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  • Report
  • 1 April 2021

Development actors at the nexus: Lessons from crises in Bangladesh, Cameroon and Somalia: Chapter 3

Coordination, prioritisation and planning


Building synergies between in-country HDP actors through coordination mechanisms is crucial for effective responses in crisis-affected regions, identifying a division of responsibilities between key actors at different stages of crisis and providing the foundation for joined-up and complementary planning and programming. The country case studies explored existing coordination mechanisms for bringing HDP actors together and how their effectiveness could be improved. Our previous research on the nexus highlighted that joined-up assessments and planning by HDP actors, within and between agencies, is a prerequisite for working effectively in crisis-affected communities and identifying the comparative advantage of development actors.[1] The country case studies looked at the extent to which development actors work collaboratively with humanitarian and peace actors to undertake shared analysis and planning. This section summarises the key findings and considerations to emerge from the case studies on effective coordination, prioritisation and planning across the HDP nexus.

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Key findings

What role do coordination mechanisms in-country play in supporting joined-up HDP assessments, planning and delivery in crisis-affected areas?

In the case study countries, there is an elaborate coordination architecture in place at the country level, but join-up between humanitarian and development action and between humanitarian and peace action remains weak. Efforts to improve the coherence of development and peace and security actions are more advanced, but there has been a lack of consensus on how to integrate ‘peace’ within the ‘triple nexus’ in a way that preserves humanitarian principles. UN resident coordinators have led the establishment of a nexus task force in Cameroon and nexus coordination structures (under development) in Somalia as strategic forums to bring together HDP actors and work towards ‘collective outcomes’. The process has been slow, and it may be too early to assess the extent to which these will fill the ‘structural coordination gap’ that exists between humanitarian and development activities, or the extent to which they will be able to develop joined-up plans that bridge the distinct planning cycles, finance streams and policy and strategic priorities of each sector. Additionally, in the case study countries, buy-in and senior participation from development partners outside the UN system and across governments remains a challenge and, given the considerable leverage of development partners such as the World Bank in mobilising government ownership, their joint leadership in coordination mechanisms will be a prerequisite to success. A further challenge has been a lack of clarity on the meaning of ‘peace’ in the triple nexus. There are many examples across the three contexts of development cooperation directly contributing to political and security responses to conflict, and of efforts to strengthen coherence of development and peace/security actions. These include stabilisation (northern Cameroon and Somalia), state-building (Somalia) and counter-terrorism/preventing violent extremism interventions (Somalia and Bangladesh), and security and justice sector reform, among other areas. But there are concerns within the humanitarian community − such as in the context of stabilisation and counter-insurgency efforts in northern Cameroon − that direct collaboration with peace and security actors, or work towards peace objectives, would politicise humanitarian aid. However, there is now an emerging consensus at global level on the need to distinguish between ‘Big P’ political and security approaches and ‘little p’ approaches that aim to build ‘positive peace’. There is also progress in identifying activities on a peace ‘spectrum’ that are relevant to humanitarian action, which at a minimum means integrating conflict sensitivity.[2]

Scope for joined-up HDP action is context dependent, and there is a clear need to protect independent humanitarian coordination in certain political contexts to safeguard principled humanitarian action. This is especially important in active conflicts (as in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon), areas controlled by non-state groups (as in the al-Shabaab-controlled areas of Somalia), or other contexts where government political actions threaten the rights and protection of certain populations. However, in crisis situations where there is strong government leadership and political will (as in the response to natural disasters in Bangladesh) or where the main issue is the weakness or fragmentation of local governance structures rather than political commitment (as in some areas of Somalia), siloed coordination and planning can be a product of the aid system, rather than an imperative to ensure access to populations in need. Parallel humanitarian and development assessment, planning and coordination mechanisms can place an unnecessary burden on host governments, undermine ownership, fragment the support that is provided, and generate inefficiencies. It is clear that there is no single coordination model that fits all contexts; nevertheless, an honest mapping and evaluation of the effectiveness of existing coordination mechanisms could be a starting point towards establishing a more coherent approach that creates space for joined-up analysis and planning across HDP actors. At the local level, an area-based model for operational coordination may offer a platform to better align development, humanitarian and peace interventions and strengthen engagement with local actors.[3]

