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5 Conclusions and Recommendations

This chapter presents the conclusions from the evaluation before going on to list the recommendations. Rather than summarising all the main findings of the evaluation, many of which are very positive, the conclusions concentrate on highlighting the implications of key findings, both for Danida’s future work and the Strategy revision process. They form the basis for the recommendations that follow, which focus both on the Strategy revision process and on improving Danida’s current ways of working. One of the reasons for commissioning the evaluation before the end of the Strategy implementation period was to start improving working practices as soon as possible. Also, there will be a second phase of the evaluation in early 2016 to assess the extent to which the recommendations have been implemented. Therefore, the evaluation team believed that it would be helpful to make recommendations that the MFA can begin implementing in the next 12 months, before the revised Strategy comes into effect.

5.1 Conclusions

The evaluation has highlighted that Danida’s inclusive approach to developing the Strategy perhaps contributed to the development of a visionary Strategy. It also means that it reflects partners’ priorities well and remains relevant for them but this has also resulted in a very broad strategy. Although Danida has made a strategic choice to focus on three broad areas of the Strategy, that have then guided its funding decisions and approach, some regarded 47 priorities as too many to provide strategic direction. One indication of this is that, while the scope of the Strategy gives Danida’s partners a great deal of flexibility, it also means that they can fit almost any programme into it. Therefore, there is a view both within and outside the MFA that Danida should reduce the number of priorities in order to be more strategic. This implies that the process for revising the Strategy will need to balance inclusivity, which is necessary for creating buy-in to the Strategy among its partners, with maintaining a focus to underpin a strategic approach to humanitarian assistance.

Danida’s current Strategy focuses on three main aspects. It outlines what Danida seeks to achieve (e.g. coordinated, principled and informed humanitarian action), focus areas (such as vulnerability, protection, gender, and climate change and natural hazards) and how Danida will deliver its humanitarian assistance (i.e. strengthening partnerships and through a focus on results, innovation and communications). Danida has the opportunity to be more strategic and focused in each of these areas. For example, coordinated, principled and informed humanitarian action is a laudable objective that other donors also seek to support. Therefore, Danida could consider how to cover areas not addressed by others donors as a basis for reducing the current eight strategic priorities. For example, supporting the UN’s coordinating role may be an area where Danida can add value, particularly since the growing number of humanitarian actors poses a challenge to the UN’s coordinating role. Similarly, in the case of the focus areas, it could build on its comparative advantage by focusing on issues that receive limited funding and attention from other donors, such as protection, gender and vulnerability. Flexible funding and strategic partnerships are also an area of comparative advantage for Danida in terms of how it delivers its humanitarian assistance. Thus, Danida could focus its revised Strategy by addressing gaps not covered by other donors and building on its comparative advantage.

The revised Strategy will also need to reflect emerging challenges in the humanitarian context, including those raised in discussions around the WHS. One of these is the issue of supporting localised responses, for which there has been a strong call during consultations for the WHS. Danida’s partners are very appreciative of its approach to implementing the strategic direction on strengthening partnerships because they regard Danida as a genuine partner, not simply as a donor. The focus on building strategic relationships with a small number of partners also makes administrative sense in light of the limited capacity within HCP. While Danida has made efforts to engage with non-DAC donors in policy dialogues, it channels its assistance through traditional partners – UN agencies, Danish NGOs and the ICRC. However, local, national and regional actors are playing a greater role in humanitarian assistance. When revising the Strategy, Danida will need to consider how best to work with, and strengthen, local partners. It faces many of the same challenges with funding national NGOs directly as other bilateral donors but some of its NGO partners belong to networks with national members while others work with national NGOs. This could be one route to greater support for more localised responses. It could also consider more creative partnerships through its engagement with non-DAC donors, who work with a much broader range of partners.

Another question that Danida will need to consider during the Strategy revision process is whether it continues to support incremental changes to the existing humanitarian system or whether it advocates for more radical reform. Danida’s engagement in global policy discussions and leadership on the boards of international organisations is impressive, particularly in light of the limited capacity across the MFA. In line with Denmark’s commitment to multilateralism, the aim of taking on these leadership roles is to strengthen the humanitarian system. However, despite a lengthy process of reform, including the Transformative Agenda, the system faces major challenges with responding effectively to humanitarian crises and there has been growing questioning of whether it is fit for purpose.[80] Furthermore, many of the more recent humanitarian actors (donors and national and regional organisations) tend to operate outside this system. Danida’s decision will have implications for its engagement with the boards of international organisations as well as its strategic partnerships. The discussions around the WHS will also reflect on this question so there will be points for Danida to take into account.

The evaluation found that it is challenging to identify and document results at two levels: that of the strategic priorities and that of individual partner programme delivery. One reason why it has been difficult to track the implementation of the full range of strategic priorities is that Danida has not established measurable targets or results that it is seeking to obtain through the strategic priorities. Another is that Danida does not ask its partners systematically to report on their implementation of the strategic priorities. The evaluation questions emphasised the priorities of targeting assistance to the most vulnerable, gender-sensitive programming, addressing GBV and accountability to affected populations, but partner reporting on these issues was not consistent. These priorities should be the foundation of good humanitarian programmes, so it is not unreasonable for Danida to expect partners to systematically incorporate them into their programming and to demonstrate that they are doing this.

