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  • Report
  • 11 December 2019

Donors at the triple nexus: Lessons from Sweden: Chapter 3

Programme and allocation cycle

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Assessments and analysis

Lessons: Although Sweden maintains separate analysis of humanitarian and development risks and needs, there is scope – which could be further exploited – within both processes to include a comprehensive analysis of situations and build a shared understanding. In the past decade, Sweden has invested in piloting resilience systems analysis and evolving multidimensional poverty analysis: these provide a strong basis for a holistic understanding of risk, vulnerability and needs, but lessons from these approaches are yet to be consistently brought together and applied in all crisis-risk contexts.

Working at the nexus demands assessments and analysis which take into account the full set of risks, needs, vulnerabilities, coping capacities and contextual factors in any context. Common action must be based on a common understanding of what the problem is. This can be in the form of complementary analysis which involves and integrates wider perspectives and dimensions, or joint analysis exercises. Recent in-country research on collective international efforts to work at the nexus found that in general, there was not enough robust joint analysis of risks, systems and root causes. This meant that risks and needs might be “under-recognised and under-prioritised”[1] and can lead to solutions being misdiagnosed, misdirected or misguided.

In the case of Sweden, analysis tools allow for both complementary and joined-up analysis which could provide a robust basis for action. According to the recent peer review by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Development Assistance Committee (OECD DAC), integrating conflict perspective into development planning has boosted Sweden’s ability to work in fragile and crisis-affected states, as have initiatives for joint risk and resilience. Within this toolkit, humanitarian analysis, multidimensional poverty analysis and resilience analysis all have a role to play and concerted efforts need to be made to ensure that their respective strengths and insights can come together in a comprehensive shared understanding of the situation in any given country.

Humanitarian analysis

Sweden has a clear rationale for humanitarian analysis to remain separate from, but complementary to, poverty or joint analysis. Respect for humanitarian principles is paramount for Sweden, so crises are prioritised according to needs, assessed against clear criteria which includes indicators on scale, severity, financial coverage, national capacity and forgotten crises. The specific humanitarian crisis analyses (HCAs) are then developed for each of the selected countries.[2]

While it is distinct, the humanitarian analysis actively seeks to engage and connect with development and peace analysis and programming. As explained above, development staff members are involved in the HCA process – first in meetings around the December global allocations so that they have a clear overview of humanitarian needs, and then in actively jointly developing the humanitarian-development chapters of the HCAs, which are seen as crucial in shaping the nexus agendas for each country. The global Humanitarian Outlook document which summarises all the HCAs to present the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida)’s humanitarian priorities for the year ahead also makes clear connections with development and peace programming. Given that it is the single global Sida document focused on crisis-affected settings, it has an important function in framing this shared analysis for headquarters and for country teams.

Poverty analysis

Sweden has a well-developed approach to multidimensional poverty analysis which forms the basis of its overarching analytical approach to country development plans. At its heart are questions about who is living in poverty, how (i.e. what dimensions of poverty), and why (the underlying structural, institutional and developmental reasons). This encompasses not only the shortage of material assets but also the lack of power and influence, choices, safety and human rights.[3] It defines ‘multidimensional poverty’ as something that “deprives people of the freedom to decide over and shape their own lives. It robs them of the opportunity to choose on matters of fundamental importance to themselves. Lack of power and choice and lack of material resources form the essence of poverty.”[4]

A recent update of the definition now explicitly incorporates risk and vulnerability, an important first step to understanding risks and needs in crisis-affected settings. It recognises that “living in poverty or near poverty also affects one’s exposure to risks and vulnerability for falling into poverty, falling deeper into poverty or remaining in chronic poverty. Understanding risks and vulnerability is an important component in understanding the multidimensional nature of poverty.” Adding human security as a new, fourth dimension of poverty, it articulates the links between poverty and fragility, conflict, climate and humanitarian needs, noting the importance of linkages between long-term development cooperation and humanitarian assistance in analysis, planning and implementation.[5][6]

In theory, the process as well as the content of the multidimensional poverty analysis (MDPA) should allow for connected and continuous understanding in volatile and protracted settings. The key principles of the MDPA are that it is flexible to the context as well as the needs and resources of the team; that it achieves a shared understanding of multidimensional poverty; that it is the result of iterative multiple discussions and regularly revisited; and that it draws on and synthesises multiple existing sources of analysis. On paper, this allows plenty of scope for the incorporation of crisis and conflict-related risks and needs, although doing so will depend both on clear guidance and country team engagement. In practice, however, there is still room for more systematic inclusion and revisiting of risk analysis, a point also noted in the 2017 internal evaluation. As each country works its way through their strategy processes, the aim is to ensure that the risk-informed MDPAs are well applied, though this may involve a time lag for those who are currently only at the midpoint of their strategies.