The case studies highlighted that it will be important to review, learn from and build on previous efforts to harmonise aid and strengthen coordination of development assistance in fragile contexts when considering how to strengthen coherence of HDP actions. For example, in Somalia the Somalia Development and Reconstruction Facility represents a clear effort to establish a coherent aid architecture bringing together several multi-partner funds. Efforts to strengthen the partnership between the UN and World Bank were evident across the three countries. Within the UN system there has been progress towards common analysis and planning (e.g. through common country assessment frameworks) and some positive examples of joint programming (e.g. in Bangladesh). However, there were also cases where international agencies compete for influence over particular agendas and where access to funding was the main driver behind coordination arrangements, rather than what would be most coherent or appropriate to the context. Strengthening collaboration requires recognising and working to overcome significant disincentives to collaborate between actors in the aid system, including competition over funding, territory, visibility and influence.[4]

How are development actors working within and between agencies on joined-up assessments and planning and to identify shared outcomes?

Progress has been made in identifying collective outcomes in both Somalia and Cameroon, although the extent of buy-in for their implementation remains unclear, particularly in Somalia, and the ‘peace’ elements are weak. Furthermore, there is a risk that these create a new, parallel layer of planning and are not sufficiently embedded in existing national development plans and accountability frameworks and the coordination structures that support them. For example, in Cameroon, cross-government buy-in remains a challenge, and it is not yet clear how monitoring of collective outcomes will link with existing development frameworks. In Somalia, buy-in from key development partners has been a challenge. The existing national development plan, which includes resilience as a central, cross-cutting issue, and existing development coordination forums offer a potential starting point. It is clear that planning towards collective outcomes requires buy-in from the government and joint leadership from key humanitarian and development actors (i.e. UN, EU and the World Bank) to succeed. But in contexts in which government political will is lacking, it will be important that HDP actors find alternative ways to coordinate and share information at a strategic level. Development partners have a role to play here in working to build national ownership over time and supporting the government to stay engaged in donor coordination processes with a view to avoiding or phasing out parallel coordination structures in the longer term.

The World Bank−EU−UN partnership on Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessments (RPBAs) and Post Disaster Needs Assessments (PDNAs) provides a strong basis for common analysis and joined-up planning that brings together HDP actors (Box 3). In Cameroon, the RPBA played an important role in bringing together humanitarian and development actors, leading to the Recovery and Peace Consolidation Strategy for Northern and East Cameroon 2018−2022 and informing the priorities of the nexus task force. This represents important progress, although some actors point to the need to strengthen peace actions and further engage ‘peace actors’ in the RPBA. The PDNA provided the basis for the Somalia Drought Impact and Needs Assessment and the Recovery and Resilience Framework in 2018, which was designed to complement the humanitarian response plan. There are also examples of development support to establish nationally led data systems related to disaster/vulnerability, however humanitarian actors maintain the need for independent data due to the need to safeguard humanitarian principles.

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Box 3

Tools to support joined-up assessments and planning

Joint analysis is a fundamental enabler of a nexus approach. The Recovery and Peacebuilding Assessments (RPBAs) and its sister process the Post Disaster Needs Assessments (PDNAs) provide a methodology and/or platform for joint analysis and planning supported through a partnership between the UN, World Bank and EU.[5] RPBAs bring together national and international HDP actors to develop a shared analysis of the root causes of crisis and conflict and prioritise immediate and medium-term recovery and peacebuilding actions in support of the government in countries experiencing conflict or in transition from a conflict-related crisis. The approach has evolved from when it was first introduced in 2003 as the Post-Conflict Needs Assessments (PCNAs). The methodology has been reviewed and adapted on several occasions based on learning from experience to improve its relevance and flexibility and make it fit for a diverse range of dynamic and insecure contexts. Financing has taken on greater prominence, and the development of a financing strategy is now an important aspect of the process.[6] While RPBAs aim to promote greater coherence across humanitarian, peace and security, political, and development efforts, they are designed to complement but not replace humanitarian assessment and planning processes due to the need to safeguard humanitarian principles.

