at an open side event of the ECOSOC Humanitarian Segment in June.  Like all signatories to the Grand Bargain, World Vision is preparing a report on our contribution.  As we do so, it is exciting to see three areas that are particularly interesting for implementers on the ground.

Simplification and harmonization of reporting

In recent weeks WFP, several UN agencies and at least five significant government donors have signalled their willingness to pilot a common narrative reporting format. This could lead to significant administrative savings for all types of organisations – larger ones will have one format across multiple donors and smaller local organisations will find it easier to manage funding. Over the next two years there will be pilots conducted in up to five field locations. If all of these donors sign on to a common format it could eventually cover more than 85% of World Vision’s humanitarian grants, based on our grants in 2016.

This leap forward on common narrative reporting brings together the Less Paper More Aid project run by ICVA, as well as the Grand Bargain work stream on harmonisation and simplification of reporting. In time it may also include financial reporting and audits. Discussions are also underway between the major UN agencies to harmonise capacity assessments to make it easier for partners of all types to pass national level eligibility tests to receive funding. World Vision is looking into field piloting the new reporting format and would encourage other NGOs to consider piloting as well. If your organisation would like to participate, contact

 Moving towards multiyear funding

Humanitarian crises are now more predictable and multiyear. In the last decade 77% of humanitarian funding went to the same 20 countries (global humanitarian assistance from 2003-2014 in GHA, 2015). According to UNHCR there are more displaced people than ever before and over 30 “displacement situations” which have continued for a decade or more (UNHCR, 2015, p.20). Despite this, the majority of humanitarian financing has short-term funding windows that fail to promote long-term approaches, reduce opportunities for efficiency and undermine linkages to longer term development approaches. This makes it really difficult for field implementers to develop long-term sustainable solutions, maintain staff and capability and better serve communities in need. 

FAO, OCHA and NRC are leading work to better understand the challenges to multiyear planning and funding at field level. World Vision is commissioning research into the field benefits of multiyear funding and will ensure that this makes a useful contribution to the Grand Bargain work. All of this research work will contribute to the growing interest from major donors about how to do multiyear funding in humanitarian environments.  For example, Voice has a task force on the Grand Bargain and World Vision is also working with them to provide input into discussions with ECHO and the European Commission on this topic. WFP’s 2017-2019 management plan references the Grand Bargain and notes that the adoption of multiyear funding is essential to success (WFP Management Plan 2017-2019, part 39).

Accountability and localisation

Under the Grand Bargain, work is underway to bring together the UN’s Financial Tracking Service (FTS) and the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) reporting standard.  FTS is the go-to data source for UN appeals and the best source for an idea of where funding has been allocated at the national level. IATI, of which World Vision is an active supporter,  is more of a rearward facing tool that seeks to measure both humanitarian and development resource flows to increase accountability in the aid sector as a whole.  IATI reporting is mandatory for several governments including the UK and Netherlands.

As part of the Grand Bargain there is a project to develop a "humanitarian extension" to IATI that will merge this with FTS to some degree.  This work has some potentially exciting implications for implementers. One aspect is to enable tracking of funding that is passed on from UN agencies or NGOs to their implementing partners. This will help to ensure that local partners get more recognition of their work (as outlined in the Charter4Change), and enable more accurate data on funding allocations.

Better data will enable stronger discussions around the need for investment in capacity building of frontline responders, as called for in the localisation section of the Grand Bargain. Higher levels of transparency around funding flows should also lead to evidence-based discussions about the best routes for funding to get to the field. More efficient funding routes will mean more funding reaches implementers of all types increasing the benefit to those affected by humanitarian emergencies.

The Grand Bargain was launched to much fanfare at the World Humanitarian Summit in May last year. Eight months on, it is great to see that work is moving forward on technical details to make tangible improvements for implementers and the children, women and men that they serve.  The above covers just three areas that are making a difference. Over the coming months many other benefits are likely to emerge. It is now up to all of us to work together to make sure that we make the most of this opportunity.  

Learn more