Opinion: Failing to deliver on Financing for Development commitments

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon delivers remarks at the opening of the High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Photo by: Mark Garten / U.N.

Most humanitarian crises are protracted or recurrent and the majority of humanitarian assistance is provided year-on-year over the medium to long term: 91 percent of humanitarian assistance from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development Development Assistance Committee donors went to long- and medium-term recipients in 2014 (the year for which data is most recently available).

As a result, there is a strong rationale for longer term humanitarian planning and financing, and greater coordination between humanitarian and development actors working in the same protracted crisis contexts to more effectively address the needs of vulnerable people and ‘“leave no one behind.”

In line with this, a number of recent global processes — including the Third International Financing conference on Financing for Development (2015), World Humanitarian Summit (2016) and U.N. High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing — have resulted in promising commitments to strengthen the coherence of humanitarian and development responses and financing. This recognizes the role that development finance plays in crisis prevention, risk management and addressing people’s vulnerabilities in protracted or “chronic” crises.

The importance of the Financing for Development process

To succeed in fostering greater coherence of development and humanitarian outcomes, buy-in from both humanitarian and development actors is critical. The commitments resulting from the Third International Conference on FFD (as outlined in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda) are particularly important in promoting this agenda. This is because the AAAA represents a rare intergovernmental commitment by development actors to promote coherence between development and humanitarian outcomes and financing. This meets a need recognized by the humanitarian community for some time. FFD is also the only intergovernmental financing agreement governing the delivery of the 2030 Agenda — the main framework for sustainable development in the post-2015 era.  

Commitments to transform rhetoric on development-humanitarian coherence into action in the AAAA include:

• Development-humanitarian coherence: Recognizes the need for the coherence of developmental and humanitarian finance to ensure timelier, comprehensive, appropriate and cost-effective approaches to the management and mitigation of natural disasters and complex emergencies.

• Role of development finance in crisis prevention and risk management: Commits to promoting innovative financing mechanisms to allow countries to better prevent and manage risks and develop mitigation plans.

• Funding to local and national actors: Commits to investment in efforts to strengthen the capacity of national and local actors to manage and finance disaster risk reduction.

• Support to livelihoods of refugees: Recognizes the importance of delivering quality education to all girls and boys and reaching children living in extreme poverty, children with disabilities, migrant and refugee children, and those in conflict and post-conflict situations.

• Support for financing on peacebuilding: Recognizes the peacebuilding financing gap and the role played by the Peacebuilding Fund, and commits to step up efforts to assist countries in accessing financing for peacebuilding and development in the post-conflict context.

Failure to deliver on commitments made?

Yet despite the progress made in 2015, the draft report of the Inter-Agency Task Force on FFD from April 2017 and inter-governmental outcome document for the 2017 ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development that was adopted by member states fail to deliver on these commitments and, as such, have fallen at the first hurdle.

The complete absence of references to these commitments in the draft report of the IATF and in ECOSOC Forum on FFD outcome document signify the deprioritization of this agenda in the FFD process going forward. This threatens to undermine the progress of other processes working toward collective outcomes, such as the delivery of Grand Bargain Commitment 10, “to enhance engagement between humanitarian and development actors,” which emerged as an outcome of the U.N. High Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing.

Not only are references to these commitments absent, but the IAFT report appears to take a backward step in this area. The report states that: “allocating more development finance to emergency responses must not divert resources from long-term investments in sustainable development. Development cooperation providers should commit to protect and increase concessional development financing net of humanitarian financing and spending on refugees.”

While this sentiment responds to ongoing concerns around the diversion of aid, it lacks recognition of the need for greater coherence between development and humanitarian outcomes — as is critical to effectively meet the needs of vulnerable people and deliver on the Sustainable Development Goals in protracted crisis situations.

So what next?

It is vital that both development and humanitarian actors deliver on their existing commitments.

As a first step, it is important that future reports of the IATF and outcome documents for the 2018 and subsequent ECOSOC Forum on Financing for Development reaffirm recognition of the need for coherence between development and humanitarian actors, and reiterate commitments to finance crisis prevention, risk management, peacebuilding, and the capacities of local and national actors to respond to disasters.

For this to happen, it is important that actors involved in the delivery of the AAAA coordinate with those leading on the Grand Bargain Commitment 10 and other relevant financing initiatives emerging from the World Humanitarian Summit. These actors must then better engage in the FFD process to deliver on the AAAA commitments for the achievement of collective outcomes.

While it is easy to make policy commitments on development-humanitarian coherence and collective outcomes, delivery is the real challenge. Responding to the needs of refugees in protracted crises, providing support to peacebuilding and conflict prevention, and building capacities for risk management and disaster prevention offer real opportunities for the FFD process to work with others in the humanitarian sector to transform principles into practice.

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About the author

  • Oped sarahdalrymple ed

    Sarah Dalrymple

    Sarah Dalrymple is a senior policy and engagement adviser on humanitarian and conflict issues at Development Initiatives.