About the Grand Bargain

About the Grand Bargain

About the Grand Bargain

Origin and concept of the Grand Bargain

In January 2015, the United Nations Secretary-General announced the creation of the High Level Panel, in order to respond to the increasing humanitarian financing gap (which stood at a 45% shortfall in 2015), which published in 2016 its report ‘Too important to fail – addressing the humanitarian financing gap’. The report was organized in three chapters and launched the concept of the Grand Bargain:

a)    Shrink the needs: a shared responsibility

b)    Deepen and broaden the resource base for humanitarian action

c)    Improve delivery: A Grand Bargain on efficiency

The Grand Bargain, launched during the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016, is a unique agreement between the largest donors and humanitarian agencies who have committed to improving the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian action. The Grand Bargain is based on the concept of ‘quid pro quo’: if donors and agencies each accept changes, aid delivery will become more efficient, freeing up human and financial resources for the benefit of affected population. For example, donors should reduce earmarked funds while aid agencies would increase their transparency. The objective is to generate efficiency gains, which will be used for saving more lives, not reducing aid budgets.

The structure and membership of the Grand Bargain

Initially thought as a deal between the five biggest donors and the six largest UN Agencies, the Grand Bargain now includes 61 Signatories (24 states, 11 UN Agencies, 5 inter- governmental organizations and Red Cross Movements and 21 NGOs) and represents 80% of all humanitarian contributions donated in 2017 and 76% of aid received by agencies.             

The Grand Bargain also shows continued traction within the humanitarian eco-system. For example, in 2018 alone four new signatories joined (one UN Agency and three NGOs). The Grand Bargain is also a unique forum where stakeholders from different constituencies can interact on a peer basis. This forum is founded upon integrity and the highest ethical standards.

How the Grand Bargain works

The Grand Bargain includes 51 commitments, initially categorised within 10 work-streams, and later rationalised and merged into nine workstreams:

1. Greater Transparency

2. More support and funding tools to local and national responders

3. Increase the use and coordination of cash-based programming

4. Reduce Duplication and Management costs with periodic functional reviews

5. Improve Joint and Impartial Needs Assessments

6. A Participation Revolution: include people receiving aid in making the decisions which affect their lives

7. & 8. Increase collaborative humanitarian multi-year planning and funding & Reduce the earmarking of donor contributions

9. Harmonize and simplify reporting requirements

The tenth work-stream, Enhance engagement between humanitarian and development actors, has been closed as an independent work-stream and it has been mainstreamed as a cross-cutting committment.

To achieve the 51 commitments, the various stakeholders engage onto the following:

For aid organisations and donors to work more closely together towards:

  • More financial transparency.
  • More support and funding tools to national first responders.
  • Scale up use of cash-based programming and more coordination in its delivery.

For aid organisations to commit to:

  • Reduce duplication and management costs.
  • Periodic functional expenditure reviews.
  • More joint and impartial needs assessments.
  • A “Participation Revolution”: listen more to and include beneficiaries in decisions that affect them.

For donors to commit to:

  • More multi-year humanitarian funding.
  • Less earmarks to humanitarian aid organisations.
  • More harmonized and simplified reporting requirements.

Translating the commitments into reality: what is happening now and what are the next steps

It is anticipated that the implementation of the sum of the Grand Bargain commitments will result in better aid, with humanitarian action moving from a supply-driven model dominated by aid providers, to a demand-driven model, more responsive to the people being assisted. Humanitarian actors will also become better at working together and with others, based on complementarity and value add, and that the Grand Bargain will result in significant efficiency gains which can be invested in the delivery of aid.

Since the presentation of the Grand Bargain commitments, each signatory started implementing actions to fulfil the commitments and the work-streams Co-convenors developed detailed action plans. Where collective action, or close coordination is required, Co-convenors have detailed synergies among work-streams.

Grand Bargain progress is reviewed through the individual self-reports and at an Annual Meeting, which is being held on the margins of the ECOSOC Humanitarian Segment. It is already possible to identify some successes, such as:

  • The Grand Bargain brought a normative and an operational shift towards increase use of cash programming, which gives greater choice and empowers the people in need and strengthens local markets.  

  • Under the Grand Bargain framework, donors and humanitarian organizations are piloting a common, simplified reporting template that saves time and money.

  • Multi-year planning by humanitarian organizations has become a norm, enabling better linkages between humanitarian and development actors.

  • Donors have increase multi-year funding, which lowers administrative costs and enables humanitarian programming that is more responsive and adapted to the needs of affected people.

  • Donors and humanitarian organizations have increased their focus and investments in national and local responders, who are often the first to respond to crises, remaining in the communities they serve before, during, and after emergencies.

  • Humanitarian organizations, particularly in the UN, have improved transparency and comparability in cost structures, bringing measurable cost savings and efficiency gains. 

GB achievements

Structure and contacts

The Grand Bargain is championed by an Eminent Person, Ms. Sigrid Kaag (Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, the Netherlands), responsible for promoting and advocating for the advancement of the Grand Bargain commitments.

A Facilitation Group has been established to provide continued momentum to the overall Grand Bargain process. The composition of this group is reflective of the different Grand Bargain constituencies.

Each workstream is co-convened by one donor government representative and one humanitarian agency or organisation.

The Grand Bargain process is supported by a Secretariat.

Grand Bargain Signatories and structure


Grand Bargain secretariat