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Five examples of how the Grand Bargain has improved humanitarian assistance

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In 2016, governments, international organisations and NGOs began reforming humanitarian assistance. With the Grand Bargain 2.0, the reform process is now entering the second phase at a conference today.

How can humanitarian assistance become better and more efficient – with the same level of funding? To this end, the Grand Bargain reform process was launched at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in 2016. Governments, international organisations and NGOs are working closely together on this. Five years later, the signatories are taking stock at a conference and want to further strengthen the reform process.

What has the Grand Bargain achieved to date?

1. Assistance has become more flexible

Crises can change rapidly: an armed conflict causes a food crisis, floods lead to epidemics. In the past, it was not always easy for the humanitarian system to react quickly to such changes. The solution provided by the Grand Bargain is flexible funding.

If relief organisations can deploy their funding flexibly where the need is greatest, then they save time and resources. For example, Germany provided the World Food Programme with 30 million euro in spring 2021 for humanitarian assistance in East Africa, which will now be used, for example, in Somalia, where the food situation has become critical against the background of COVID-19, droughts and the locust infestation last year.

Since 2016, Germany has increased its share of flexible funding from 11% to 37%. The joint target of the Grand Bargain signatories is a share of 30%.

2. Assistance has become more local

Large international relief organisations are indispensable in the humanitarian framework. Yet often relief organisations from crisis regions are more familiar with the situation and know what assistance is needed on the ground and how to reach people.

For that reason, Germany is constantly increasing the share of humanitarian funding which goes either directly or indirectly to local organisations. Around one quarter of funding is now going as directly as possible to local stakeholders in this way.

For instance, Germany funded a project run by the Malteser in Syria, which was implemented in its entirety at local level. Local NGOs were able to establish eight healthcare facilities in north-west Syria. The Malteser have been supporting the implementation and providing the necessary know-how.

3. Assistance has become less bureaucratic

In many cases, relief organisations had to write long reports in different formats in line with the requirements set by donors. That cost time and money – resources which are actually needed to organise food distribution, build accommodation or maintain sanitation facilities. That is why Germany developed a simplified and uniform form for reports within the framework of the Grand Bargain. Germany now uses it for all NGO partners. Many other states and UN organisations, such as OCHA and UNHCR, have adopted it.

4. Assistance focuses on human dignity

Assistance is effective if it really addresses people’s needs. In past crises and disasters, relief supplies were sometimes provided which could not be used on the ground or which were already available in the region itself. The Grand Bargain has helped to ensure that today relief organisations are increasingly distributing humanitarian assistance in monetary form. This allows those suffering hardship to maintain their dignity and decide for themselves what they actually need – to the extent that the local market can provide it. This also benefits the local economy. At present, Germany is providing around 20% of its humanitarian assistance around the world in the form of cash or vouchers.

5. Assistance has become more precise

Before humanitarian assistance can be provided, relief organisations have to establish how many people are affected and what they need. The more precisely they can ascertain this need, the more efficient the assistance can be. Within the Grand Bargain, Germany was a member of a working group which developed a new method of establishing need, the Joint Intersectoral Analysis Framework (JIAF). The advantage of the JIAF is that data collection is coordinated among the sectors – such as food, accommodation or healthcare – from the outset. Last year, teams developed humanitarian response plans in 27 countries with the aid of the JIAF.