The Grand Bargain

Narrative extracted from "The Grand Bargain explained an ICVA briefing paper" - March 2017

The origins of the Grand Bargain

The humanitarian financing gap continues to rise. In 2015, when OCHA put the total funding requirements at $19.8 billion, only $10.9 billion was provided by donors, leaving a 45% shortfall. The previous UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon acknowledged this gap, and building on discussions with the then High Commissioner for Refugees (now Secretary General) António Guterres and the then Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, in January 2015 announced the creation of a “High-Level Panel”. The purpose of the Panel was “to consider new ways and opportunities to address the funding gap.”

High Level Panel members were announced in May 2015 and were well regarded, influential individuals from diverse backgrounds. The co-chairs included Kristalina Georgieva, the then Vice President for Budget and Human Resources in the European Commission, and Sultan Nazrin Shah, the Ruler of Perak in Malaysia. Review the full list of Panel Members in Annex I.

In January 2016, the Panel launched its report called “Too important to fail – addressing the humanitarian financing gap.” The report, categorised into three chapters, introduced the concept of the now-famous “Grand Bargain”: (See Annex II for the full set of recommendations)

  1. Shrink the needs: A shared responsibility
  2. Deepen and broaden the resource base for humanitarian action
  3. Improve delivery: A Grand Bargain on efficiency

The underlying logic behind the Grand Bargain is that if donors and agencies each make changes (e.g. if donors reduce earmarking and agencies are more transparent with how funds are spent), aid delivery would become more efficient, freeing up human and financial resources for the direct benefit of affected populations. It was hoped that efficiency gains would yield $1 billion in savings. It is important to note the Grand Bargain was not intended to replace action to address the larger funding gap, as outlined by the report’s first two chapters.


Negociating the Grand Bargain 

The original vision of the Grand Bargain was to negotiate a deal between the 5 largest donors and 6 largest UN agencies, particularly to help address the “trust deficit”.

After this deal was proposed, ICVA sent a letter to Kristalina Georgieva urging her to acknowledge that as NGOs are on the frontlines implementing aid, they should be included in the negotiations. In February, she announced three NGO consortia (ICVA, InterAction and the Steering Committee for Humanitarian Response [SCHR]) would be included in the negotiations, in addition to the IFRC, the ICRC and a broader range of donors and agencies.


The “Sherpas”

The “Sherpas” — or negotiators — of the Grand Bargain, were representatives of the agencies involved in the Grand Bargain negotiations. Meeting on four occasions between February and May 2016 (meeting reports can be found here [bottom of page]), the Sherpas developed various commitments which were categorised into 10 work streams

  1. Transparency
  2. Frontline responders
  3. Cash-based programming 
  4. Reduce managament crisis
  5. More joint and impartial needs assessments
  6. Participation Revolution
  7. More multi-year humanitarian funding
  8. Less earmarks
  9. Harmonized/Simplifoed reporting requirements
  10. Strengthening engagement between humanitarian and development actors

The Grand Bargain was officially launched during the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016. Not all negotiators (Sherpas) initially signed the Bargain: (Turkey and the UAE), whilst WHO had to first consult its member states. Other actors that had not engaged in the negotiations, including Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, UNFPA, and UN Women, signed the Grand Bargain before its launch at the WHS.


Implementing the Grand Bargain

The Grand Bargain Shared Commitments document includes 51 commitments categorised within 10 work streams. This guide provides a summary of each work stream, the corresponding commitments and useful contacts. Commitments ‘highlighted in orange’ represent those closely followed by ICVA and NGOs