Resilience analysis

Sweden has invested in piloting a resilience systems analysis (RSA) in a number of selected countries, which informs and complements its MDPA. Where the MDPA focuses on people in poverty, the RSA analysed the systems that can exacerbate or reduce their resilience to shocks.

In 2015–2016, Sida worked with the OECD to pilot its new RSA approach in seven countries. The OECD RSA translates international commitments on resilience – from the Sendai Framework for Risk Reduction to the Sustainable Development Goals and the World Humanitarian Summit – into a practical technical toolkit. The aim is to build a common analysis of the main risks and coping capacities, identify programming gaps and develop a ‘roadmap’ of action with clear roles and responsibilities. It was designed to help rethink programming through a ‘risk lens’ and by convening diverse expertise, encourage understanding of the complex interconnections of a wide set of risks and capacities at all levels of the system – from the national to the hyper-local.[7]

This pilot has had many benefits for Sweden’s ability to work at the nexus. According to the recent OECD DAC peer review, it has enabled Sida staff to enhance synergies, focus official development assistance (ODA) on root causes and prioritise conflict perspectives in its approaches.[8] A review of the seven-country pilot also found that, overall, this approach had strengthened risk-informed programming and prioritisation and promoted better coherence between humanitarian and development action. Staff members have also reported how it has helped to understand and overcome ‘mindset’ differences. At the same time, externally, Sida has been able to build on its experience to work with the DAC to support and encourage the UN system to engage with RSA, including in the regional Liptako-Gourma/Sahel analysis.

While the RSA experience has been important in developing Sweden’s nexus thinking and forging links in the selected countries, it is unclear where it should go next. Pressures on headquarters’ analytical capacity curtailed the continued use and further roll-out of the RSA, which has been superseded by the MDPA as Sida’s overarching analytical tool. The review of the pilots identified several technical areas for improvement, including its targeting of the most vulnerable and its integration of peacebuilding and state-building considerations. However, it also posed questions about the feasibility of systematic use in all Sida’s development and humanitarian cooperation countries, which would demand staff resources, flexibility and, above all, clear leadership and cross-agency engagement. At present, RSA remains an extremely useful tool for joint analysis, but one which has largely fallen out of use within Sida, though it still guides thinking. With the current momentum to define Sweden’s nexus approach, there are clear opportunities to ensure that the valuable lessons and analytical tools of the RSAs are clearly and firmly integrated into the MDPAs. This might also help to address common confusion among staff about the difference between ‘resilience’ and the ‘nexus’.

Programme planning and design

Flowing from the analysis process, the planning of the programme portfolio also follows separate tracks for humanitarian and development but allows many opportunities for joint working and discussion. The humanitarian portfolio is planned and agreed at the Stockholm level, in close and ongoing dialogue with the country team. For the development portfolio, country directors and teams have a large degree of delegated authority, but also connect regularly with development, peace and regional teams in Stockholm through both frequently scheduled calls and ad hoc contact. While both humanitarian and development programmes are to some extent pre-committed at the start of their respective annual or four-yearly cycle, there is also space to adapt and shift the programme portfolio as situations change: a third of the global humanitarian budget is retained to react to changing needs and development funds have considerable latitude to be refocused.

Suggestions for Sweden as a donor

To connect its understanding of humanitarian, development and peace risks and needs, and ensure that programming and strategy are informed by comprehensive analyses, Sida and the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) could:

  • Ensure more systematic inclusion of risk analysis in the multidimensional poverty analysis that underpins the development strategies, integrating lessons and tools from the resilience systems analysis experience.
  • Routinely establish regular review points within each year of the four-year development strategy cycle to revisit analysis and review changes to the risk and needs profile and recalibrate planning accordingly.
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Programming approaches

Lessons: Sweden has developed a growing and diverse portfolio of practical experience in working at the nexus. Although these fit into a broad typology, there is no top-down blueprint: instead, approaches are rightly developed according to context-specific situations and opportunities. While there are examples of a transitional or sequential model, which hands over from humanitarian to development, simultaneous approaches appear to be more common, where humanitarian and development investments work side by side.

The nexus is better understood in practice than in concept. Recent system-wide case-studies on nexus-related coordination found that practical action at the programme level made more sense than policy definitions at the headquarters level. Progress was most evident in bottom-up collaborative solutions focusing on specific problems in specific contexts.[9]

The same is true for Sweden and staff at Sida have certainly taken a pragmatic approach to ‘working at’ the nexus as well as ‘thinking about’ the nexus. While guidance, tools and procedures are still a work in progress at headquarters level, Sida has many active examples of putting the nexus into practice in countries and regions. These are designed and implemented on a context-specific basis. As later sections of this report explore, there is now a need to document and learn from these discrete examples to develop a guiding menu of approaches.

