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Field perspectives on multi-year humanitarian funding and planning: How theory has translated into practice in Jordan and Lebanon, December 2019

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This research contributes important evidence on the reality of predictable and flexible funding in the field and identifies recommendations for the global Grand Bargain workstream on enhanced quality of funding. Jordan and Lebanon were selected as two sample contexts, given their protracted and relatively stable crisis contexts with a degree of comparability.

The research involved semi-structured key informant interviews and is complemented with quantitative data on multi-year humanitarian funding and planning (MYHFP) directly collected from implementers in both countries. It first explores the field perceptions on definitions and extent of MYHFP in both Jordan and Lebanon. This includes evidence on the proportions of MYHF at the first and second level and outlines the synergies between flexible and predictable funding, before analysing how the time frame of funding links with that of strategies and programming. Secondly, it provides a summary of perceived and experienced efficiency and effectiveness gains for the response in both countries through MYHFP. Alongside a summary of anecdotal evidence, it analyses in greater detail how longer term funding and programming might benefit the localisation agenda and activities with a gender focus.

Key insights

Proportions of MYHF, synergies and time frame of funding:

  • There was no commonly agreed definition of MYHF at the field level in relation to duration or conditions of contracts, though areas of consensus on what this might entail were evident.
  • There was also a shared sense across all stakeholders in both countries that at the system level the proportion of MYHF was not significant enough to transform the humanitarian response.
  • There are a number of challenges towards cascading MYHF to partners as multi-year sub-grants. Large implementing agencies need to take a proactive role.
  • Donors and implementers in Jordan and Lebanon reinforced the need for MYHF to be flexible to unlock its potential to improve the response through low levels of earmarking or by allowing for adaptive programming. Flexible multi-year funding that can be shifted between budget lines, activities, geographical regions and years allowed implementers to adapt programmes based on learning or changing need.

Efficiency and effectiveness:

  • With low proportions of MYHF received, implementers say they can’t prove effectiveness without increased funding. This seemingly compounds the issue, where some donors say they don’t provide much multi-year funding because the results aren’t proven.
  • Interviewees in both Jordan and Lebanon quoted efficiency gains in grant management and staff retention through multi-year funding. Both donors and implementers noted that MYHFP led to higher staff retention through longer contracts and thereby more internal capacity building.
  • The need for MYHF to build capacity is especially relevant to local and national actors, who often receive short-term funding for tightly earmarked to specific deliverables.
  • Multi-year programming reportedly enables a continued presence geographically and with a target population. This helps to build trust with affected communities, which benefits e.g. safe spaces for sexual and gender-based violence survivors.
  • A longer time frame of funding and programming also allows for a longer start-up phase, if necessary, with better baselines of the target population’s needs and wider stakeholder consultations. Implementers reported that this improved targeting and coordination with other implementing partners

While relevant for all stakeholders working in this area, this research particularly identifies recommendations for the global Grand Bargain workstream on enhanced the quality of funding and its members.

The report was produced in partnership between the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and Development Initiatives (DI) and funded by the government of Canada.