Image by Pramin Manandhar, FHI 360
  • Blog
  • 1 September 2023

Data transparency is key to unlocking a successful Grand Bargain 3.0

As the Grand Bargain 3.0 launches, better data transparency is key to its success, achieving greater accountability and ensuring that progress is made on the original commitments and new initiatives

In June the Grand Bargain 3.0 was launched. Seven years on from its creation at the World Humanitarian Summit and with significantly more people in need of humanitarian assistance, there is greater urgency than ever to fulfil its signatories’ commitments to greater effectiveness and efficiency in humanitarian response. However, to be able to monitor and assess progress we need comparable and timely data on the implementation of these commitments, something which has been mostly absent in the first and second phases of the Grand Bargain. Better data transparency is critical for the Grand Bargain’s success – not only for improved individual and collective accountability, but also to support more effective planning, coordination and coherence of humanitarian response.

The Grand Bargain enters its third phase

After a successful Annual Meeting and launch of the third phase of the Grand Bargain in June, discussions are picking up on how to start operationalising the new structure and strands of work. So far, the Grand Bargain has had a mixed impact. While there is consensus around its value as a convening space for a multitude of actors, there is also frustration on its slow and partial progress. The third iteration represents an attempt to reinvigorate collective energy, especially given the newly widened agenda that includes multisectoral approaches, innovative and anticipatory financing. This presents an opportunity to also renew efforts around better monitoring of the Grand Bargain commitments.

Tracking progress made within the Grand Bargain has been challenging so far

Since its inception, it has been difficult to measure the progress made against the Grand Bargain commitments. The monitoring process has relied on annual qualitative self-reports (with some quantitative and semi-quantitative data) which have been of varying quality and consistency despite efforts to focus and align reporting on select core commitments. Independent organisations have attempted to provide outside scrutiny and to fill the gaps by triangulating these self-reports with limited publicly-reported data. For example, Development Initiatives’ (DI) annual Global Humanitarian Assistance reports have tracked progress on key commitments such as funding to local and national actors, multi-year funding and levels of cash and voucher assistance.

Unclear targets make comparable reporting difficult

A key challenge behind the fragmented transparency of the Grand Bargain’s progress is its loosely-worded and imprecise commitments, which often lack targets that are easy to interpret and report against. These challenges were evident in two of the most recent Grand Bargain caucuses which DI provided technical advice to. The Quality Funding Caucus negotiations ran into serious barriers around how to even define and calculate multi-year funding (such as whether to count contracts or disbursements and how to deal with cost extensions or single-year project cycles within multi-year budgets). Months were also spent discussing how to calculate funding to local and national actors as a proportion of total budgets during the Caucus on Funding for Localisation discussions.

Unclear targets result in inconsistent reporting, and consequently incomplete and incomparable data. This can lead to a lack of trust between actors on the data that is available and discrepancies between what is reported and what is actually being experienced. Examples include UN agencies reporting they haven’t received more multi-year funding, but donors reporting they have increased their levels; or intermediaries reporting that they provided more funding for localisation, while local networks challenge whether these recipients are truly local actors. DI has tried to work around the challenges of this inconsistent reporting. We manually coded over 1,500 organisations in the early years of the Grand Bargain to better track funding to local and national actors, and independently collated data from agencies to fill data gaps on funding to local and national actors in specific  contexts (e.g., in Türkiye and Uganda), their quality funding practices and cash and voucher transfers.

Collective agreement on the detail is key

Based on our experience in data, tracking and transparency we suggest that the first step in reprioritising accountability and tracking of the Grand Bargain process is to unpack the commitments and create clarity on what to report (as was done through the caucus on funding for localisation). Consensus will need to be found on how to interpret targets and identify what is essential to report. A scoping exercise would aim to understand what data is, isn’t and could be made available by signatories, and would be followed by work to ensure that internal systems within the different donors, agencies and organisations are able to process, collate and report the necessary data.

A successful outcome will require signatories to be actively engaged and to (re-) commit to public reporting. In the short to medium term, this process may require an external, intermediary agency to support signatories, provide independent scrutiny and enable data publication and public reporting to become self-sustaining in the long term.

There are positive developments to build on

Maintaining the existing momentum around transparency on localisation and quality funding will be key to ensuring the success of the next phase of the Grand Bargain. The outcomes of the recent localisation caucus − the individual roadmaps and the adoption of a monitoring and accountability framework − are a positive step forward. Ensuring clear definitions, targets and robust data on the new topics under the remit of the Grand Bargain, for example anticipatory action, must also be a top priority from the outset. Recent methodological work by the Centre for Disaster Protection with support from DI found that public reporting of funding provided to and disbursed by anticipatory action frameworks is patchy. On all topics, setting the goal of clear, consistently reported, publicly available data must be front and centre. DI remains committed to supporting the Grand Bargain throughout this process, with the goal of working towards transparent and accessible data and effective monitoring on the progress of efforts made by signatories with the ultimate aim of achieving better and more effective humanitarian action.