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  • Report
  • 5 December 2019

Donors at the triple nexus: lessons from the United Kingdom: Chapter 3

The programme cycle and the nexus


To realise work on the nexus, risk, resilience and peace must be embedded into all aspects of the programming cycle – from joined-up assessments to joined-up results. This process is beginning but progress is variable across the cycle. Most progress has been made at the strategic level in the assessment and planning phases, although this lays the foundations for a cultural shift extending to include downstream programming in time.

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Lessons: Joined-up assessments undertaken at country and regional levels through the Country Development Diagnostic tool have acted as a springboard for joint planning and programming across HDP programmes. Embedding conflict analysis into country assessments is not a requirement but is enabling DFID to incorporate peace considerations into its work.

Joined-up action is not possible without a shared assessment of the context. Working at the nexus requires assessments which consider contextual dynamics, risks, needs, vulnerabilities and coping mechanisms, and are driven by participatory approaches. DFID achieves this largely through joined-up assessments. Country strategies are developed through a balance of contextual analyses, using the Country Development Diagnostic (CDD) tool, and efforts to align strategies with UK policy priorities. The CDD tool is based around seven key parts[1] and aims to enable inclusive development through HDP programming. While the seven core elements of the CDD cover core aspects of the nexus (e.g. through a focus on resilience, conflict and service delivery), guidance on five optional analytical modules[2] to be undertaken before or after the CDD deepen the coverage of risk, resilience and peace. CDD analyses are undertaken every four years in line with spending reviews. The CDD tool is based on a standardised multi-disciplinary methodology developed by the Chief Economist’s Office, which helps to foster a shared hypothesis. Country-level personnel report that this supports greater collaboration, coherence and complementarity across HDP priorities.

Although humanitarian needs feature in the CDD analysis undertaken at the country level, at the headquarters level, CHASE undertakes monthly and quarterly global humanitarian assessments based on the most recent data from key stakeholders[3] to oversee and direct the UK’s humanitarian priorities, driving funding reallocation at the country level and allocation of Crisis Reserve funds as relevant. DFID is also engaging externally and informing international thinking on joined-up needs assessments through the Joint Needs Assessment Grand Bargain workstream. DFID is a member of the advisory board for the development of ‘Quality criteria for joint needs assessments’ and of the joint humanitarian–development–peacebuilding analysis group of the World Bank, ECHO, UNDP and OCHA.[4]

DFID has long championed conflict analysis at programmatic level to ensure that humanitarian, development and peace-related programmes avoid doing harm, as a minimum, and work towards building peace. The application of this tool is critical for integrating a peace lens into development programming as a key component of the development–peace dual nexus. As appropriate and relevant, integrating conflict sensitivity into humanitarian programmes is a first step towards making progress on the humanitarian–peace dual nexus.

Since DFID’s original Strategic Conflict Assessment was developed in 2002,[5] it has been replaced by the Joint Analysis of Conflict and Stability (JACS) which was introduced in the UK’s Building Stability Overseas Strategy (2011) as a tool to strengthen cross-government approaches to tackling overseas conflict and instability. It is now used as a strategic assessment to underpin UK National Security Council Strategies. The JACS has reportedly resulted in integration of conflict analysis into programme design and CDD exercises and enabled greater pooling of risk analysis across UK government departments. However its use is not compulsory in country-level planning, and lack of regularity poses a challenge.[6]

The 2018 Quality Assurance Unit (QAU) annual report, while noting the strength of the CDD tool, highlights the need for Business Cases to better manage the risk of negative unintended effects on politics and conflict. The report states that, while “teams understand the importance of political economy analysis, there is still a significant risk that the approach is insufficiently rigorous to manage risks”.[7]

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Planning and programme design

Lessons: The UK’s unique ‘Business Case’ model drives a comprehensive organisational approach to programme design and planning. However, staff members are not required to consider the full spectrum of nexus-related issues in the design process, resulting in diverse approaches. Strengthening the coverage of such issues in programme planning processes, such as DFID’s Business Case development and quality assurance, will be key.

As a result of the CDD and joined-up assessments, planning has become increasingly coherent, with notable collaboration within and beyond DFID across government. The UK has developed an expanding portfolio of innovative practical approaches to the nexus, in response to opportunities in specific contexts, and the imperative of individuals, rather than a drive from the top. Therefore, joined-up planning across humanitarian, development and, to a lesser extent, peace programmes is taking place in pockets across DFID.

Development of Business Cases and the nexus

Once individual departments have been allocated a funding envelope through DFID’s budget allocation process, there is a standardised process for designing central and country programmes as set out in the Smart Rules.[8] The development of a Business Case in DFID is the main tool used for programme design/planning and provides a comprehensive analysis covering all aspects of programming including the strategic case, management arrangements, risks, partners, outputs/outcomes, results and financing.[9]

The Smart Rules encourage a ‘whole of portfolio approach’ in the development of Business Cases and prompt Senior Responsible Officers (SROs) to consider a range of issues relevant to different aspects of the nexus – including the political and economic context, causes of poverty, resilience, peace and security, economic environment, humanitarian response and conflict sensitivity.[10] The Business Case templates also require SROs to assess the case in terms of conflict sensitivity and risks, which are critical for inclusion in any assessments underpinning the nexus where the former links to the peace aspect (Section 3.1) and the latter enables programme scale-up in response to deepening crisis (Section 3.4).

While prompts in the Business Case template remind SROs to consider issues relevant to the nexus, it is not an official requirement of the Business Case process to demonstrate how collaboration, coherence and complementarity will be strengthened, how departments have planned for a crisis intensifying, becoming protracted, or transitioning out of crisis, how affected populations have been consulted in the analysis/planning or how beneficiary feedback mechanisms have been built into programme design. Sections in the Business Case template prompt consideration of DFID’s role externally in donor/partner coordination, but there is no reference to documenting internal coordination with other teams as an inherent aspect of planning. Feedback suggests that Business Cases are often developed in line with a specific department’s objectives and do not systematically consider how a programme can contribute to the objectives of other departments.

There are some strong examples of Business Cases demonstrating collaboration across HDP staff and programmes; Box 2 provides some country examples. On the other hand, there are examples of disconnect in the planning process, where parallel programmes are being delivered by development and humanitarian departments in the same country or where consideration of risk has not been undertaken comprehensively in collaboration with all relevant nexus-related colleagues in the planning phase.

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Box 2

Country examples: incorporating the nexus into programme design and Business Case development

Nigeria Business Cases for various programmes in Nigeria demonstrate strategic consideration of the nexus and the need to link humanitarian assistance with longer-term livelihood programming and transition to recovery. For example, the North East Nigeria Transition to Development Programme (NENTAD)[11] explicitly seeks to implement a proportionate shift from humanitarian to development action in post-conflict recovery supporting longer-term programming for nutrition, education, community security and market development. The NENTAD Business Case also includes an Internal Risk Facility (IRF) to enable rapid response to spikes in need (Section 3.4). The Rural and Agriculture Markets Development Programme for Northern Nigeria (Propcom Mai-karfi)[12] explicitly focuses on building synergies between humanitarian response and longer-term livelihood development with the primary objective to “work with humanitarian aid organisations to develop market orientated support” – supporting market expansion while the crisis is still ongoing to lay the foundations for economic recovery.

