The Grand Bargain in Practice: Belgium reducing the impact of Covid-19 with flexible funding and increased local partnerships

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Prompted by the effects of the pandemic, Belgium increased further its flexibility and decided to foster more coordination and collaboration between the Belgian NGOs in the framework of the Covid-19 response.  

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, various countries in the Great Lakes, Sahel and Middle East regions were already confronting multiple and protracted risks and crises, deepened by the impact of climate change. Covid-19 exacerbated existing vulnerabilities, and new challenges have been emerging.

To address these crises and respond to the rising needs, Belgium is funding a new pilot project, aimed both at making funding for humanitarian NGOs more flexible, but also strengthening and increasing partnerships with local actors, two of the prioritised Grand Bargain commitments.

Agile response through flexible funding

Belgium has long been a strong supporter of flexible funding. In 2019, Belgium maintained its core funding and further increased its funding to flexible funds, bringing the proportion of their flexible, unearmarked funding to a record high of 58 %, compared to 53% in 2018, and 49,7% in 2017 – largely exceeding the Grand Bargain target of 30%. Throughout the years, Belgium has taken firm step towards the ambitious target it has set and achieved: reaching 60% of flexible, unearmarked funding by 2020.

Providing predictability and flexibility for humanitarian organisations is a win-win strategy. We view it as an efficient way to support partners, given the greater proximity of these organisations to the needs. It has also helps providing the basis for quality partnerships, giving us the opportunity for strategic dialogue with the organizations and to better involve our diplomatic posts in the field,” noted Nora Loozen, Head of humanitarian unit at the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In supporting the aforementioned project in 2020 and 2021, Belgium pilots new ways of working, especially concerning the flexibility of funding for humanitarian NGOs and the coordination amongst them, both in Belgium and in the field. Under the name of “Belgian Alliance for Humanitarian International Action” (BAHIA), seven Belgian NGOs set-up a coordinated response under a joint intervention logic to reduce the impact of the COVID-19 on preexisting humanitarian crisis in the Sahel region (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger), the Great Lakes region (Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Tanzania, DRC), the occupied Palestinian territories (Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem), as well as Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan. Participating NGOs will ensure consultation and synergies – including pooling of resources, ensuring flexibility in a constantly changing environment.

The flexibility of this project entails the freedom of the BAHIA members to decide how to allocate the envelope (equally shared here among members); the possibility to define at a later stage in the process the area of intervention as the impact of the crisis is changing and uncertain, leading to a less detailed budget to be submitted; the possibility to activate a crisis modifier following a needs assessment.

Key role of local partners

Local actors, including civil society organisations as well as communities themselves, are critical in every humanitarian operation. Even more so in the current context that is shaped by restrictions on travel and movement because of COVID-19. Local partners will be involved not only through the implementation, but in the spirit of the Grand Bargain commitments and increased partnerships also in the design, and monitoring of the project.

“The Alliance is convinced that the affected communities themselves and local civil society organisations are key actors in every humanitarian operation, and all the more so in the current situation where mobility is severely restricted by COVID-19 measures. Local responders and partners are therefore at the forefront in the design and the implementation of the project, and they will drive the adaptation of the intervention to the evolving situation,” noted BAHIA Coordinator, Nancy Snauwaert.

The response interventions will be designed and implemented by using a gender-sensitive and gender-responsive approach to address specific women’s vulnerabilities and needs.

Disclaimer: Information in this article was provided to the Grand Bargain Secretariat by Belgium.