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Bargaining for better: Bringing a feminist lens to the Grand Bargain 2.0

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This brief was written by Marcy Hersh, Robyn Baron (Consultants) and Niki Ignatiou (ActionAid UK) in collaboration with Grace Ireri and Francisco Yermo (ActionAid International).

1. Introduction

The Grand Bargain was launched during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016, as a unique agreement between humanitarian agencies and donors to reform and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of international humanitarian aid.

2021 marks the fifth year of the Grand Bargain. Signatories have agreed to endorse a new iteration of the agreement – the Grand Bargain 2.0 – which will examine how to best advance quality financing and localisation. Despite this commitment, the current iteration of the Grand Bargain is still failing to meaningfully shift power, resource, and decision-making power to local actors – including women’s rights organisations (WROs) and women-led organisations (WLOs) – as leading actors, across all stages of the humanitarian cycle.

Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls (GEEWG) are not effectively reflected within the current Grand Bargain 2.0 proposition. This is problematic and concerning on many levels: when women and their organisations’ contributions are undervalued, it can have long-lasting and detrimental impacts on both their rights as well as the humanitarian system’s capacity to effectively respond to their needs and that of their communities.

At ActionAid we adopted a set of intersectional feminist principles as part of our transformative vision towards of a just world free from poverty, oppression, and patriarchy. Our embrace of transformative feminist leadership arises from our wider commitment to intersectional feminism as an ideology, an analytical framework and a social change strategy. ActionAid’s Humanitarian Signature is therefore inspired by these feminist principles and informed by our understanding and experience of shifting power to local communities, specifically WROs and WLOs. This is done by promoting the leadership of women who are affected by crisis, and being accountable to affected communities, as a vital step to understand the local context, needs and realities of women, girls and the community at whole, with a commitment to longer-term sustainability and resilience by empowering women leaders to address underlying causes of inequality. This has enabled ActionAid to meaningfully follow-through with its Grand Bargain commitments to women’s leadership and localisation under the Grand Bargain. This includes its membership in Charter for Change and eight individual commitments made at the World Humanitarian Summit, specifically advocating for meaningful participation and information sharing with its WLO and WRO partners. These ideals underline Action Aid’s engagement as an actor in the humanitarian system – including in the upcoming Grand Bargain 2.0.

Drawing on relevant literature on the Grand Bargain and GEEWG commitments to date, as well as qualitative survey data with ActionAid’s WRO and WLO partners and ActionAid staff in 10 countries, this Policy Brief provides key recommendations for shaping and implementing the Grand Bargain 2.0 so that it is more effective for women and girls. The brief focuses on the importance of investing in local women’s leadership and GEEWG considerations within all humanitarian action as well as in the new Grand Bargain operational framework as a means to achieve effective localisation that works for, and empowers, women and girls affected by crisis.