The operational guidelines for Sida’s Humanitarian Unit[10] identify the three categories of contexts and outline the possible approaches for humanitarian and development synergies. In the four years since these were formulated, practical application has expanded the menu of action in each area, but the typology is still helpful:

  • Humanitarian crises with significant humanitarian and development support: Approaches here could include common context analysis,[11] inclusion of risk, resilience and humanitarian perspectives in development strategies; flexible and innovative development programming and strengthened coordination.
  • High-risk contexts with large development but limited humanitarian support: Promote risk and resilience in analysis, strategy and programming.
  • Protracted or recurrent crises with humanitarian but no development support: Promote synergies with other development actors, including civil society.

In parallel, the annual Humanitarian Outlook[12] identifies four categories of humanitarian contexts, by stage and severity:

  • Severe deterioration (for 2019, these included Afghanistan, Cameroon, the Central African Republic and Venezuela).
  • Stagnant but severely distressed (including Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Sudan) – protracted crises which require a development approach to root causes of crisis and to pave the way to stability and development.
  • Showing potential of stabilising (Burundi and Iraq).
  • Improved to the point of no longer requiring humanitarian assistance (Mauritania and Senegal).

It also notes that five out of the 15 largest humanitarian crises supported by Sida are in fact engaged in peace or stabilisation processes (Central African Republic, Colombia, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen), necessitating urgent investment in peacebuilding and peace dividends to support these fragile opportunities.

Although Sweden has not explicitly put these two typologies together, it is easy to see how they could be combined to broadly present the experience and options for working at the nexus. Figure 1 shows what this might look like, adding in a fifth column of ‘high risk’ and mapping select examples of country practice. Figure 2 shows the balances of humanitarian, development and peace spending in crisis-affected states, giving an indication of which might be fertile for making substantive connections.

Figure 1: Categories of contexts for working at the nexus

Figure 1: Categories of contexts for working at the nexus

Double entry table mapping countries according to three possible approaches for humanitarian and development synergies (vertical) and four categories of humanitarian contexts, by stage and severity (horizontal).

Note: The position of countries in the matrix is according to the stage and severity at the start of 2019, according to the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s Humanitarian Outlook and levels of assistance according to 2017 and 2019 data. Countries listed are illustrative rather than comprehensive.

Figure 2: Sweden’s official development assistance to its top 20 country recipients of humanitarian assistance (humanitarian assistance, conflict peace and security and other official development assistance), 2008–2017

Figure 2: Sweden’s official development assistance to its top 20 country recipients of humanitarian assistance (humanitarian assistance, conflict peace and security and other official development assistance), 2008–2017

Stacked bar chart showing levels of humanitarian, development and conflict, peace and security spending in crisis-affected states, giving an indication of which might be fertile for making substantive connections.

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

Note: The 20 recipient countries that received the largest gross disbursements of official humanitarian assistance from Sweden over the period 2008–2017.

Sequential approaches

Putting the nexus into practice can involve many different configurations of humanitarian and development assistance – ‘preventative’, where development and peacebuilding investments address the risk of crisis and prevent the need for humanitarian assistance; ‘simultaneous’, where humanitarian, development and peace investments work to comparative advantage in the same contexts to address different dimensions of crises; and ‘sequential’, where development and peacebuilding investments allow humanitarian assistance to transition into exiting out.

Given the high demand on a relatively small budget, Sida is under pressure to tightly prioritise its humanitarian assistance according to severity and to seek all options to exit where conditions allow. Overstaying in one stagnant or improving crisis limits the funds available to respond to a severe or deteriorating crisis elsewhere. There is, therefore, a strong focus from the Humanitarian Unit on finding opportunities for transitioning out. This is perhaps easiest and clearest cut in the cases of rapid-onset disasters, such as Sida’s response to tropical Cyclone Idai in Mozambique in 2019, an approach which Sida hopes to make commonplace in similar future cases.

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Box 5

Mozambique: Pre-establishing transition from humanitarian to development

When tropical Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique in March 2019, Sweden was among the major donors which rapidly responded with humanitarian assistance, allocating over US$11 million to the response. Very early in the response, two weeks after the cyclone, the humanitarian team (which used the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency’s Rapid Response Mechanism to release funds within 24 hours) began negotiating its humanitarian exit strategy with the in-country development team. It was agreed that there would be a clear cut-off date in January 2020 for humanitarian funding, and a clear plan to transition to development investments for longer-term recovery and resilience. The result is a planned three-phase programme of support: the first phase consists of the US$11 million of humanitarian funding issued to UN and non-governmental organisation (NGO) partners; the second and third phases are directed to an NGO consortium which will shift over the period from response to recovery and development – this will consist of US$5.5 million of humanitarian funding for phase two, followed by at least another US$5.5 million of development funding for phase three. As a potential model for other rapid-onset disasters, it will be important to monitor and learn from how well this works in practice over the three phases.