Ethiopia Business Cases for various programmes demonstrate strong consideration of links between short-term humanitarian assistance and longer-term development programming. For example, Building Resilience in Ethiopia is a humanitarian programme supporting governments to respond to shocks (focusing on social protection and health), and to address humanitarian needs while supporting a longer-term reform agenda, including food security. Support to various phases of the Productive Safety Net Programme (PSNP) is a strong example of where DFID is delivering the nexus in practice by supporting the Government of Ethiopia to develop shock-responsive nutrition programming focused on building resilience and integrating social protection into national systems.[13]

South Sudan Two separate humanitarian–development-led health programmes were designed in parallel with limited complementarity built into the design phases: the Humanitarian and Resilience Programme in South Sudan (HARISS), which delivers health and nutritional support through partners Medair, ICRC, the South Sudan Humanitarian Fund (SSHF), UNICEF and WFP;[14] and the South Sudan Health Pooled Fund Phase II and III where DFID is supporting health service delivery in 8 out of 10 states together with the US, the EU, Sweden and Canada.[15] Recognising this, DFID South Sudan has requested support from DFID centrally to strengthen coherence and complementarity.[16]

Somalia The Business Case for the Somalia Health and Nutrition Programme (SHINE), a five-year programme approved in 2015, considers the roles of development and humanitarian assistance in the health sector in Somalia and recognises the need to shift from humanitarian assistance into longer-term bilateral support to the health sector, working more closely with government. It also references the collaboration with CHASE in the design of the programme and plans to work closely with humanitarian-focused health programmes (e.g. the Humanitarian and Nutrition Consortium Programme).[17]

A more standardised approach to embedding the nexus into Business Cases would strengthen the UK’s delivery on this agenda. One option would be to embed nexus-related questions within the Business Case template. This could build upon the optional ‘Programme Design and Business Case Checklist’ developed (though not yet distributed) by CHASE, prompting teams to: consider approaches for joined-up analysis in protracted crisis; develop links between short-term humanitarian and longer-term risks and vulnerability; and investigate opportunities for using flexible funding. The suggested standalone operational guidance on the nexus, which more broadly covers all aspects of programming as well as clarifying key concepts and terminology, would support this (Section 2.3).

Suggestions for the UK government as a donor

  • DFID could strengthen the Business Case template to refer to the nexus and add prompts where SROs can document how it has been considered, building upon the optional checklist developed by CHASE.
  • Changes to the Business Case template could include the:
    • ‘appraisal case’, prompting consideration of crisis, risk, resilience and peace in the theory of change and identifying pathways for delivering related outcomes
    • ‘management case’, requesting SROs to document how colleagues across the HDP nexus have been consulted in programme design, plans for consultation and collaboration throughout the programme cycle, and planned support from cross-cutting advisers
    • ‘commercial case’, prompting explicit information about support to be provided to downstream partners, for example in building capacity for resilience and crisis response, and clauses for flexibility and beneficiary feedback.

Quality assurance of Business Cases and the nexus

The quality assurance process for Business Cases within DFID is coordinated by the Quality Assurance Unit (QAU)[18] which provides an assessment based on evidence and value for money, drawing guidance from a checklist developed in 2014 which does not explicitly cover risk, resilience and peacebuilding.[19] Reviews integrate inputs from professional cadres and commercial and financial experts. Feedback is taken seriously and incorporated by SROs, then shared with ministers and signed off by heads of departments. However, the content of feedback as it relates to the nexus depends on the individuals around the table, so can be personality-based and is not systemic. The QAU annual report (2017) recognised the need for greater coherence and complementarity between humanitarian and development programmes, recommending that “Business Cases should consider the incentives they create for government and society that affect long-term development”, justifying the benefits of multi-year funding, as a key element of the nexus.[20]

The 2018 QAU annual report also recommended that “Business Cases should better identify their indirect, possibly perverse, effects on political settlement, conflict dynamics and internal migration”, incorporating a greater focus on governance and risk management.[21] The inclusion of these recommendations is positive and a critical first step towards incorporating the nexus into the quality assurance process. This recommendation could be broadened to cover all aspects of the nexus beyond the humanitarian–development elements.

Suggestions for the UK government as a donor

  • DFID could embed the nexus into the quality assurance process for Business Cases.
  • Building upon the optional ‘Programme Design and Business Case Checklist’ developed by CHASE, formal guidance or a checklist for delivering on the nexus could be developed for use in quality assurance.
  • Political buy-in on the nexus and articulation of this in aid policies will ensure uptake of such a checklist.
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Programming approach

Lessons: DFID has developed a strong portfolio of context-driven programming on the nexus. Sequential programming is more established, while simultaneous programming (delivering peace, humanitarian and development elements together) is an iterative learning process. DFID demonstrates greater expertise in flexing when countries move into a crisis than in transitioning into recovery and stability once a crisis subsides. This highlights the donor-wide challenge of delivering on the peace component of the nexus in post-crisis contexts, but also the importance of strengthening programming tools for transitioning from active crisis into recovery and peacebuilding. These approaches have developed organically in response to contextual opportunities, changing needs and the incentives of individual staff members, and not because there is an official model in place. Documenting best practice in, and developing a menu of programming approaches to, the nexus will be important for systematising approaches and broader uptake for all donors.

The nexus is easier to comprehend in its practical application than in concept. Working programmatically on the nexus can be understood as either sequential or simultaneous (Box 3), but participatory and beneficiary feedback mechanisms are vital to the effectiveness of both approaches.

  • Sequential programming is the delivery of humanitarian, development and peacebuilding responses in sequence, passing on the baton as the context moves into and out of crisis. This includes transition finance where development and peacebuilding investments allow humanitarian assistance to transition out, and is more commonly used in disaster response.
  • Simultaneous programming is the delivery of humanitarian, development and peace programmes at the same time in the same context. In DFID, this is also understood as programming which serves dual objectives. This can involve both closely joined programmes, and more parallel, complementary approaches. It includes preventive approaches, where development and peacebuilding investments address the risk of crisis, and resilience approaches in situations of chronic crisis.
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Box 3

Menu of potential programming approaches

Sequential programming

Establishing mechanisms which enable development and humanitarian programmes to scale up and down as a crisis emerges, intensifies or contracts

Approach 1: Embedding crisis modifiers for early response into development programmes, although the challenge continues to be integrating this approach more systematically.

Approach 2: Flexible or shock-responsive nutrition, social protection and health programming to put contingencies in place, enabling rapid resource reallocation, a scale-up or shift in focus.

Approach 3: Flexing to respond to contextual changes when countries move out of crisis.

Simultaneous programming

Laying the foundations for longer-term development and peacebuilding through or alongside humanitarian programmes

Approach 4: Humanitarian programmes that plant the seeds for longer-term social protection programming through cash transfers.

Approach 5: Development and peacebuilding programmes that support peace dividends in parallel with humanitarian assistance to lay foundations for early recovery.

Approach 6: Providing support to longer-term livelihoods and market expansion during a crisis to lay foundations for recovery.

Investing in resilience, preparedness and peacebuilding to prevent the risk of crisis

Approach 7: Systematically embedding resilience into humanitarian and development programmes.

Approach 8: Integrating a peace lens into development programming

Sequential programming

As one interviewee noted, “there is a misperception of the problem – it is not a crisis if it happens every year”. This highlights the need to foster scalable mechanisms as a feature of good development. Incorporating early action, preparedness and resilience into humanitarian and development programmes is a critical aspect of this, in which DFID has demonstrated leadership.

