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Towards a sustainable and effective impact: Embracing stronger partnerships

13 December 2018
On 19th and 20th November 2018, the European Commission’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid department (ECHO) invited its humanitarian partners to the Annual Partners Conference to discuss recent developments, challenges and opportunities in the humanitarian sector. As a committed partner, Plan International participated in the conference as it offers a platform to exchange perspectives, experiences, and recommendations for increasing the effectiveness and sustainable impact of our humanitarian aid. The conference strongly emphasised the integrated, triple nexus approach, EU thematic priorities such as education and protection from violence in emergencies, and the next Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) modalities with a focus on results, transparency and accountability.

© European Union , 2018 / Source: EC - Audiovisual Service / Photo: Lukasz Kobus

As Plan International is a strong advocate for the prioritisation of education in emergency contexts, we particularly welcome ECHO’s commitment to increase funding for Education in Emergencies (EiE) to 10% of the total 2019 budget (as compared to 1% in 2015), as well as the adoption of the first EU policy framework on EiE. We look forward to working with ECHO going forward to ensure that an adequate proportion goes to girls’ education. While the EU will be passing the lead to Canada on the Call to Action Initiative against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), Plan International appreciates Commissioner Stylianides’ statement confirming the EU’s continued support to international efforts to end GBV in emergencies. During the conference, ECHO clearly underlined its willingness to strengthen relationships with its partners in the next FPA through various partnership modalities – including multi-partner grants for more genuine consortia and programmatic partnerships to allow for greater flexibility and longer-term strategic planning. For the sake of transparency and accountability, the ECHO Director-General, Ms. Monique Pariat, announced that requirements for robust internal systems for codes of conduct and anti-fraud control mechanisms would be a strengthened feature in the next FPA.

While the Conference provided a space for open debate between ECHO and its partners, and demonstrated the strengthened coordination between EU donors, Plan International has a number of recommendations which would support and strengthen its partnership with ECHO. We recognise that the triple nexus approach may increase the effectiveness of interventions as it allows for a holistic response to complex contemporary crises where humanitarian and political emergencies are often interlinked. Nevertheless, it is essential that an integrated response respects the principled approach of humanitarian aid and ensures effective and complementary coordination while avoiding any blurring of lines between the humanitarian, development and peacebuilding mandates. As answers provided by ECHO at the conference on the nexus and localisation were too vague, we strongly encourage the EU to develop operational guidelines on the triple nexus in close consultation with a wide range of partners. Secondly, while we believe that multi-partner grants and programmatic partnerships could support the implementation of the triple nexus and allow for more sustainable and quality interventions, we would advocate for the development of practical guidelines as well as for greater transparency from ECHO on consortia conditions. However, it will be essential that the programme based approach option does not present a funding barrier to smaller FPA holders. Therefore, we would like to draw ECHO’s attention to the much-valued principle of diversity among partners. Thirdly, although Plan International strongly supports the EU commitment to increase funding for EiE, we believe it is important that ECHO be more transparent about its funding allocations. Plan International would appreciate ECHO providing greater information at the end of the fiscal year on how earmarked funds for Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies (GBViE) and EiE funds were dispersed.

Finally, Plan International strongly supports Ms. Pariat’s call for a thorough cultural change to prevent and respond to any abuses of power, which the humanitarian community must first embrace within our own organisational structures if we are to adopt such an approach in our international operations.