Situations where entire countries are in a position that is favourable to transitioning out of humanitarian support may be relatively rare, although as the 2019 Humanitarian Outlook notes, there are examples: Mauritania and Senegal most recently; Angola and Rwanda historically. More common are possibilities for transitioning humanitarian caseloads within a crisis-affected state, such as people affected by a discrete disaster, or certain protracted refugee populations. Regular country meetings involving humanitarian and development staff, as well as the annual cross-team and cross-discipline discussions around the humanitarian crisis analyses, should provide fora to identify and respond to these opportunities.

Simultaneous approaches

While transitioning to a position where humanitarian assistance is no longer required might be the desired goal, many countries at all stages of crisis require simultaneous approaches to address different dimensions of crisis, risk and vulnerability. A range of approaches are emerging from recent country practice. These are not developed from a top-down blueprint but from shared analysis and collaboration between in-country and thematic teams. The following examples highlight how these manifest in three countries.

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Box 6

Supporting peace in a severe humanitarian crisis

Yemen is a priority country for Sida’s humanitarian assistance, receiving the largest single country allocation in 2019 – US$26 million. Given the situation in Yemen, Sweden has had no development presence there for the past six years. There is currently no country strategy and minimal development spend (Figure 2). Despite these limitations, it was understood that there is an urgent window to support immediate peace dividends following the peace agreement. Humanitarian staff within Sida are therefore now working with the European Union’s development cooperation team on a large-scale development programme to identify and ‘stretch’ more stable areas in 23 fragile provinces in Yemen in order to fund tangible peace dividends in the form of public services and facilities.

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Box 7

Supporting sustainable solutions in refugee crises

In both Bangladesh and Uganda, Sida has made concerted strategic and financial efforts to address the long-term needs of refugees and host communities through development assistance, and their immediate acute needs through humanitarian assistance. In Uganda, the multidimensional poverty analysis (MDPA) process allowed for increased focus on refugees and the host communities which is now reflected also in the new strategy thanks to joint efforts between humanitarian and development staff. Both humanitarian and development funds are now directed to partners working under the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) including on social protection.

In Bangladesh, there was a large injection – US$30 million – of development funding from Sweden (one of the first donors to provide development funding for the crisis) early in the Rohingya refugee crisis, in addition to previous flexible use of development funds. Under the newly created fifth development strategy area to support refugee and host community resilience, it focused on funding protection, health and environmental rehabilitation projects. This included both complementary elements to the humanitarian funded projects – often within the same partner agreements – and transition elements, for example, shifting to development-funded liquid petroleum gas stoves as a means of addressing basic needs and reducing the risk of environmental degradation and conflict over resources such as firewood.

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Box 8

Multiple approaches in a protracted multi-crisis context

Somalia faces multiple simultaneous protracted and cyclical crises and is a long-term recipient of both humanitarian and development funding. As the onset of the 2017 famine became clear, Sida increased its humanitarian allocation to its operational partners but also contacted all its development partners to request that they consider what they could do to shift focus to address the immediate and longer-term risks and consequences. Learning from this, there is now an impetus to include contingency for the next crisis in every development funding proposal. At the same time, there is an emphasis on agencies working together on multisector area-based approaches rather than on an isolated project basis, and Sida supports these with both humanitarian and development funds. As we have seen in an earlier section, the needs of internally displaced persons are now mainstreamed in the development plan – to transition from treating them as a humanitarian caseload to them being part of long-term livelihoods and basic services concerns.

Suggestion for Sweden as a donor

To build on country-specific experience of supporting nexus programming, Sida could:

  • Develop a guiding menu of approaches to support country teams and partners to identify practical options for programming. This could identify the various types of programming options, which country teams and partners can then adapt for their own settings. It would include:
    • Sequential approaches which enable development and humanitarian programmes to scale up and down, or phase in and out as a crisis emerges, intensifies or contracts.
    • Simultaneous approaches which lay the foundations for longer-term development and peacebuilding alongside humanitarian programmes.
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Funding models and instruments

Lessons: Sweden’s funding models allow significant scope to work at the nexus, despite the clear demarcation of humanitarian and development assistance. Although there is some specific funding to facilitate work at the nexus, there is a strong sense that new budget lines or instruments are not essential: inbuilt flexibility, combined with decentralised decision-making for country teams should be sufficient to enable development funds to address crisis-related issues. More could be done, however, to ensure that this flexibility to fund the nexus is less dependent on country team discretion and is more widely understood and exploited.

