This research seeks to support the Grand Bargain workstream on enhanced quality of funding by providing evidence from two countries – Lebanon and Jordan – on multi-year humanitarian funding and planning (MYHFP).
Both sample countries have experienced protracted humanitarian crises with consistently large numbers of displaced populations. Total humanitarian funding to both responses has remained high since 2013, though it has steadily decreased in recent years. These conditions, coupled with the presence of multi-year strategic response plans, seem conducive to realising MYHFP.
The key informant interviews in both countries indicate a lack of a commonly agreed definition of multi-year humanitarian funding (MYHF) in terms of the time frame of grants. According to their own definitions, donors and implementers reported a wide variation in the share of MYHF provided and received. There was a shared sense in Lebanon and Jordan that the overall proportion of MYHF has not been significant enough to transform the humanitarian response, despite increases since 2016. The provision of multi-year grants beyond the first level of funding was reportedly even more limited across all international implementers. These implementers cited a lack of their own budget visibility, limited capacity by downstream partners to absorb long-term funding, and restrictions on the original grant as obstacles to providing multi-year sub-grants.
Donors and implementers in both contexts reinforced the need for MYHF to be flexible to unlock its potential in improving the response. This can reportedly be achieved through low levels of earmarking or by allowing for adaptive programming. The latter requires the ability to move funds between budget lines, activities, geographical regions and years with minimal delays.
In terms of the links between the time frame of funding and planning processes, all interviewed actors in Jordan and Lebanon plan strategically for the longer term, though this tends to be marginally influenced by the funding available. The link between time frame of funding and that of programmes varies by the size of operations, with the largest implementers relying on a mix of income streams with different time frames and levels of earmarking, making it more difficult to implement multi-year funding as multi-year programmes.
The perceived efficiency gains through MYHFP in both contexts were through lower administrative burdens of grant management and higher staff retention for implementers. The internal capacity building through the latter was identified to be of particular importance to local and national actors.
Interviewees further identified a range of effectiveness gains unlocked by flexible MYHFP. These include a continued presence, resulting in greater trust with affected populations, and better baselines through a longer start-up phase. Through flexible and predictable funding, implementers cited the benefit of being able to adapt programmes based on learning and changing need. It might also provide the opportunity in more stable crisis contexts to facilitate a transition from humanitarian to development response.
Throughout the research, several recommendations to the global Grand Bargain workstream on enhanced quality of funding are identified based on field perspectives from all stakeholders. These include the need to establish a shared understanding of how to define MYHF and what its role should be in different contexts: to more effectively meet humanitarian needs or to transition to a development response. There also seems to be scope for donors of MYHF to share their lessons learned, and for implementers to outline more clearly what MYHFP enables them to do. The provision of multi-year sub-grants remains a challenge that requires stronger efforts to realise the benefits of MYHFP through the entire humanitarian system.