Approach 1: Embedding crisis modifiers for early response into development programmes, although the challenge continues to be integrating this approach more systematically

A ‘crisis modifier’ was embedded into to DFID’s multi-year Building Resilience to Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme, which aimed to build community resilience to climate extremes in South and Southeast Asia and in the African Sahel. The ‘crisis modifier’ was designed to enable access to humanitarian funding to support early action and rapid response to emerging crisis needs in project areas and protect the development gains achieved by BRACED. Reviews on the impact of this crisis modifier have confirmed its value as a working tool in the humanitarian–development nexus, while highlighting the need to shift away from viewing crisis modifiers as a ‘bolt-on’ to development programmes and towards them being an integral part of how development actors design, think and act.[22] With the BRACED programme completed, the key challenge now for DFID is to embed this approach within all development planning in country office portfolios.

Approach 2: Flexible or shock-responsive nutrition, social protection and health programming to put contingencies in place, enabling rapid resource reallocation, a scale-up or shift in focus

A new centrally managed programme, Maintaining Essential Services after Natural Disasters (MAINTAIN) has been established to provide technical support to country offices on shock-responsive programming for nutrition. This allows development actors the flexibility to scale up in response to shocks – moving innovatively away from a shorter-term humanitarian response to nutrition. DFID has also embedded flexibility into health programmes to enable surge support – as in the South Sudan Health Pooled Fund and the UK Support for Health in Nigeria programme (Box 2).

DFID has established the Better Assistance in Crises (BASIC) programme to provide technical assistance to country offices on social protection and build an evidence base for best practice in meeting the needs of vulnerable people in crisis through social assistance.[23] Adaptive social protection programmes have been established in Kenya (through the Kenya Hunger Safety Net Programme), Ethiopia (through the Productive Safety Nets Programme) and the Sahel (though support to the Adaptive Social Protection Programme), which enable a triggered response, for example to provide cash transfers to affected populations, expanding the number of beneficiaries and complementing transfers with other components such as seed distribution.[24] Indicating the UK’s expanding focus on adaptive social protection programmes in crisis contexts, Figure 4 shows that the UK’s funding to social protection as a proportion of ODA to the top 20 international humanitarian recipients in 2017 increased more than threefold from 2008 to 2016 (from 1.5% to 6.9%).

Figure 4: UK funding to social protection (SP) as a proportion of ODA to FCASs, 2008–2017

Figure 4: UK funding to social protection (SP) as a proportion of ODA to FCASs, 2008–2017

UK funding to social protection (SP) as a proportion of ODA to FCASs, 2008–2017

Sources: Development Initiatives based on Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Creditor Reporting System (CRS) and DFID's ODA 2015 budget spent in fragile states and regions.

Notes: The fragile states were classified according to DFID's ODA 2015 budget spent in fragile states and regions. Data is in constant 2017 prices.[25]

DFID’s response to the drought in Somalia in 2017 demonstrated that flexible programming works well. Enabling a timely scale-up of existing humanitarian programmes in response to a crisis helped to avert a potential famine by mobilising support from other donors and increased funding to health, nutrition and WASH.[26] However, learning from the response suggested the future approach of scaling back emergency efforts to focus more on early recovery through longer-term development, thus embedding humanitarian response within a broader development framework. Linked to this, the review pointed to the need for DFID and the international community to respond to Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) category 2, not only categories 3 and 4, in order to build links with longer-term development programming and ensure stronger crisis prevention.[27]

Approach 3: Flexing to respond to contextual changes when countries move out of crisis

As a general finding, some interviewees report that DFID has more established expertise in innovative and risk programming approaches for flexing when countries move into a crisis (e.g. through shock-responsive programmes and crisis modifiers) than for transitioning into recovery and stability once a crisis subsides. This reflects the challenges associated with the peace aspect of the nexus which predominantly sits in post-crisis contexts. This observation is reinforced in the 2016 NAO report on DFID’s approach to responding to crisis, which states that DFID is strong in responding to rapid-onset crises and less strong in achieving a fluid approach in protracted crises, lacking comprehensive criteria to underpin whether and how to exit crises.[28]

However, as outlined below (Approaches 5 and 6), there is an emerging portfolio of examples of DFID supporting market expansion and peace dividends during a crisis to lay the foundations for recovery. There are also strong examples of where DFID is supporting transition from crisis response to recovery and peacebuilding, for example DFID’s portfolios in Somalia and North-East Nigeria are shifting towards a development focus. In Myanmar, the UK is reportedly shifting its approach to tackle more effectively the drivers and consequences of crises through humanitarian, development and peace programming, including by investing in education, health, economic development, governance, peacebuilding and resilience alongside humanitarian approaches, with a view to addressing short-term needs and helping to build resilience and transition into peace over time.

DFID’s experience and expertise in transitioning from crisis into recovery, peacebuilding and stability has clearly expanded and strengthened over recent years. These approaches are relatively new and interviewees highlighted the need to strengthen tools and guidance for delivering on the nexus in the post-crisis phase, especially in connection with the peace element, by drawing evidence from programmes that have attempted to achieve this and on experiences of other donors and partners. As one interviewee noted, “when a crisis happens, it takes away from the recovery work we should be doing. We need better blueprints and models of how to do good recovery and stability work alongside and transitioning away from crisis response”. The key risk here is that resilience, and peace in the post-crisis phase will be approached narrowly, through national priorities on security and stability. It is important to foster a long-term approach which incorporates a broader and participatory focus on recovery, peacebuilding, security and justice, without compromising principled engagement.

Simultaneous programming

Simultaneous programming involves laying foundations for longer-term development and peacebuilding through or alongside humanitarian programmes. In practice, pursuing a simultaneous approach commonly centres on the ability to work in parallel, pre-empting changes in the context and preparing for stronger coherence, collaboration and complementarity between humanitarian, development and peace actors at each phase of crisis. As outlined in Box 3, Approaches 4 to 6 here demonstrate this, while Approaches 7 and 8 focus on prevention through resilience, preparedness and peacebuilding.

Approach 4: Humanitarian programmes that plant the seeds for longer-term social protection programming through cash transfers

In countries lacking social protection systems, cash platforms were designed with a view to establishing social protection systems in the longer term. This can be a catalyst for more sustainable safety nets, helping to facilitate a transition between humanitarian response and development or wider system reform. DFID is at the conceptual stage with programmes of this nature. In Yemen, DFID is determining how to support alignment between social assistance and humanitarian cash. In Somalia, DFID is conceiving specific approaches for moving from short-term humanitarian cash transfers to a more harmonised approach in support of developing longer-term national systems.

Approach 5: Development and peacebuilding programmes that support peace dividends in parallel with humanitarian assistance to lay foundations for early recovery

DFID is delivering several humanitarian assistance programmes with embedded components on social cohesion and community resilience, as in the following examples. Such programmes are relatively new and not yet widespread.

  • The Humanitarian Reform, Assistance and Resilience (HRAR) programme in Sudan aims to support conflict management mechanisms through the ‘Taadoud’ component.[29]
  • The Humanitarian Protection for Vulnerable Refugees and Host Communities in Jordan programmes include a component for promoting community cohesion and strong links with humanitarian protection.[30]
  • The Building Resilience through Asset Creation and Enhancement II (BRACE II) programme in South Sudan (2015–2020) aims to increase the capacity of vulnerable households to cope with shocks, improve their food security and build better community relationships. The 2019 annual review reports positive outcomes on social cohesion through training on conflict management and establishment of dispute resolution mechanisms at community level.[31]

Around half of the 15 largest humanitarian crises supported by DFID in 2017 featured engagement in peacebuilding or stabilisation processes – in Afghanistan, DRC, Iraq, South Sudan, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen. The case for supporting immediate peace dividends to prevent damaging possibilities for long-term peace and development is especially strong.