Development funding

Sweden’s total budget for ODA is agreed annually by the Swedish Parliament and managed by the MFA, which implements and allocates a portion directly, and supervises allocation of the rest by other agencies. Of this, Sida is responsible for direct implementation of the bulk of ODA, amounting to US$4.3 billion in 2019 (Appendix 4).

Within Sida, funding envelopes for development are allocated to regional or operational departments and then allocated to country teams in accordance with funding requirements set out in the country or regional strategies. Indicative multi-year budgets for each country are agreed, then specific funding allocations are made annually in accordance with any variance required. Some flexibility is held at both the department level and at the MFA, but there are no formal contingency funds.

As such, there is no single separate global budget line for peace or stabilisation programming within Sida. Of the approximately US$114 million that Sida disbursed last year on peacebuilding, approximately US$68 million was managed by country and regional teams in accordance with their strategies, while there was a global budget allocation of US$46 million for the Strategy for Sustainable Peace to support global peacebuilding programmes implemented by the UN, World Bank and key peacebuilding international non-governmental organisations (INGOs). Outside of Sida, the MFA directly allocates core contributions to peacekeeping missions and multilateral peace or development organisations, and also to the Folke Bernadotte Academy, a Swedish government agency which focuses on peace and security.[13]

Within countries, under decentralised decision-making, country directors (or heads of missions) have a high degree of autonomy over how they allocate their budget and development partners have a good degree of flexibility built into their agreements. Out of 35 embassies with a development budget, 30 have full financial delegation. In most countries, they have financial authority for projects under US$8.5 million and for transferring funding between areas within a financial strategy.[14] There is also scope to move funds between budget lines and adjust total budgets for each strategy up or down by 10% to respond to changing contexts. In theory, there is room for country and regional directors to maintain contingency in their budgets, but there is also pressure to programme as much funding as possible. Possible solutions may involve a combination of ring-fencing a contingency budget at the departmental level and making management of country-level contingency funds a routine part of strategic planning.

Budget lines are not regarded by most staff as a barrier to necessary and innovative approaches: there are cases of country teams using development funds to support humanitarian funds and partners to implement longer-term programmes that build resilience in difficult environments. Examples include the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where development funds were allocated to support the UN-managed humanitarian Country-based Pooled Fund and to support longer-term resilience-focused approaches, and Bangladesh, where development partnerships on maternal health were redirected to work on the refugee crisis. Widespread cross-budget use of funds might cause some bureaucratic reporting problems, but these were not widely felt to be prohibitive or insurmountable – although they could be clarified to avoid being off-putting.

Humanitarian allocation

As with development assistance, part – about half – of the annual humanitarian budget is allocated directly by the MFA for core support to multilateral humanitarian agencies and the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) pooled fund,[15] and the rest – amounting to just over US$443 million[16] – is channelled via Sida. This is then allocated directly by the Humanitarian Unit in Stockholm, rather than via country teams, following a set rules-based and needs-based methodology (Section 3.1). This ensures it respects humanitarian principles and means that humanitarian assistance can be allocated to countries such as the Central African Republic (CAR) or Yemen, which are not development cooperation partners.

Humanitarian allocation is therefore an annual process which reassesses where the most severe needs and gaps are each year and directs funding accordingly. It aims to provide implementing partners with most of their funding early in the year but also to retain enough contingency to respond to new needs that arise in the course of the year. It therefore has two budget lines: a ‘predictability budget line’, which disburses about two thirds of the humanitarian budget to partners at the start of the year via Sida, and a ‘flexibility budget line’, which is kept in allocated or reserve funds or tied to a rapid response mechanism for 24-hour disbursement to pre-approved partners. If not needed for new crises, the flexibility budget will be allocated based on needs to top-up partners’ budgets during mid-year and end-year revisions.

Within the boundaries of its need-based criteria, Sweden prides itself on the flexibility of its humanitarian support – its implementing partners also rated Sida very highly in this regard.[17] Sweden aims to be the leader in fulfilling commitments to unearmarked humanitarian funding and has increased its already high proportion – from 38% in 2017 to nearly 56% in 2018.[18] All the humanitarian assistance from the MFA is in the form of unearmarked core funding to multilateral agencies or pooled funds. This does not, of course, automatically translate in practice to these partners working at the nexus: while, in theory, it could enable it and provide the basis for country and global discussions, it does not de facto promote or guarantee it.