The RPBA played an important role in bringing together humanitarian and development actors in Cameroon, leading to the Recovery and Peace Consolidation Strategy for Northern and East Cameroon 2018−2022 and informing the priorities of the nexus task force. Indeed, the RPBA served as the main analytical foundation for the three collective outcomes developed by the nexus task force to be implemented in ‘areas of convergence’ in the Far North and west of the country. PDNAs provide a similar framework for joined-up planning for recovery from disasters and served the basis for the Somalia Drought Impact and Needs Assessment and the Recovery and Resilience Framework in 2018. Led by the Federal Government of Somalia, the needs assessment process brought together a large number of actors to assess the impact of ongoing drought on lives, livelihoods and sectors of the economy and identify preventative and sustainable development solutions to promote resilience to disaster risks and climate change trends. It was explicitly designed to complement the humanitarian response plan and create a framework for humanitarian and development cooperation. In an effort to reinforce synergies between the RPBA and PDNA, guidance was issued in 2019 on how to conduct a PDNA in conflict situations.[7]

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Key questions and considerations for development actors

  • How can key development actors such as MDBs, national governments and leading bilateral donors play a prominent role in leading the nexus – practically, politically and in policy – alongside humanitarian and peace actors? Leadership requires senior buy-in from development institutions and the government in nexus coordination mechanisms and planning processes at the country level. For example, this could be demonstrated through co-chairing by the government, World Bank and UN resident coordinator to build effective collaboration across HDP responses and implement collective outcomes. The World Bank and other MDBs could use country partnership framework negotiations as an opportunity to bring the government on board and create a bridge with other development partners.
  • How can HDP actors ensure that collective outcomes are embedded in existing development planning frameworks and the coherence of existing coordination structures is increased? Where possible, collective outcomes should build on and link with existing planning frameworks and be coordinated through existing forums rather than creating new, parallel processes. At local level, area-based coordination models[8] could improve HDP collaboration and should be field tested to build evidence on this.
  • Development planning processes at the country level, whether UN led (e.g. common country assessments and UN SDG cooperation frameworks) or nationally led (e.g. integrated national financing framework (INFF) processes), present an opportunity to strengthen collaboration with humanitarian and peace actors (both local and national, UN and NGO), drawing on their expertise to jointly analyse risks, conflict dynamics, needs and capacities. How can the new INFF processes be designed and implemented to support HDP collaboration in crisis contexts?[9]
  • The UN and World Bank have made progress in formalising a nexus approach in their partnership. How can they now ensure a process is in place to monitor and review how nexus coordination structures are working at the country level and evaluate the implementation of collective outcomes, including a process to share and systematise this learning?
  • It was widely recognised in the research that funding can be a barrier or an incentive to joined-up planning and programming. How can donors better use their leverage to incentivise nexus planning? This could include making greater use of pooled funds or dedicated budget lines to support joint programmes that focus on collective outcomes, or other collaborative actions across the nexus. Donor coordination is key both within the development sector and across the HDP nexus. Developing donor platforms comprised of development, humanitarian and peacebuilding staff at country or global levels to share experiences on existing nexus approaches could help in sharing good practices on overcoming common obstacles and build greater coherence within the donor community.


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    The reform of the UN resident coordinator system was designed to address these issues by making resident coordinators more independent, impartial and empowered. The impact of UN reforms was not a focus of this research; however, some consider that it is too early to assess whether the changes will have the desired impact in the longer term. International Peace Institute, 2020. Unpacking the UN’s Development System Reform. Available at:
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