This research piece attempts to navigate the discussion and explore Start Network members’, donors’ and Start staff perceptions and experiences of the Start Network’s dedicated Migration Emergency Response Fund (MERF), with a view to making practical recommendations in support of Start Network’s institutional engagement with mixed migration going forward.Using a mixed methods approach involving literature review, online survey and key informant interviews (KIIs) the researchers received 52 survey responses and undertook 29 Skype, Zoom or telephone interviews. Respondents included staff from Start Network, member INGOs, national NGO partners and donors at country, regional and headquarters levels.Using the lenses of effectiveness, impact, relevance and coherence, MERF is shown to be a highly effective and well-functioning fund achieving many of its objectives and enabling member agencies to respond rapidly in discrete migration emergency crises in its various geographical jurisdictions. However, the research also showed that MERF raises significant strategic and structural questions. Seventeen key findings were established through the analysis (Section 5 of this report) and are grouped here to pick out the following four strategic areas as outlined below, and in response to which eighteen recommendations are made in section 6 of this report.
STRATEGIC AREA #1: MERF PROVIDES USEFUL ORGANISATIONAL LEARNING INTO THE ADDED VALUE OF REGIONAL AND CONTEXT- OR THEMATIC-SPECIFIC TEAMS
Key Finding: Regional presence and close collaboration at field level are highly valued by members, bringing unanticipated benefits in coordination in particular. The potential for collective advocacy by members is not fully exploitedKey Finding: Contextual and/or migration knowledge amongst members involved in allocation processes is considered fundamental amongst members Key Finding: Start Fund is a recognized brand, particularly amongst members with strong UK presence. MERF did not always benefit from this brand familiarity and lower levels of familiarity amongst field actors in primarily francophone MERF 21 regions may have contributed to a lower uptake amongst members. Outreach required substantial investments including physical visits to countries and agencies from the regional MERF teamKey Finding: English as the sole working language can be an impediment for INGO members and local partners alike – agencies working with the MERF Coordinator based regionally in Tunis highly rated their ability to communicate in French.
STRATEGIC AREA #2: DECISIONS ON START NETWORK FINANCING MECHANISMS ARE NOT SYSTEMATICALLY EMBEDDED IN RELEVANT CONTEXTUAL ANALYSIS
Key Finding: Donor engagement was perceived by Members to compromise the INGO identity of Start Network and MERF, in particular its peer to peer collaborationKey Finding: The principle of a dedicated migration fund is valued, but humanitarian parameters proved to be restrictive for MERF 2 to achieve impact
Key Finding: MERF 1 which operated primarily in Eastern Europe was seen to operate at greater scale and speed than MERF 2 operating in North, West and Central Africa, suggesting a greater need for the MERF I modelKey Finding: Insufficient analysis at the design stages resulted in a disconnect between the migration context as a protection and human rights (development) crisis and MERF as a humanitarian assistance fund first and foremost: context-specific, needs-based analysis as a basis for designing and funding response mechanisms such as the MERF is essential
STRATEGIC AREA #3: MIXED MIGRATION IS EXPECTED TO CONTINUE TO REQUIRE FLEXIBLE HUMANITARIAN RESPONSE CAPACITY GLOBALLY
Key Finding: Strict parameters of criteria and / or budget requirements may at times prevent relevant interventions from taking place. MERF 2 appears to be curiously inflexible with regard to smaller, chronic or anticipatory actions Key Finding: The Collaborative Information Collection and Analysis (CICA) grants were seen as useful, but difficult to initiate with member agencies rarely having pre-positioned capacity to actually deploy for assessments Key Finding: Geographic restrictions were repeatedly seen as a drawback by many respondents and intervieweesKey Finding: Wide acceptance that mixed migration flows will continue to be a global phenomenon, requiring at times emergency responses in the future, and a broad consensus on a need for greater attention and funding for migration including outside emergency contexts due to the systemic issues around movement and associated politics
STRATEGIC AREA #4: WHICH ‘NICHE’2 SHOULD START NETWORK FAVOUR REGARDING MIGRATION, CONCERNING WHAT CONSTITUTES AN EMERGENCY RESPONSE IN AN AMBIVALENT CONTEXT, AND START NETWORK’S ENGAGEMENT WITH THE ‘NEXUS’ DISCUSSION
Key Finding: Start Network offers highly valued contingency funds Key Finding: Start Network’s specialised fund for migration as singled out as a special humanitarian issue is a source of strategic tension Key Finding: Where MERF plays a similar emergency function to the Start Fund in responding to new needs, vulnerable groups and spikes, the Start Fund would suffice. However, MERF’s experiences have highlighted the chronic structural gaps and neglected crises in migration response more broadly in a way that Start Fund could not / would not have responded to. Key Finding: Humanitarian needs in chronic, underserved or under the radar crises are often harder to isolate and address through standard humanitarian assistance responses. This is typically the case in mixed migration contexts.