Sida tries to balance this flexibility with the predictability necessary for agencies to function effectively, especially in situations of long-term need. While allocations can only be made annually, all Sida’s humanitarian funding is to agencies with whom it has multi-year partnership agreements. Where appropriate and feasible, it can issue multi-year contracts – 25 of these were signed in 2017, including for four-year programmes in CAR, Palestine, South Sudan and Yemen.[19] It also supports a small number of partners through country-specific programme-based approach (PBA) agreements: one of these is to the Norwegian Refugee Council and has been recognised as a positive example of how multi-year funding can enable nexus approaches and be catalytic in securing further support. According to a recent study, it has given the Norwegian Refugee Council “the flexibility to respond and scale up responses to unforeseen crises in new areas of operation in DRC, and to initiate activities that have failed to attract donor support. Its use of PBA to initiate early recovery activities also encouraged donors to allocate additional funds.”[20]

Specific funding mechanisms

It is widely felt that the inbuilt flexibility in Sweden’s ODA means that there is little need for specific funds to incentivise or support work at the nexus. Indeed, some felt that this would be counter-productive, siloing humanitarian-development-peace coordination instead of mainstreaming it as a way of working.

However, in December 2017, a dedicated ‘resilience’ budget line was created within Sida’s Humanitarian Unit. Currently representing around 6% of humanitarian spend and potentially set to rise to up to 10%, it was created in order to ring-fence a small proportion of humanitarian assistance to fund discrete projects which did not quite fit the severe humanitarian needs profile but which development programmes were not yet able to pick up, or places where there was no development funding, such as parts of the Sahel. Recipients have included the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF) which used the funding to undertake multi-year analysis and programmes with a focus on addressing chronic livelihoods, as well as nutrition needs and vulnerabilities.

There does not seem to be an appetite for moving towards joint humanitarian-development funds – the principled separation is well accepted, and there seems to be little added value in terms of flexibility. However, the recent evaluation by the Swedish National Audit Office suggests the government has not made clear what the existing opportunities are for joint financing; that there are technological opportunities for co-financing and joint financial reporting which are not being exploited for administrative reasons: either administrators do not know about them, or they find them administratively burdensome.[21] There are good examples of co-financing – including the three-year support to the INGO consortium-led Somalia Resilience Programme (SomRep) which was funded through humanitarian and development funds – so the issue may be about sharing learning and making the potential better known.

It is worth noting that the focus within the MFA and Sida is primarily on traditional grant-based funding rather than other financing initiatives. However, examples of innovative financing are emerging. Although the OECD DAC recommendation refers to the possibility of using ODA to “catalyse the full range of financial flows”,[22] staff members within Sida and MFA are primarily focused on making their direct humanitarian and development grant-making as effective as possible. There are, however, several examples of Sweden using alternative models, ranging from support to the Global Concessional Financing Facility for refugees to investing in parametric insurance for pastoralists in Ethiopia and financially incentivising private-sector provision of renewable energy to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). It has also developed guarantee-based financing models to enable microfinance providers to provide credit to refugees and their host communities.

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Box 9

Using guarantees to support refugees’ livelihoods

The Sida/UNHCR Partial Credit Guarantee Facility aims to encourage and incentivise financial services providers (FSPs) to lend to refugees – a practice which they might otherwise consider too risky – and to develop products and services tailored to refugees’ specific needs without compromising FSPs’ risk management standards. Sida, assumes the role of the guarantor up to a value of US$15 million, partially covering the risk of loan defaults. In development since 2016 and due to start in Jordan and Uganda and based on market assessments in the two countries, the facility will partially cover a microfinance investment vehicle from the Grameen Credit Agricole Foundation, financing three or four FSPs to target refugees and host communities.[23]

Suggestions for Sweden as a donor

To maximise the potential of Sweden’s flexible funding, Sida and the MFA could:

  • Protect contingency funds within Sida’s development budgets, both at a departmental level and through active management of country contingency funds, as a routine part of strategic planning.
  • Clarify to Sida staff in thematic and country teams what the financial reporting requirements are for funding programmes that use cross-budget lines, clearly communicating the potential for co-financing and cross-budget use of funds to avoid unintentionally letting bureaucratic concerns disincentivise uptake of opportunities.
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Lessons: Sweden is actively engaging with its partners at country and global levels to make connections at the nexus. So far, global dialogue has focused on humanitarian international non-governmental organisation partners. Although there is evidence of strong country-level discussion and action with multilateral partners, this is currently more ad hoc and global discussions on the nexus with peace and development partners do not appear to have been instigated. There is now a need to co-develop a systematic approach of integrating nexus considerations into ways of working with partners, particularly with multi-mandate organisations. This would help to clarify expectations on both sides as to what Sweden seeks from its partners and can offer to them.

Sida is actively promoting discussion and encouraging action on the nexus with its partners. Programming at the nexus is specifically detailed in the Humanitarian Unit’s new NGO guidelines[24] which require, among other cross-cutting requirements, for organisations to set out and report against how they will ‘do no harm’ in terms of conflict sensitivity, and how they will work to bridge the humanitarian-development divide and complement their humanitarian response with longer-term development interventions. There is also a focus on sustainability – addressing root causes of vulnerabilities – and on exit strategies, which is a requirement for NGOs applying for multi-year support. The Humanitarian Unit has also organised two partnership fora[25] in 2019, bringing its NGO partners together in Stockholm to share experience and learning on nexus programming.