Approach 6: Providing support to longer-term livelihoods and market expansion during a crisis to lay foundations for recovery

As noted above in Section 3.2, DFID is championing progressive programming to expand markets and support recovery in North-East Nigeria while crisis is ongoing. DFID is also playing a key role in supporting the development of the agricultural sector and small and medium-sized enterprises to support livelihood development. Market development and employment opportunities are also key focus areas of the UK’s support to the Comprehensive Refugee Results Framework in Jordan and Lebanon and Job Compact in Ethiopia.

Approach 7: Systematically embedding resilience into humanitarian and development programmes

DFID has recognised the importance of moving beyond crisis financing to cover pre-crisis efforts to prevent or prepare for and reduce the impact of crisis, through funding resilience, preparedness and early action. As noted in Section 2, DFID continues to advance the resilience agenda internationally, as reflected in the establishment of the new Centre for Disaster Protection which will focus on supporting countries to manage disaster risk. The integration of a resilience component into humanitarian programmes has become increasingly mainstream within DFID, as a crucial aspect of delivering on the nexus and linking humanitarian assistance with longer-term development programming – as in the Humanitarian Assistance and Resilience programme in South Sudan (2015–2020) and the Building Resilience in Ethiopia programme (2017–2022). However, the Multi-Year Thematic Evaluation of DFID’s Multi-Year Humanitarian Approach found that such programmes continue to be oriented towards a humanitarian response and have not yet addressed the underlying drivers of vulnerability.[32]

To approach the nexus effectively, it is crucial that development programmes include efforts to build resilience and preparedness. While development programmes may not explicitly refer to ‘resilience’ in the Business Case, there are many examples of where they are supporting resilience by addressing the needs of crisis-affected people. Such examples include human development programmes in Myanmar, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, DRC and Nigeria.

Approach 8: Integrating a peace lens into development programming

DFID has long been a champion of conflict-sensitive development programming (Section 3.1). The framework for engaging in fragile states and strengthening engagement on conflict and stability set out in the 2015 Aid Strategy has paved the way for more innovative approaches to embedding a peace lens into livelihood and basic services programming. CHASE has worked closely with the Economic Development Department and the Education team within the Inclusive Societies Department in the Policy Division to support country teams to embed a stability focus into economic development and education programmes. For example, DFID Somalia conducted a ‘building stability’ review of its portfolio of economic development programmes to understand the impact of its programming approach on stability. The review developed actionable recommendations at both the programming and portfolio levels – for example, thinking about managing risks related to regional trade infrastructure and spotting opportunities to increase engagement with sensitive land tenure issues, identifying new stability-related indicators to integrate into results frameworks.[33]

Suggestions for the UK government as a donor

  • The UK government could develop stronger tools to support programmes transitioning from humanitarian assistance to recovery and stability. Such tools could be included in standalone Smart guidance on the nexus (Section 2.3), and/or could form the focus of a future consultation process across DFID to identify next steps.
  • DFID could expand sequential and simultaneous programming approaches beyond specific programmes and countries, mainstreaming these approaches across the organisation by developing programming models or tools (e.g. on shock-responsive programming).
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Financing channels and instruments

Lessons: DFID’s decentralised model and fungible funding types are key strengths in approaching the nexus and enabling scale-up or -down of programming in response to changes in the crisis context. The Internal Risk Facility (IRF) provides country offices with the ability to flex in response to contextual changes, although stronger guidance and tools are required for broader uptake within development programmes. The Crisis Reserve plays a vital role in responding to unforeseen crises, although a gap persists in anticipatory and preventive financing. The overarching challenge here is that available contingency financing mechanisms tend to enable scale-up of crisis-response programming rather than longer-term development and peace programming; this is where a shift is needed, as relevant to all donors.

Funding channels

Like most donors, the UK uses a variety of funding channels and instruments in fragile and crisis-affected contexts, channelling funds through a mix of multilateral (core or earmarked funding), bilateral (via public sector and governments) and NGO partners, depending on the context. As shown in Figure 5, multilateral channels are often favoured in crisis and fragile contexts where funding through public partners is not possible given a government’s constrained capacity or involvement in conflict. Respecting humanitarian principles, humanitarian assistance is usually ‘state-avoiding’ for this reason. Two-fifths (39.3%) of UK ODA to fragile states was channelled through multilateral organisations in 2017, in contrast to a much smaller proportion to other developing countries (21.6% in 2017). More UK ODA was channelled through the public sector in other developing countries than in fragile states (37.2% and 19.2%, respectively).

In 2018, 36.5% of total UK ODA was in the form of multilateral funding and 63.5% in the form of bilateral funding.[34] Of relevance to the nexus is the extent to which decisions on core funding to multilateral agencies are complementary and joined up with decisions to fund the same agencies at the bilateral level. As outlined in Section 4.1, levels of complementarity vary by country programme and agency, and are undermined by the challenges faced in establishing a systematic approach to coherence between the centre and country offices, given DFID’s decentralised structure.

Like that of other donors, most of the UK’s ODA is channelled to development and humanitarian activities, with funding to conflict, peace and security constituting only 5.1% of ODA in 2017 (see Chapter 1, Figure 1). This raises questions around the need to match commitments on peace within the triple nexus with a greater proportion of ODA to peace and security activities.

Figure 5: UK funding channels (US$ millions) of humanitarian assistance (HA), conflict, peace and security (CPS) and non-HA/CPS development assistance, 2017

Figure 5: UK funding channels (US$ millions) of humanitarian assistance (HA), conflict, peace and security (CPS) and non-HA/CPS development assistance, 2017

UK funding channels (US$ millions) of humanitarian assistance (HA), conflict, peace and security (CPS) and non-HA/CPS development assistance, 2017

Source: Development Initiatives based on Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Creditor Reporting System (CRS).

Notes: Gross disbursements to country recipients, regions and unspecified developing countries. Data in current prices. All figures US$ millions.

Externally managed financing mechanisms

As a key component of DFID’s support to multilateral agencies, DFID contributes to financing mechanisms managed by external partners (international financial institutions and UN agencies). These include global funds (e.g. Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance), individual financing mechanisms working at the interface of humanitarian and development response (e.g. the Global Concessional Financing Facility managed by the World Bank and operating in protracted refugee contexts, the Global Risk Financing Facility), multi-donor trust funds at global and country levels, and pooled funding mechanisms for rapid crisis response (e.g. the UN Central Emergency Response Fund). As set out in the most recent Multilateral Aid Review (2016) and DFID’s Humanitarian Reform Policy, support to externally managed funds transfers the risk away from DFID, enables funding to reach countries where DFID does not have a presence, mobilises resources from diverse sources, allows donors to combine efforts, and enables wider use of innovative financing.[35] The impact of channelling funds through these different types of financing mechanisms and their relevance to the nexus is of critical importance to this research. However, public evidence on the impact of particular global funding mechanisms remains patchy and the performance of multilateral partners on the nexus has not been a systematic focus of previous multilateral partner reviews (Section 3.5).

Flexible financing

DFID has a flexible funding model enabling movement of funds between budget lines, to adjust budgets in line with strategy. Decision-making on allocation within country budgets is fully decentralised: Country Directors have full financial delegation and decisions are made on the ground, with Regional Directors providing oversight. Country Directors plan budgets every four years in line with spending reviews and have the option to move funds in response to contextual changes, apply for access to under-spend in other programmes and, with approval from Regional Directors and ministers, to the Crisis Reserve. DFID’s decentralised budget system and fungibility of budget types is a core strength, as confirmed by the recent DFID operational review.[36]

Unlike many other donors, DFID does not separate the budget in terms of development and humanitarian spend. This enables DFID to be innovative, responsive and context specific. However, the budget is split at country level for peacebuilding and stability activities between DFID and other departments funded through the CSFF. While there are cases of joined-up working across departments at country level, this generally poses a challenge for coordination.

Predictable and flexible funding: multi-year and unearmarked funding

To balance flexibility with predictability, DFID is committed to multi-year humanitarian funding through the Grand Bargain which is also reiterated in the Humanitarian Reform Policy (2017). Multi-year funding is agreed with partners and aligned to Business Case timeframes. Multi-year humanitarian funding allows partners to flex and plan for addressing humanitarian needs not confined to a single year. Given the pressures on humanitarian funding, there is not currently the space within multi-year humanitarian funding for agencies to expand their remit to cover longer-term development programming beyond addressing severe need. In addition, the NAO report on DFID’s response to crises highlights challenges including adoption of multi-year funding by second-tier recipients (often UN agencies).[37] This challenge is faced by all donors.

Multi-year funding should also be flexible but the pressure to demonstrate results reportedly undermines delivery of the UK’s multi-year programmes. For example, most of DFID’s multi-year funding in Jordan is reportedly earmarked.[38] One interviewee commented, “corporate inertia means that it is a real struggle to get multi-year programmes up and running”.[39] Unearmarked funding is a key form of flexible finance that should enable partners to respond to contextual changes and deliver on the nexus, for example by shifting from feeding centres to agricultural interventions as malnutrition reduces.

The proportion of UK humanitarian assistance given to implementing agencies as unearmarked core contributions fell from 27% in 2011 to 13% in 2016. However, this proportion rose again to 15% in 2017 (Figure 6). This is likely to align with rising national pressure to demonstrate results and DFID’s establishment of a ‘payment by results’ system for partners (Section 3.5). Like other donors, DFID may be veering away from commitments made through the Grand Bargain in 2015, to reduce earmarked funding.

Figure 6: The proportion of UK humanitarian assistance broken down by unearmarked core contributions, bilateral contributions and EU contributions, 2008–2017

Figure 6: The proportion of UK humanitarian assistance broken down by unearmarked core contributions, bilateral contributions and EU contributions, 2008–2017

The proportion of UK humanitarian assistance broken down by unearmarked core contributions, bilateral contributions and EU contributions, 2008–2017

Sources: Development Initiatives based on Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC), UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial Tracking Service (FTS) and UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) data.

Note: The unearmarked ODA contributions of DAC members to nine key multilateral agencies engaged in humanitarian response: FAO, IOM, UNDP, UNHCR, UN OCHA, UNICEF, UNRWA, WFP and WHO, as reported to the OECD DAC under Table 2a and the CRS. We do not include all ODA to FAO, IOM, UNICEF and WFP but apply a percentage to take into account that these agencies also have a ‘development’ mandate. These shares are calculated using data on humanitarian expenditure as a proportion of the total received directly from each multilateral agency.

Internal risk financing

Country budget allocation is appropriate to the level of existing risks and needs. SROs have the option of including an internal risk facility (IRF) in Business Cases as a pre-agreement to upscale programmes as needed in response to unpredictable shocks, with sign-off by the Minister for International Development. IRFs are designed to enable: quicker decisions, funding transfers and partner mobilisation during a crisis; greater value for money by enabling early responses to crisis (which are more economical than responding once a crisis has escalated); and reduced staff time focusing on administration and increased focus on achieving outcomes. This applies whether the funds for scale-up come from the Crisis Reserve, in-country budgets or as additional funds signed off by Treasury.[40] Feedback on the effectiveness of IRFs is mixed.

IRFs are felt to work better in contexts where shocks are predictable, highlighting a general gap in current risk analysis undertaken as part of the Business Case development process in terms of identifying risks that are less predictable and foreseeable. Strengthening mechanisms for participatory consultation and feedback in the risk analysis process would help to better understand risks at the community level (Section 3.2). The use of an IRF in Somalia was identified as an important factor preventing a potential famine in 2017, allowing speedy disbursement and contracting.[41]

However, some interviewees operating at the country level felt that resistance to signing off reserve financing within the Treasury can put (perceived) limits on the scale of the IRFs embedded into programme design. To date, IRFs have been used primarily to scale up humanitarian funding in response to rising humanitarian needs, with limited use in development programmes. Yet to achieve the proposed policy shift towards ‘development where possible and humanitarian only when necessary’ (Section 2), the uptake of risk financing in development programmes will be vital. Learning from DFID’s drought response in Somalia in 2017 is that the IRF, which focused on humanitarian response, is only one part of the solution, highlighting the need to embed shock-responsive financing options into resilience and development programming.[42]

Raising awareness and providing guidance on IRFs may broaden their uptake among development colleagues. While draft IRF guidance has been developed by the Humanitarian Head of Profession, which usefully provides direction in designing shock- and disaster-responsive programmes and highlights the limitations, this is not currently formalised or embedded within a broader tool on flexible finance. To strengthen the uptake of IRFs and other flexible funding approaches within programme design, institutional guidance is needed on all options for flexible financing and their appropriateness in different contexts. Having formal tools in place for flexible financing will help to make the case to Treasury on the importance of reserve funding and overcoming related risks.

Financing for rapid onset

DFID has a suite of financing mechanisms in place for responding to rapid-onset crises, or supporting others to do so, and demonstrates advanced thinking in this area. This is particularly important in enabling the UK government to flex in response to crises in countries where it does not have a presence. As outlined in the Smart guidance, the ODA Crisis Reserve is an in-year contingency fund established under the 2015 Aid Strategy – with £200 million as a central contingency reserve and £300 million as ‘re-deployable’ funds. It pays out to UK government departments and DFID country offices and UK embassies. The Crisis Reserve is managed by CHASE but open to bids from other government departments.

The Crisis Reserve is important for responding to unforeseen and rapid-onset crises and, as such, its role in terms of the nexus and linking short- to longer-term assistance is relatively small. According to one interviewee, “the crisis reserve works in a slightly old-world way – i.e. responding to a big crisis and not looking at preventive measures or dealing with recurrent or protracted crises”, highlighting a gap in DFID’s existing financing framework in terms of preventive and anticipatory financing. This could be addressed by establishing a financing sub-window within the Crisis Reserve, or integrating anticipatory approaches into the criteria for accessing it, or by establishing a separate funding mechanism for this purpose. Drawing on learning from other contingency financing mechanisms that have taken steps to build in anticipatory action will be helpful here – examples include the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) and the Start Network.

Suggestions for the UK government as a donor

  • The Better Delivery Department could develop a tool to provide teams with guidance on flexible programming and financing to encourage uptake of IRFs beyond humanitarian programmes.
  • DFID could set requirements to support this, for example by requesting that country offices with high vulnerability scores (e.g. on INFORM) establish mechanisms enabling flex in response to crisis.
  • DFID could consider establishing a funding window, either within the ODA Crisis Reserve or as a separate mechanism, which specifically focuses on prevention and anticipatory approaches. An alternative would be to include anticipatory response and risk mitigation in the access criteria for the Crisis Reserve.

The Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF)

Lessons: The UK’s activities on peacebuilding and stability are primarily managed through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) and the National Security Council (NSC), where DFID oversees humanitarian and development activities and maintains a focus on peacebuilding. A separate fund or facility focusing on one part of the nexus can clearly incentivise risk-informed and targeted programming. However, this also risks siloing nexus approaches in the absence of a systematic approach to building complementarity. There are many opportunities for the CSSF and DFID to build upon existing efforts to increase complementarity. Where both CSSF and DFID are present in a particular country, there is scope to pursue joined-up planning and programming more actively, both in London and in country. The CSSF could utilise and develop its potential for longer-term programming and DFID could reinvigorate its role in the design and delivery of these longer-term strategies (including those that transition from the CSSF to DFID) through its participation in the Cross-Government Boards that steer CSSF activities. Regular dialogue between DFID’s programme SROs and CSSF delivery teams, in London and in country, through existing systems would help to enable this.

The CSSF was established in 2015 as a cross-departmental fund to bring coherence in the UK response to conflict and instability, and as such plays a key role in delivering the ‘peace’ aspect of the nexus. It delivers the objectives set out in the Aid Strategy on: (i) global peace, security and governance; (ii) strengthening resilience and response to crises; and (iii) tackling extreme poverty and helping the world’s most vulnerable people. The CSSF also delivers the 2015 Strategic Defence and Security Review and National Security Council strategies. Feedback from interviewees highlights the positive role that the CSSF has played in increasing coherence and collaboration, or ‘fusion’, across government on peace and stability issues, especially at country level.

The 2018 ICAI review of the CSSF supports this, concluding that the “CSSF implements its work with wider UK programming in mind, and this helps to avoid gaps and overlaps”. The report points to programmes in Pakistan and Jordan on refugee-camp stability that were designed as pilots to be transitioned to DFID, in Jordan’s case in anticipation of the department’s increased presence in the country. This is a clear link from CSSF’s work to longer-term peace and security priorities on municipal infrastructure and service delivery to benefit refugees and host communities.[43]

Other interviewees identified challenges that have faced the CSSF in terms of delivering outcomes, given its annual project focus, and perceived limited transparency. The lack of information on some activities funded through the CSSF, reportedly because of beneficiary security concerns relating to the types of activities and contexts, can make it more difficult to identify opportunities to build coherence with development and humanitarian responses. The CSSF has reported to the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) since August 2019, and highlights the challenge of reporting to the OECD DAC given the multiple reporting codes of relevance to CSSF. The CSSF has taken a number of steps to strengthen transparency over recent years. For example, in 2018/19, the CSSF published 83 out of 90 programme summaries, with a further six to be published later in the year,[44] and in 2017/18, 63 programme summaries were published.[45] The Joint Fund Unit (JFU) management response to the CSSF Annual Review[46] and three Annual Reports[47] are also publicly available. In addition, the CSSF and departments it funds publish information to IATI at programme level, although they do not systematically provide project-level detail, given perceived security concerns. As part of the Publish What You Fund HMG transparency assessment, DFID and CSSF have been actively supporting CSSF spending departments to improve their reporting to IATI. Ongoing efforts to strengthen transparency of the Fund will be important.

Regarding outcomes, the 2018 ICAI report found that the CSSF has weak results frameworks in place, given its output-orientated focus, and lacks evidence on impact, making it difficult to gauge its comparative advantage over broader peacebuilding and security and justice programming and financing.[48] However, the 2019 ICAI follow-up on progress on the 2018 recommendations highlighted that “the CSSF has achieved significant progress in its response to most of them”, “there has been a step-change in the quality of programme level documentation” and that “annual reviews now include the reporting of outcomes, not just outputs”.[49]

As an example of where outcomes have been demonstrated at the country level, a CSSF-funded Conflict Early Warning and Early Response System (CEWERS) in South Sudan was found to have contributed to a number of outcomes including reductions in the volumes of violent incidents, organised cattle raids and inter-communal conflict. In August 2017, CEWERS “issued a conflict alert after several sources confirmed mass mobilisation of Murle youth to launch an attack on areas of Jonglei State”.[50] Stakeholders worked together to respond to the threat and talks were held with armed youths. “By the end of September, there were no reports of any organised cattle raids in Jonglei State, saving lives and livelihoods.”[51]

As a general point, specific cross-departmental donor funds or facilities focusing on one ‘leg’ of the nexus clearly incentivise cross-government collaboration and targeted risk-informed interventions. They can also risk siloing nexus approaches, unless a systematic approach to building complementarity is taken. For the UK, some interviewees felt that the planning and programming cycles of development and humanitarian responses (overseen by DFID) being separate from those on peace and stability (managed by the National Security Council and delivered through the CSSF by delivery departments) could pose a challenge for complementarity across the nexus. Separated management for different aspects of the nexus may be necessary for strengthening cross-government approaches to delivering on certain priorities or in terms of safeguarding humanitarian principles. However, achieving complementarity as a minimum between humanitarian, development and peacebuilding activities is crucial to the nexus.

There are several opportunities for DFID and CSSF to build upon existing efforts toto further systematise a complementary approach. Where CSSF and DFID are both present in country, there is scope to pursue joined-up planning and programming more actively – in London and in country. Lebanon is an example of where complementarity is being achieved at the country level. Government departments “work together using CSSF funds, to deliver and support activity to address the impacts felt from the conflict in neighbouring Syria”.[52] DFID has reportedly used CSSF funds to address pressures on the education system and on basic municipal service delivery caused by the influx of Syrian refugees. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and Ministry of Defence (MOD) have supported programmes training the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in parallel.[53] As another example: in Syria, the CSSF supports access to education in Western Aleppo and Idlib. CSSF funding has “enabled Syria’s education programme to work closely with community leaders and local organisations to support teachers and coordinate work across the education sector”.[54] This complements DFID bilateral funding which focuses on enhancing “the quality of needs-based education in a protracted crisis, including the provision of remedial literacy and numeracy, child protection and psycho-social support”.[55]

While a key element of CSSF’s mandate focuses on agile, high-risk interventions driven by the government’s response to fast-moving developments, the CSSF could utilise and develop its potential for longer-term programming. Equally, DFID could reinvigorate its role in the design and delivery of these longer-term strategies (including those that transition from the CSSF to DFID) through its participation in the Cross-Government Boards that steer CSSF activities. Regular dialogue and engagement between DFID’s programme SROs and CSSF delivery teams, both in London and in-country, through existing systems would help to enable this.

Suggestions for the UK government as a donor

  • CSSF and DFID could utilise existing cross-government systems for ensuring that joined-up planning and programming is actively undertaken at headquarters and in country, agreeing on a division of responsibilities and identifying a process for the CSSF to transition to DFID to manage longer-term aspects of the strategy. Systematising approaches for regular dialogue and engagement between DFID’s programme SROs and CSSF delivery teams both in London and in country would help to enable this.
  • The CSSF could utilise and develop its potential for longer-term programming and DFID could reinvigorate its role in the design and delivery of these longer-term strategies through its participation in the Cross-Government Boards that steer CSSF activities.
  • More broadly and at the UK policy level, bringing priorities and results frameworks on resilience and peacebuilding together would help to forge greater synergies and align the peace element of the nexus with development and humanitarian programming. The new spending review is an opportunity to build these synergies.
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Lessons: Partners can play a strategic role in supporting the UK to deliver on nexus commitments. Jointly discussing expectations for flexing in response to contextual change and delivering on resilience, peace and inclusion outcomes with partners and embedding these into partnership agreements will be key. It will be important to integrate nexus-related capacities of partners into future reviews, to move towards harmonised reporting requirements for NGOs and to strengthen the coherence of internal engagement with multilateral and NGO partners for more strategic outcomes. Testing approaches and developing experience in working with national governments is increasingly crucial from a nexus perspective, given the need to link short-term assistance with national development and social protection.

Partnerships with multilaterals

Multilateral agencies are a major channel of both development and humanitarian assistance in crisis contexts (accounting for over a third of UK ODA in 2017, Figure 5). This offers an opportunity to develop joined-up approaches within DFID to engaging with these agencies and identifying strategic partnership outcomes for risk, resilience and peacebuilding. However, DFID personnel tend to partner with agencies they know, or that are lower risk, rather than seeking greater comparative advantage. Largely as a result of the way in which the UN is structured, there is limited cross-over between departments working on different aspects of the nexus, limiting opportunities for joined-up working. For example, humanitarian teams tend to work with UNOCHA and UNHCR, development teams with UNDP and peacebuilding teams with the UNDP Bureau for Crisis Prevention and the UN Peacebuilding Fund. Where there is cross-over, and development and humanitarian teams are partnering with the same agency, e.g. UNICEF, they often have separate management in the same country. Interviewees felt that this undermines DFID’s strategic approach to partnerships. However, there are some examples of joined-up working, for example in the Water and Sanitation programme in Zimbabwe designed to respond to the cholera outbreak in 2018.[56]

To move towards longer-term development programming in crisis contexts, it will be important to develop and systematise a joined-up approach internally to engaging with individual multilateral agencies in fragile and crisis contexts. External factors also play a role – including the capacity of multilateral agencies to deliver on the nexus, and the division of responsibilities within the UN structure itself. Some country personnel reported challenges they face in identifying multilateral agencies with appropriate skills and the mandate and scope to engage in the broad range of programming necessary, highlighting the importance of fostering partnerships with a broad range of partners on the nexus, such as technical NGOs; others were more positive regarding their experiences.

While multilateral agencies have promised to deliver on the nexus through international commitments, there is no further explicit requirement in DFID’s partnership agreements. While the Smart Rules partnership principles touch on the importance of conflict sensitivity, partner approaches to risk, resilience and peacebuilding are not covered. This disincentivises DFID teams to select partners based on their comparative advantage.

To make progress on the nexus, it is vital that multilateral agencies, in receipt of such a large proportion of UK ODA (Figure 5), are incentivised to strengthen their capacities to deliver on resilience, risk and peace by incorporating expectations on these outcomes into existing or new partnership guidance (e.g. Smart Rules partnership principles) and performance management systems. Directly supporting partner staff capacity on the nexus through training and shared learning would also help to cement progress on this agenda. Future reviews of multilateral partnerships should explicitly cover the nexus, in contrast to previous reviews on the impact of channelling aid through multilateral agencies, such as the Multilateral Aid Review (MAR). While the MAR states a desire to support 'working together to maximise results', it does not explicitly focus on how DFID can enable this though its own internal practices. This is also relevant to broader donor reviews such as those of the Multilateral Organisation Performance Assessment Network (MOPAN).

Partnerships with governments

Partnering with governments and channelling assistance through national systems is a key component of the aid effectiveness agenda and the Grand Bargain commitment on localisation. As shown in Figure 5, very little UK humanitarian funding is channelled through the state, with a greater preference for multilateral channels. Working with governments to address crisis and risk raises difficult questions but is increasingly crucial from a nexus perspective, given the push towards longer-term development programming in crisis contexts, and the essential role of governments in linking short-term assistance with national agendas on resilience, preparedness and social protection. DFID has demonstrated leadership internationally by championing the risk and resilience agenda and promoting the role of governments within this. The 2018 ICAI report praises DFID for its work to strengthen governments’ resilience programming.[57]

However, like many donors, DFID faces practical institutional challenges to meaningful partnerships with governments in humanitarian response, defaulting towards an internationally led response. As a result of the UK political landscape and pressure to demonstrate results, and as noted in the mid-term OECD DAC review, “DFID has become more sensitive to reputational and fiduciary risks and as a result puts less emphasis on using country systems. Although country offices use national systems where these are considered robust, DFID has made conditions for doing so more restrictive”.[58] While governments are limited to being programming partners or access enablers, this calls into question their role in driving nexus priorities.[59] DFID’s experience in Ethiopia was that it was critical to engage with a broader set of ministries, beyond those coordinating emergency response – especially the finance ministry, given its role in administering government resources. Interviewees highlighted a potential nexus ‘trade-off’ whereby partnerships with national governments to deliver on the humanitarian–development nexus through resilience/disaster prevention can undermine the possibilities of engaging in the same country on peace and stability issues.

Partnerships with NGOs

DFID funds many multi-mandate NGOs working across humanitarian and development portfolios. This is a key opportunity for strategically linking partnerships with the nexus by encouraging NGOs to make connections across HDP programmes. However, as with multilateral agencies, there is no requirement for NGO partnerships to demonstrate progress on the nexus. Systems to enable NGO partners to employ flexible programming are key in approaching the nexus and in the UK’s ability to flex in response to contextual changes (Section 3.4). Interviewees from country offices identified cases where DFID was supporting partners to build flexibility into their programmes, allowing them to adapt as required. However, the stringent reporting requirement for partners – resulting from efforts to de-risk in crisis contexts, the introduction of counter-terrorism legislation concerning NGOs, and the imperative to demonstrate results – was unanimously identified as the key challenge DFID faces in utilising partnerships for flexible programming, especially in fragile contexts where the need for flexibility is greatest.

ICAI’s review of UK humanitarian funding highlights concern regarding DFID’s use of payment by results and performance-based systems, which undermine partners’ flexibility and the inherent benefits of core funding.[60] The OECD DAC review noted that “reporting requirements for non-core funding are becoming heavy and time consuming… not always consistent across countries and are not harmonised with other donors putting the quality of partnerships at risk”. Cumbersome reporting requirements affect multilateral agencies too.

ICAI’s review of DFID’s partnerships with civil society organisations (CSOs) found that DFID’s current approach to funding does not empower CSOs to achieve the best possible project results.[61] This was exacerbated in 2016 by the ending of unrestricted and core funding to CSOs, resulting in central and in-country funding being exclusively project-based and tightly restricted by results frameworks, reducing opportunities for strategy, learning and adaptation. The impact of this, as identified in the review of DFID’s response to the drought in Somalia in 2017, is that the pool of partners is often too limited to deliver on anticipated outcomes. In Somalia, DFID reportedly worked through existing international partners, excluding local actors and limiting coverage, localisation and, potentially, innovation.[62] This has undermined DFID’s progress on the Grand Bargain commitments on localisation and harmonised reporting.[63]

However, the OECD DAC review of the UK notes that DFID has taken several steps to address the rigidity and weight of its internal procedures and to manage risk through innovative thinking, such as the formation of its Smart Rules which outline less rigid quality expectations and provide a basis for flexible and adaptive programming.[64] There remains a pressing need for more manageable, harmonised partner reporting requirements and clearer guidance on value for money regarding partnerships, and, to manage risk, a shift towards more regular monitoring and oversight mechanisms and away from heavy reporting. As explored in Section 3.6, flexible results management frameworks and clear communication with partners at the country level will be vital. in managing programmes to enable flex in response to shocks and mobilisation of an IRF.

