The Grand Bargain arose from the report of the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing. We sometimes forget that the Grand Bargain was just one of the three recommendations of the report. The others were to shrink humanitarian need; and to expand the humanitarian resource base. WHAF is a good forum for exploring this third area. WHAF brings together a diverse range of stakeholders, with the capacity to examine how we can achieve more diverse funding channels for humanitarian action beyond the usual suspects. Official Development Assistance (ODA) remains critical, but Islamic Financing, remittances, private sector funding and Foreign Direct Investment offer additional funding opportunities beyond institutional and government funding. It will be interesting to see what insights WHAF can bring on expanding and diversifying humanitarian finance.
Christian Aid worked with our partners CODE-NGO, the Humanitarian Response Consortium and NASSA-Caritas in the Philippines to establish a new locally-led funding mechanism to meet funding needs in crises,- the Shared Aid Fund for Emergency Response (SAFER) This is an innovative local effort to break away from the traditional humanitarian funding paradigm.. SAFER raises resources and channels them to members with local presence in disaster areas. Hence SAFER quickly reaches remote and vulnerable communities. Several important Filipino NNGO leaders will be at WHAF and can share SAFER’s experience with counterparts from other regions.
During the discussions about conflict, United Against Inhumanity (UAI) - an emerging international movement of individuals and groups, founded last year by a group of experienced humanitarians - will raise concerns about the blatant disregard for humanitarian norms and standards that have allowed the bombing of hospitals, schools and homes to continue with impunity in Syria and in Yemen. The failure of Governments and the Security Council to take decisive action to stop these atrocities emboldens combatants in other conflicts to think they can get away with outrageous violations of humanitarian norms. Meanwhile, civilians seeking to escape find themselves criminalised by the introduction of local laws in contradiction to international law. UAI is campaigning to change the behaviour of Governments and other warring parties that perpetrate or condone illegal attacks on civilians in conflict. UAI will try to ensure that the debates in WHAF about how the humanitarian sector can more effectively address conflict prioritise efforts to pressurise those involved to halt illegal attacks on civilians.
Christian Aid has been actively involved in the localisation agenda, which has been a high-profile topic in humanitarian policy dialogue since the World Humanitarian Summit. We co-founded the Charter for Change, which remains one of the most important localisation movements with its 35 INGO signatories and 250 National NGO endorsers working together to promote practical change. We have led the Accelerating Localisation through Partnerships consortium funded by ECHO which works with national NGO consortia to advance localisation in Myanmar, Nepal, Nigeria and South Sudan. It is widely accepted that local and national actors are close to communities and can provide more contextualized humanitarian assistance. Local actors reach crisis-affected communities faster, and are there before, during and after crises, facilitating a smooth transition from relief to recovery. Local and national actors can deliver humanitarian services more cost-effectively than international actors and ensure that the perspectives of local populations strongly influence programme design. While there is widespread recognition of the value of shifting power towards local actors, progress towards the actual implementation of localization has not been as easy as local actors had hoped.
Localisation has not yet secured major political or financial investment. The amount of funding channelled as directly as possible to local actors remains significantly below the 25% goal set out for 2020 and there is a lack of adequate and predictable funding to support institutional capacity. Traditional partnerships that treat local partners as sub-contractors still predominate. While representation of local actors has increased in coordination mechanisms, these are still dominated by international actors and practical barriers remain to amplify local voices. International and national counter-terror and anti-money laundering regulations limit access and make it difficult for local actors to comply with donor requirements. WHAF will be trying to find concrete practical solutions to help unblock these continuing challenges.
Along with the drive for localisation, another even more important call emerged from WHS – to place people firmly at the centre of humanitarian action. To put people at the centre and achieve localization, we need to shift the power dynamic in favour of communities. A number of LNGOs/NNGOs and international actors, including the Local to Global Protection initiative, which includes Dan Church Aid, Act Church of Sweden and Christian Aid, have been piloting survivor and community-led response (sclr) approaches in several countries.
These innovative approaches empower local community groups to take leadership of the design and implementation of their own humanitarian response and recovery programming. They are one way of harmonising the Grand Bargain’s cash, localisation, nexus and participation agendas. WHAF will be an opportunity for sclr practitioners to raise awareness about what has been learnt from this work.
There is sometimes a risk that international conferences produce a lot of fine words but don't readily translate into concrete changes on the ground. My hope is that the 300 civil society actors, government officials, philanthropists, donors, academics and reporters attending WHAF will identify and commit to very concrete, very practical actions that help us among other things to reduce attacks on civilians during conflict, expand the humanitarian resource base, accelerate delivery of our localisation commitments and encourage the paradigm shift toward survivor-led response.