Having common partners which work with both humanitarian and long-term development programmes is critical to success. Several of Sida’s NGO partners are multi-mandate agencies who, as well as being funded by civil society budget lines, receive both humanitarian and development funding and are actively encouraged to make connections between them. In Mali, for example, Action against Hunger receives both humanitarian and development funding for its nutrition work: the humanitarian component seeks to integrate nutrition case management into the health system, in parallel with development-oriented preventative measures to reduce needs. However, as the OECD DAC peer review noted, these connections are not systematically encouraged and though there is often join-up at a country-level, NGOs can receive funding from multiple strategies for the same country in a disconnected manner. Under a review of the civil society strategy, Sida is exploring opportunities to address this, with one option being to delegate funds for a particular NGO to a single strategy.[26] At the same time, it is also reaching out to development partners such as Mercy Corps who have a developed resilience approach.

The majority of both development and humanitarian assistance from Sida to major crisis-affected countries goes via multilateral organisations (Figure 3). There are many strong examples of how this dual relationship has been used to ensure connections are made, from calling for famine response proposals in Somalia in 2017 to supporting a multi-year programme through the World Food Programme (WFP) in order to shift from humanitarian to a development footing in Sudan. Sweden’s support has also enabled it to engage with strategic conversations at country-level with multilateral humanitarian and development organisations including FAO, WFP and others engaged with the New Way of Working and the Refugee Compacts. However, unlike humanitarian assistance to NGOs from Sida, there is no formalised partnership expectation for multilaterals to make the connections and it is largely dependent on in-country leadership and relationships.

Unlike in stable settings, a very small proportion of ODA in crisis-affected countries tends to be channelled via the state. While this avoids difficult questions of working with governments to address crisis, risk and resilience in constrained environments where governance is limited, it also means that – with some exceptions – Sweden has little scope to build relationships with national authorities as technical partners or to support and incentivise fundamental change. As more crises and risks occur in long-term development cooperation settings, Sida may need to develop its experience of partnering with state actors at the nexus, particularly to fulfil the peace and development ‘legs’ – something which it presently does via multilateral agencies and to some degree, through local authorities. At the same time, it can continue to align with other donors and multilateral agencies as part of an international effort to work with national authorities. Its support of the international system to work with local authorities in Somalia following the announcement of the closure of Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp is a practical example of how this can work.

Suggestion for Sweden as a donor

To strengthen partner capacity to programme adaptively at the triple nexus, Sida and the MFA could:

  • Articulate expectations of nexus working in partner guidelines and agreements, making it clear what Sida expects from partners in this regard and what partners can expect from Sida.
  • Explicitly discuss roles and expectations for those multilateral partners which receive core funding from the MFA.
  • Find ways to make connections between multiple agreements to the same partners, particularly multi-mandate organisations which receive a combination of humanitarian, development and/or peacebuilding funds.

Figure 3: Channels of delivery of Swedish official development assistance to its 20 largest humanitarian recipients, 2017

Figure 3: Channels of delivery of Swedish official development assistance to its 20 largest humanitarian recipients, 2017

Sankey diagram showing the largest shares of humanitarian assistance and developmental ODA going to multilateral organisations.

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

Notes: The twenty recipient countries that received the largest gross disbursements of official humanitarian assistance from Sweden in 2017. Data in US$ million, current prices.

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Monitoring, learning and evaluation

Lessons: While there are many examples of working at the nexus and initiatives to support future work, information and learning about these is not yet optimally shared within and between teams. A new nexus working group is starting to explore ways that current examples can be mapped and more routinely tracked. At the same time, there is a recognised need for more evidence of ‘what works’ to reduce risks, needs and vulnerabilities. Sweden’s flexible funding, core support and new thinking around adaptive programming provide the building blocks for a risk-embracing outcomes-based model, which could be more systematically part of programme partnerships.

Information management

As working at the nexus must be context-specific and iterative, it requires understanding and learning what works. Information gathering and sharing is also necessary for coordination, coherence and complementarity: organisations cannot make connections if they do not have a full picture of what they can connect.

Sida and the MFA recognise that this is a weak area and they are beginning to explore ways to better document the enabling information to work at the nexus and the ongoing activities in this area. Both the internal review and the DAC peer review[27] have concluded that knowledge management is generally weak within and between Sida and the MFA, meaning that opportunities for sharing learning between ODA streams and countries and changing course on strategy, policy and programming can be missed. The headquarters teams running global thematic strategies – including humanitarian and peace – do not have a systematic way of gathering information about activities in their areas that are funded under country strategies.[28] Equally, regional and country teams do not have this thematic overview of what is happening in their or in others’ geographic areas. Building such an information sharing system, notes the DAC review, could support making strategic and operational synergies – something that is at present reliant on meetings and good communication between staff and can be jeopardised by staff turnover.

