The Grand Bargain – A Shared Commitment to Better Serve People in Need

Originally published
View original


We live in a world where conflicts, natural disasters and disease are driving ever greater numbers of people to seek desperate remedies for their hunger, safety and survival. The world has never been so wealthy and yet on the frontline of humanitarian action, where courageous work is taking place daily, the lack of available resources to save lives is a constantly growing risk. This massive, deepening deficit requires an ambitious, global and collective response.

The Grand Bargain is about harnessing the vast experience and expertise from across the humanitarian ecosystem and bringing it into a realignment which is better prepared for tackling the emergency needs of more than 125 million people, fully recognising the diverse needs defined by their age, gender and abilities.

Its purpose is to ensure that we are able to anticipate and prepare for crises, that we can deliver protection and assistance better to the most vulnerable and that we can restore opportunity and dignity to them. The Grand Bargain recognises that, faced with the reality of our woefully underresourced humanitarian response, the status quo is no longer an option. We have to do much more far better. We need to find and create efficiency - while also doing more to shrink overall needs and deepen the resource base for funding humanitarian action.
Above all, the Grand Bargain is about the need to work together efficiently, transparently and harmoniously with new and existing partners, including the private sector, individuals and nontraditional sources of funding. This requires us to innovate, collaborate and adapt mind-sets.

We commit to support local and national responders on the frontline, improve the use of cash and increase flexible funding – just three of the ways in which the Grand Bargain will make a difference to the lives of people in need. Setting targets which are global, aggregate and aspirational will keep these changes to our business model on course and allow us to track progress. In the same spirit, an understanding inherent to the Grand Bargain is that benefits are for all partners, not just the big organisations.

By optimising the comparative advantages which exist throughout the humanitarian ecosystem – by playing to our respective strengths and using them collectively as efficiently and effectively as possible - we want to increase the range and diversity of partners willing to contribute. The Grand Bargain is a level playing field where we all meet as equals. It is rooted in the humanitarian principles as well as respect for one another as peers.

We recognise that enhanced trust amongst donors and aid organisations1 can be achieved by holding ourselves and one another accountable for delivering on the Grand Bargain policy commitments. And we acknowledge that we need to move from the present supply-driven model dominated by aid providers to a demand-driven model more responsive to the people we are assisting.

True to its origins in the UN Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel (HLP) Report on Humanitarian Financing, “Too Important to Fail: addressing the humanitarian financing gap”, the Grand Bargain’s purpose is to get more means into the hands of people in need. By increasing efficiency, we can shift resources away from draining backroom activities to frontline delivery. The HLP estimated the funding gap for humanitarian action to be US$15 billion: we believe that greater efficiency and collaboration will create a virtuous circle, drawing in more resources from a wider range of stakeholders.

The Grand Bargain is not a panacea for all the problems of the humanitarian ecosystem. We do not claim to have all the solutions but we believe that by coming together in a small but broadly representative group of the sector we have negotiated a serious and realistic way forward. This should be seen as the first stage of an ongoing process. We hope that it will be widely discussed and we earnestly encourage interested parties – including current partners in humanitarian action but also those who wish to join our collective endeavour – to endorse it and offer their support. The World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, where the Grand Bargain will be presented, is one of the opportunities for making a commitment to its principles and their implementation.

UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit