112.In 2016 thirty donors and aid providers—including the UK—came together at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) to agree the Grand Bargain; a set of major reforms to the global humanitarian system. These commitments have once again come into sharp focus during the course of this inquiry, particularly in the following areas:
Our predecessor Committee focused on these commitments in its 2016 report, ‘The World Humanitarian Summit: Priorities for Reform’.
113.Various organisations have highlighted the importance of supporting local and national organisations when responding to forced displacement crises in Africa. Unfortunately, in many situations, this is not happening. Evidence from a refugee response workshop in Northern Uganda highlighted that:
Host communities feel that both government and international agencies overlook the critical role of traditional leaders in refugee response. They feel that traditional leaders and local communities and CSOs [civil society organisations] possess the expertise to address key issues around refugee policy but see the funding flow instead to the national government and international organisations.
Professor Alexander Betts argued that “more funding should go directly to refugee-led community-based organisations.” He told us that his research had identified hundreds of these organisations providing social protection in their communities, that “struggle to get recognition or funding”.
114.Just 2.7% of international humanitarian assistance went to national or local responders in 2017; a figure that is shockingly low, considering their vital role in the response to crises. DFID Minister, Harriet Baldwin, told us that she was unable to identify the percentage of UK humanitarian funding that goes to local organisations. She stated, however, that “National and local organisations and communities are the first responders to disasters and DFID recognises the importance of building their capacity to manage risk, prepare for, and respond to emergencies.” She also emphasised that “DFID seeks to support local partners as far as possible and practical”.
115.However, we know that there are longstanding problems with smaller, local organisations gaining access to DFID funding as they are unable to engage in complex procurement procedures and reporting. The only real route for small, local organisations to gain funding from DFID is through larger, intermediary organisations. For example, the Minister told us that DFID has committed £37.5 million to the START Fund, which “provides rapid funding to local organisations to respond to small to medium emergencies”. Despite the recent Supplier Review carried out by DFID, which was supposed to diversify its supplier base, the landscape is still dominated by a relatively small number of large organisations. Bond, the UK network for organisations working in international development, has highlighted:
[ … ] the stringent government requirements placed on suppliers, which have only been exacerbated by DFID’s Supplier Review, lead to exclusion of smaller NGOs, SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] and other organisations who struggle to reach the bar.
116.ActionAid UK highlight DFID’s commitment in its latest Grand Bargain report to support localisation through country offices. However, their evidence stresses:
[..] more detail is needed on how and when this will take place to ensure greater transparency and accountability, and consistent progress. Policy, guidance and support from DFID headquarters is also necessary, particularly if implementation is to be consistent across countries. DFID should also provide greater political leadership on localisation among Grand Bargain signatories and ensure that women’s organisations are benefiting from localised aid.
117.There is compelling evidence that local and community-based organisations, particularly those led by women, should be central to refugee responses in Africa. However, these organisations still struggle to gain access to DFID funding, due to the complex procurement and reporting procedures involved. Localisation was a key pillar of the Grand Bargain commitments made in 2016 and we are concerned that the Minister has been unable to report to us the proportion of humanitarian spending directed through local organisations.
118.DFID needs to find ways to effectively support local and community-based organisations, including those led by women, who are vital partners in forced displacement crises in Africa. It must also find an effective way of tracking the proportion of humanitarian funding that is directed to national and local responders, in line with the Grand Bargain commitments.
119.Following last year’s DFID Supplier Review, DFID should provide an update—alongside its response to this Report—on its progress in diversifying its supplier base in humanitarian situations, including forced displacement crises.
120.During our visit to East Africa, we saw how effective cash-based support could be in refugee situations. The traditional food aid we saw distributed in Uganda was of course invaluable to refugees in need, but the favoured approach of distributed settlements for refugees in Uganda meant the journey to collect food from a World Food Programme (WFP) central distribution point could be arduous, treacherous and, in some cases, impossible, particularly for elderly and disabled refugees. This is a problem that was repeated to us in evidence to the inquiry from Age International. In contrast, the cash-based systems we saw used in Kakuma refugee camp and Kalobeyei settlement in Kenya gave refugees more freedom, independence and dignity, enabling them to make their own decisions about how they would manage their household budgets. The particular cash-based support used—called Bamba Chakula—is a special currency redeemable with specific traders in the area (of which there are now 800 across Kakuma, Dadaab and Kalobeyei according to WFP). Although this has some limitations, it increases the choice available to refugees and enhances their freedom and independence in what can otherwise be a disempowering situation. Since our visit, DFID has informed us that, in Uganda: “By the end of 2019 roughly half of the population (approx. 500,000 people) will receive their assistance in the form of cash which will reduce the challenges of transport and distances, stimulating the emergence of local shops and markets.”
121.The viability of cash-based programming will be different in different country contexts. As the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, stated in recent evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee: “In some places you can’t put cash, and in some places there still need to be commodities. How we do cash needs to be varied in every country context.” However, there is a strong and growing body of evidence that—in the right context—cash-based assistance can be more effective than more traditional forms of food aid and humanitarian supplies. DFID is recognised as a thought leader in this area and a recent ICAI report praised DFID’s efforts to build a body of evidence in this area and engage with other donors and agencies.