Sida does, of course, have a digital project management and tracking system, called Trac. It has been suggested by staff and by the Swedish National Audit Office evaluation that this could be better used to support implementation and information sharing about nexus opportunities and activities. Trac does already include a relevant project information field, but this is broad and optional and frames the nexus primarily as a function of humanitarian rather than development assistance. Making this a required and searchable field which reflects the triple nexus could be a concrete step towards better information management.

Monitoring and results

Monitoring progress and measuring results against the nexus is bound to be difficult. Baseline data or data systems are often missing, annual reporting cycles do not fit seasonal or long-term impact timeframes and attribution is difficult. The experience of setting ‘collective outcomes’ in specific countries has highlighted some of the difficulties of setting meaningful joint objectives.

However, building practical indicators and trialling methods for monitoring against them is a necessary part of the iterative process of implementing the triple nexus. Sweden aims to be an evidence-based donor and there is a strong desire to monitor and measure results to find out what really works to achieve the ultimate goals of reducing people’s multidimensional poverty in the crisis-affected and crisis-prone contexts – not just to map processes and methods. Indeed, some staff expressed the need to ‘plateau and learn’ before scaling up or spreading out new approaches.

Expected programme results need to be framed in way that does not disincentivise – and instead actively incentivises – changing course and taking risks. It is clear that development projects to address insecurity and vulnerability in highly fragile settings demand a high comfort level with risk – financial, operational and reputational – but as Sida’s internal evaluation of the nexus noted, the results agenda of development cooperation can disincentivise working in places where there were high risks to these being achieved.[29] At the same time, although many country teams encourage it, and flexible agreements enable it, at present there is no overall obligation or specific requirement for partners to consider work at the nexus – making this explicit could counteract the pressures towards risk aversion in development action. The experience of the resilience systems analysis pilots is instructive about the need to ensure reporting against intentions. While priorities and recommendations for supporting resilience were identified in the RSA process, these were not translated into reporting requirements, reducing accountability and missing out on learning opportunities.[30]

Adaptive programming, based on holistic and regular analysis, should in theory allow country teams to shift the focus and content of programmes to respond to new patterns in risk and need. This is a natural progression from the high degree of flexibility that Sweden affords its partners and country teams and the broad results areas and theories of change set out in the country strategies. Aligning to new global interest in these approaches, Sweden is also actively engaging in developing and applying the linked ideas of ‘Doing Development Differently’, adaptiveness and complexity. Sida is adopting a new learning-based adaptive approach to results-based management, which focuses on long-term sustainable results and encourages real-time changes to programming. Like the triple nexus, this is iterative and experimental and currently far from becoming standard practice. Pilots for adaptive programming and budgeting under the Africa Department intend to provide wider learning.[31]

Iterative learning and meaningful monitoring demand resources from both partners and donor offices. Unearmarked and flexible support to agencies can help to resource the staff and systems needed for this, but in the context of wider funding scarcity, this is often in competition with programming needs. Sida supports some systems-level learning through its ‘methods support’ budget line and at a programme level has built this into some agreements: under its Strategy for Sustainable Peace it supports several INGOs including the Norwegian Refugee Council for humanitarian mediation programming in CAR, DRC and Mali, and this explicitly includes a learning component which documents the humanitarian-peace nexus. There is scope for this to be more widely replicated.

Suggestions for Sweden as a donor

To improve learning from programme experience, Sida could:

  • Improve knowledge management processes, building on existing internal systems, to enable an overview of potentially connected geographic and thematic programmes, including those working intentionally at the nexus.
  • Document, review and share – internally between teams and externally with partners and other donors – the impacts and learning from the existing and recent experience of putting the nexus into practice in different settings.
  • Iteratively develop methods for measuring outcomes of intentionally nexus-focused programmes, based on pilots for adaptive programming.
  • Support partners to iterate learning by building funded learning components into programme agreements.


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    The full process for humanitarian allocations is as follows: In early November, a global quantitative and indicator-based analysis which compares severity and identifies initial crisis allocation. In mid-November, a qualitative analysis to develop the humanitarian crisis analyses (HCAs) and determine channels and agencies for allocations based on missions and on the UN humanitarian response plans. There is then a wide consultation process with Sida, the Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) and partners ahead of finalising the draft HCAs after the release. In Q1 of the following year, the allocation is confirmed and disbursed, and the direction is summarised in a Humanitarian Outlook document.
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