Suggestions for the UK government as a donor

  • DFID could ensure that future cross-organisational and country-level reviews (including MAR) consider the structure and staffing skills of multilateral agencies in terms of the nexus.
  • Performance indicators on risk, resilience and peace could be incorporated into partnership agreements and performance reviews of multilateral agencies and NGOs, and internal partnership guidance, such as Smart partnership principles, could better cover requirements regarding partner approaches to risk, resilience and peacebuilding. DFID could also consider providing direct capacity-building support to multilateral and NGO partner staff on the nexus.
  • DFID could foster a more joined-up and strategic approach to engaging with individual multilateral agencies between the centre and country offices across humanitarian, development and peacebuilding programmes. While tools to support this are incorporated within Smart guidance (‘Best Practice in Programming Coherently across DFID’), going beyond guidance to make it a requirement of programme planning that the centre systematically consults country offices when engaging with individual multilateral agencies (and vice versa) would strengthen this (Section 4.1).
  • DFID could undertake in-depth research, generating learning on how the UK and other donors have worked with national governments in crisis response, and whether this has contributed to longer-term development programming. This could feed into wider external discussions to strengthen the strategic engagement of governments in driving the nexus, beyond acting as technical partners.
  • DFID could streamline cumbersome NGO partner reporting requirements, enabling NGOs to flex better in response to contextual changes. Lighter and more regular monitoring and oversight mechanisms would help to overcome risks associated with NGO partnerships.
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Monitoring, evaluation and learning

Lessons: Learning from DFID’s experience on the nexus is not systematically shared across the organisation, and information on programme objectives, strategies and indicators is not centrally accessible in a user-friendly format. Establishing a central mechanism for organisational learning and information-sharing would help to fill this gap. This is especially crucial when tackling a new policy agenda such as the ‘triple nexus’ which requires experimentation and improvements over time. To strengthen accountability around the triple nexus, holistic qualitative and quantitative indicators on risk, resilience and peace should be identified, and beneficiary feedback mechanisms established to capture the perspectives of affected populations in programme design. Supporting teams with a menu of outcome-level indicators, potentially in the suggested operational guidance on the nexus, will be important, as will flexible and adaptive programming. Sustained efforts to test more flexible approaches to results management will be crucial.

Learning and information management

Capturing and sharing context-specific learning within DFID and across government departments is crucial to the nexus, especially given that this is a complex issue requiring new thinking. While there are challenges in capturing cross-sector learning and embedding it into responses, DFID is doing well in comparison to other government departments, especially at the individual programme and thematic level. At the country level, for example, in Nigeria an internal ‘education and emergency learning lab’ has been established to facilitate learning on designing education programmes in conflict-affected areas.

At the central level, in the absence of a cross-organisational system for capturing learning, central teams such as CHASE, the Inclusive Societies Department and other departments within the Policy Division, as well as cadres and Heads of Practice, are playing a vital role in filling this gap by capturing and sharing learning. They are also establishing communities of practice for providing country teams with technical advice (Section 4.1) and establishing internal central guidance documents such as Mainstreaming Stability[65] and the Protracted Crises Discussion Paper (Section 2.2). These efforts would enable broader uptake of learning, however, if they were systematised, incorporated into and supported by a centrally managed approach to learning. DFID has also established the Centre for Disaster Protection to drive learning on risk financing.

Responsibility for learning sits within each individual department and, despite several information-sharing platforms, there is no central authority for knowledge-sharing and learning. Although the Evidence into Action department has taken initial steps to capture learning, formats and dissemination are regarded as inadequate. The uptake of cross-government learning is reportedly more of a challenge. ICAI is currently undertaking an in-depth review, which will help to identify opportunities for strengthening cross-institutional learning.

Information-sharing is also a prerequisite for building coherence, collaboration and complementarity. However, country and thematic strategies and results frameworks are often developed on a programme-by-programme basis and not connected strategically or designed to complement other relevant programmes across the nexus. As a result, headquarters-based thematic and policy teams have no systematic way of gathering information about thematic programmes operating at country level; and country programmes have no way to connect with other country programmes. Interviewees recounted examples of teams contributing to each other’s annual reviews for learning purposes but this is not systematic. It would be helpful for departments and country teams to access each other’s strategy documents and results frameworks, for which a central information system is required. While Business Cases published on the UK’s DevTracker do summarise individual programmes, it is inefficient to sift through each document separately. A database with a search mechanism would improve the speed and ease of the process. The Aid Management Platform collects key information about programmes and enables staff to search for information about a specific programme, although it does not enable comparison of programmes using common results indicators.

Monitoring and evaluation

There is a clear and standardised approach in place for measuring programme results for all DFID programmes, as set out in the Smart guidance.[66] Measuring results relating to the nexus – involving programming across resilience, risk, early warning and preparedness, social protection, peacebuilding and crisis response – is complicated and requires tools different from the standard approaches to monitoring outputs and outcomes. However, is it crucial to identify practical qualitative and quantitative outcome-level indicators and test new approaches through an iterative process.

Ambitions to deliver on the nexus and associated beneficiary feedback mechanisms are not systematically incorporated into programme results frameworks set out in Business Cases, or in subsequent reviews and evaluations, thus limiting accountability around the nexus and undermining opportunities for learning. This is exacerbated by confusion among staff members about the concept of the ‘nexus’ and what it means in practice (Section 2.3). The suggested operational guidance could help to clarify expectations by including a menu of optional qualitative and quantitative outcome-level indicators on resilience and peacebuilding for use in programme planning, as well as guidance on capturing beneficiary feedback and feeding this into results management.

Adaptive programming

Adaptive programming enables more deliberate experimentation, learning and adaptation. It is an important factor in the nexus as it can enable programmes – simultaneous and sequential – to experiment when the solution to a problem is not obvious, or when the pathway to the solution is uncertain and dependant on a changing political economy. It involves using results to inform decisions on whether to scale up, close or adapt interventions. Adaptive programming has been successfully implemented in some cases, for example through the Legal Assistance for Economic Reform (LASER) programme in eight DFID partner countries (2014–2017), which sought to improve the business environment and enabled an adaptive approach through regularly reviewing and updating the theory of change and logframe indicators.[67]

The Better Delivery department has developed guidance on designing adaptive programming and on how it can be integrated into Business Cases, programme design and contracting processes. A recent review found that the guidance outlined in the Smart Rules allows for adaptive programming, promoting a delegated risk appetite which is encouraging innovation. It concludes that maintaining this risk appetite and encouraging uptake of adaptive programming will be essential given the UK’s commitment to engage in fragile contexts.[68]

While tools and guidance for adaptive programming are in place,[69] the real challenge is delivery. Interviewees report that adaptive programming is hard to do well because of the pressure to track and report against predictable results. Overall, DFID systems do not incentivise adaptive programming. To change this requires a re-think on the design of programmes, results frameworks, monitoring and evaluation, procurement, partnerships and staff capacity-building. However, DFID’s Smart Rules do allow for the use of alternative results frameworks where a linear logframe may be unsuitable.[70] As a positive first step, the Better Delivery department is investigating more flexible alternatives to logframes (such as a ‘change frame’) used in results management, to support adaptive programming, although this is experimental and not yet standard practice. A critical aspect of this will be identifying ways to embed flexibility into NGO partnership agreements at the country level and to communicate clearly to NGO partners ways in which results will be managed in the case of programmes flexing in response to shocks or the mobilisation of an IRF (Section 3.5).

Suggestions for the UK government as a donor

  • DFID could consider developing a central system for sharing learning and information on different programmes, including outcome-level indicators to encourage connections across programmes. This could build upon existing mechanisms, such as the Governance and Social Development Resource Centre (GSDRC) for capturing learning.
  • DFID could include a menu of harmonised indicators on resilience and peace to use in programme design and results frameworks in the suggested standalone guidance on the nexus (Section 2.3), including prompts on the use of these indicators in the Business Case template.
  • The Better Delivery Department could continue to test flexible results frameworks and other programme-cycle tools necessary to support adaptive programming.


  • 2
    Human development (which includes risk and shock responsive analysis), inclusion, inclusive growth, conflict, humanitarian and fragility, and governance.
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  • 3
    Including but not limited to UN OCHA, UNHCR, WHO, ACAPs, Humanitarian Needs Overviews and Humanitarian Response Plans.
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