124.It has become clear during the inquiry that predictable, sustainable, multi-year funding is essential when responding to refugee situations. Our predecessor Committee’s inquiry into the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) recommended that “DFID should push for a commitment from all donors to a reoriented funding model that invests in longer term needs through multi-year financing”, which DFID agreed to in its response. It is clear that DFID remains committed to multi-year funding and providing sustainable, core funding to agencies. However, major aid agencies, such as UNHCR, are failing to pass this longer-term, more predictable funding on to its partners on the ground. Sanj Srikanthan from IRC told us:
If we look at the landscape of multi-year financing, it has not moved in any significant way. Of the funding from UN appeals, 71% went to UN agencies, of which 65% went to the big three: WFP, UNICEF and UNHCR. Almost none of that, using their own reporting, went as multi-year financing to implementing partners.
125.DFID is aware of, and trying to address, these issues. As Yves Horent, Senior Humanitarian Adviser in DFID’s Africa Regional Department, told us:
We are making slow progress. There are two issues. One is other donors… The European Union’s office for humanitarian aid, ECHO, has now engaged on multi-year funding, which is progress. The second issue is multilateral agencies not translating the multi-year funding we grant them to their partners. Again, on this we are making progress. They are hiding behind administrative reasons and we are gradually going to discuss these administrative issues to try to make sure that they translate this into multi-year funding to their partners.
The failure to deliver reliable multi-year humanitarian funding has real consequences on the ground. For example, we were told in evidence that the Nobel Prize winner Denis Mukwege, who provides life-changing surgery to rape survivors in the DRC, had to turn away women who had been “horrifically sexually abused” because his grant had run out and it was not multi-year.
126.Multi-year financing from donors is essential to enable predictable, sustainable responses to protracted crises. Short-term funding can limit the scope and ambition of programmes targeting displaced populations and increase bureaucracy for implementing organisations, who have to readjust their programmes each year in line with funding.
127.DFID should push its major partners, such as UNHCR, to provide multi-year funding to smaller organisations on the ground. It should also encourage other major aid donors to provide sustainable, predictable multi-year funding for humanitarian emergencies, including refugee crises. Reform in this area is taking too long and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.
128.Given the protracted nature of displacement crises, it is vital to bring together humanitarian and development actors to ensure that long-term solutions for refugees and host communities are considered alongside short-term humanitarian needs. Mercy Corps argued in its evidence that DFID should “drastically increase the proportion of funds going towards long-term programmes addressing their [refugees’ and IDPs’] economic, education and health needs.” They claim funds need to be more flexible and DFID agile enough to move quickly from humanitarian to development programming.
129.It should also be recognised that displacement crises can disrupt ongoing development work. When developing countries suddenly receive large numbers of refugees, ongoing development work can be interrupted and resources may have to be redirected. The pressure on basic services such as healthcare and education, as well as land, livelihoods and food, can be immense. When the system was only just about coping in the first place, there is a risk of development going into decline. Coherence between humanitarian responses directed at refugees and broader development programmes needs to be improved to try and mitigate some of these issues. Refugees can also contribute to ongoing development work, by participating in the economy or contributing skills to local services such as health and education, for example.
130.As Alexander Betts told us, “we should see refugees and displacement as a whole, not only as a humanitarian issue—which of course it is—but also as a development issue.” The NRC and IDMC emphasised that the UK Government, particularly DFID, should support integrated responses to protracted displacement crises, “which address their humanitarian, development and peace-building dimensions, whilst respecting the distinct role of humanitarian agencies.” Markus Geisser from the ICRC was hopeful that connecting humanitarian responses to longer-term development programming was possible: “sometimes people say that humanitarian principles and development do not go hand in hand… but I would not say that”.
131.DFID should ensure that, where it is responding to displacement crises, its humanitarian and development work is joined up. It should also ensure that is the case amongst their partners. DFID has a good reputation amongst donors and aid agencies and its country offices can play a key convening role, bringing together organisations working in countries where a joined-up development and humanitarian response to displacement is essential.
163 Agenda for Humanity, , accessed 12 February 2019
164 International Development Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2015–16, , HC675
165 ActionAid UK (); Oxfam GB (); Norwegian Refugee Council / Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre ()
166 Dr Jonathan Fisher, University of Birmingham, Dr Cherry Leonardi, Durham University and the International Refugee Rights Initiative () para 7
169 Development Initiatives, Direct funding to local and national responders shows slow progress: briefing, June 2018
173 “DFID must do more to encourage greater participation in contracts”, Bond, 28 June 2018
174 ActionAid UK () para 21
175 Age International () para 13
177 DFID Annex A () HC1432
179 ODI and CGDev, Doing cash differently: How cash transfers can transform humanitarian aid, September 2015
180 ICAI, The UK’s approach to funding the UN humanitarian system, December 2018
181 International Development Committee, Fifth Report of Session 2015–16, , HC675, para 68
182 International Development Committee, Third Special Report of Session 2016–17, , HC556
186 Mercy Corps () para 8
187 Mercy Corps () para 8
189 Norwegian Refugee Council / Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre () para 2.2
Published: 5 March 2019