Fostering NGO's and frontline responders' engagement


The 10 Grand Bargain workstreams

Greater Transparency
More support and funding tools to local and national responders
Increase the use and coordination of cash-based programming
Reduce Duplication and Management costs with periodic functional reviews
Improve Joint and Impartial Needs Assessments
A Participation Revolution: include people receiving aid in making the decisions which affect their lives
Increase collaborative humanitarian multi-year planning and funding
Reduce the earmarking of donor contributions
Harmonize and simplify reporting requirements
Enhance engagement between humanitarian and development actors

Reduce the earmarking of donor contributions

Aid organisations and donors commit to:

  1. Jointly determine, on an annual basis, the most effective and efficient way of reporting on unearmarked and softly earmarked funding and to initiate this reporting by the end of 2017.
  2. Reduce the degree of earmarking of funds contributed by governments and regional groups who currently provide low levels of flexible finance. Aid organisations in turn commit to do the same with their funding when channelling it through partners.

Aid organisations commit to:

  1. Be transparent and regularly share information with donors outlining the criteria for how core and unearmarked funding is allocated (for example, urgent needs, emergency preparedness, forgotten contexts, improved management)
  2. Increase the visibility of unearmarked and softly earmarked funding, thereby recognising the contribution made by donors.

Donors commit to:

  1. Progressively reduce the earmarking of their humanitarian contributions. The aim is to aspire to achieve a global target of 30 per cent of humanitarian contributions that is non-earmarked or softly earmarked (see annex on earmark definition in the Grand Bargain-A Shared Commitment to Better Serve People in Need) by 2020.

The co-conveners: ICRC and Sweden
NGOs co-champion: VOICE
Helpful contact: Elena Garagorri Atristain, ICRC 
 Official IASC page on this workstream available here


Main progress in the last 2 years:

In 2017 important progress was made by the workstream on agreeing a baseline for measuring progress; identifying shared needs and concerns between donors and aid organisations (through a workshop hosted by the co-conveners, Sweden and ICRC, in May 2017); and understanding different interpretations of what counts as ‘flexible’ funding and where it occurs in the funding chain (through a survey conducted by the co-conveners).

There is also agreement among participating signatories that the target of 30% of unearmarked or softly earmarked contributions by 2020 may need further qualification (ICRC and Sweden, 2017).

However, there is a consensus at political level to recognise that that more flexible funding increases predictability, enables more timely needs-based responses and provides for a more equitable distribution of resources (see also Poole and Mowjee, 2017). However, it is unclear whether the 30% target will be reached by 2020, or how progress against it will be assessed since it is an aggregate figure (signatories have been asked to provide proportional figures).

Overall, progress in this workstream has been moderate. A small group of donors has increased their share of unearmarked or softly earmarked funding. Political and practical constraints prevent other donors from doing likewise, and few aid organisations reported efforts to enhance the quality of their reporting and the visibility given to the unearmarked funding they receive.[1]

Why should you engage?

As referred to in the ODI Independent report, GB signatories felt that the lack of system-wide progress on earmarking was in large part due to a lack of trust. This, some argued, can only be tackled by increasing accountability and transparency on all sides, including better-quality reporting by aid organisations on the demonstrable impact and added value of unearmarked funding.

Therefore, it is crucial for NGOs to further demonstrate why un-earmarked funding is an added value for quality aid delivery and that more flexibility to adapt to changing humanitarian context is crucial to reach effectiveness of aid delivery. Moreover, NGOs should also further promote what they are already doing in terms of transparency and accountability to encourage donors to fill their side of the quid pro quo. Future discussion on how to report on unearmarked and softly earmarked funding should also be connected to work on simplified and harmonized reporting.

How can you engage?

It would be important for NGOs to build on evidence base and impact of un-earmark funding to use it as lessons learned and good practice for donors not yet engaged. Thus, aid organisations already receiving un-earmark funding should collect evidence and share with donors about its benefits.

[1] Grand Bargain Independent Annual Report, ODI, June 2018



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