With regard to ensuring that partners deliver appropriate results with its funding, Danida’s current approach has been to place greater emphasis on whether they have adequate systems in place (particularly through capacity assessments for NGO partners and engaging on the boards of international organisations). It relies heavily on partner self-reporting (both documented and through informal communication) and has placed less emphasis on independent verification of the results delivered for affected populations, particularly in the case of international organisations. This is in spite of there being a number of difficulties with making effective use of the reports that partners provide (as highlighted in Section 4.4.1). So, for example, until recently, NGO capacity assessments did not examine programme delivery. This is in line with Danida’s culture of trust as well as its view that it should support partners’ own tracking of results and learning. However, even strong systems do not always translate into effective programmes and reviews of UN agencies and some of Danida’s own NGO capacity assessments have identified weaknesses in the reporting systems of a number of partners. Also, very few partners have robust mechanisms in place to conduct independent evaluations and ensure learning from them. This suggests that, as part of implementing the strategic priority of a greater focus on results, it is important for Danida to use a variety of mechanisms to increase independent oversight of how partners are delivering results for affected populations in order to ensure the effective use of its funding.

The challenges with documenting and verifying results have also made it difficult for Danida to allocate funding on the basis of partner performance and ensure that it is working with the most effective partners (including finding alternative partners if existing partners fail to deliver). Given limited staff capacity within HCP, it needs to find the balance between selecting the most effective partners and keeping the administrative burden of grant management at a manageable level. Options for doing this include making use of the vetting processes of other donors, such as ECHO, rather than relying on Danida’s own capacity assessments alone.

As part of selecting the most effective partners, Danida should consider whether its funding levels to UN partners and pooled funds are appropriate. Danida is highly respected as a good humanitarian donor because of its adherence to many of the GHD principles, particularly for the timeliness, flexibility and predictability of its funding and its willingness to accept global reports. However, UN agencies do not abide by these principles even though they are donors to their implementing partners or through country-based pooled funds. As a result, partners are subject to heavy reporting requirements and may experience delays and other challenges with receiving funding. This has implications for all DAC donors, including Danida, because they channel around 60% of their humanitarian funding through UN agencies and UN-managed pooled funds.

Both Danida’s humanitarian and development strategies state a commitment to strengthening the links between the two forms of assistance. However, like other donors, Danida is grappling with how best to achieve this without compromising its humanitarian principles, particularly since its assistance is focused on conflict-affected contexts. Since HCP manages humanitarian aid from Copenhagen while responsibility for development country programmes is decentralised to embassies, close cooperation between them should lead to synergies between the two forms of assistance. The embassies could also support HCP with follow-up on humanitarian funding and policy engagement at field level (the case studies demonstrated that a staff member with humanitarian experience at field level can make a significant different to Danida’s engagement in policy discussions and donor coordination groups).

HCP and the embassies contribute to each other’s decision-making processes and HCP has made efforts to involve embassies in the annual technical negotiations with NGO partners. However, there are a number of barriers that hinder closer cooperation, including limited capacity on both sides. How humanitarian and development actors can work together better to deliver better results for affected populations is one of the questions being explored during consultations for the WHS and is going to be increasingly important as humanitarian actors struggle to respond to rapidly growing humanitarian needs and development actors are more active in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. Therefore, Danida will need to address this issue going forward.

5.2 Recommendations

This section lists four main recommendations with sub-recommendations to assist the MFA with implementation. The sub-recommendations under each overarching recommendation are listed in order of priority. Although the recommendations have been targeted at different actors according to who will have primary responsibility for implementation, it is expected that all the recommendations will be implemented through a collaborative approach across MFA departments.

  1. Danida should undertake an inclusive consultation process to revise the Strategy and secure buy-in for a revised Strategy that is more focused on a limited set of priorities, which would provide stronger guidance to its humanitarian assistance.
    1. To focus on a limited set of strategic priorities, Danida could select areas that are not being addressed by other donors and build on its comparative advantage. It should also be explicit about what it seeks to achieve through each strategic priority. For example, it could aim to achieve more inclusive or efficient coordination systems by supporting the UN’s coordinating role. Then, the strategic priorities could be an organising principle that runs through Danida’s advocacy and policy dialogues through its partnership agreements to assessing the results achieved with its funding.
    2. During the Strategy revision process, Danida should consider how to address emerging issues, particularly from the discussions around the WHS, such as supporting a more localised response, whether incremental change is sufficient to make the current humanitarian system fit for purpose or whether it requires more radical reform, how the humanitarian system can be more adaptable and responsive to new risks and challenges, and how humanitarian and development actors can work together more effectively.
    3. Danida should include indicators in the revised Strategy to help measure the implementation of key priorities. It should also develop an action plan to guide Strategy implementation.
  2. Danida should strengthen its focus on results, including field-level follow-up of programme delivery.
    1. HCP needs to define clearly the results on which it expects partners to report. This does not require it to establish a set format for partner reporting but to make it clear to partners if it expects them report at output or outcome level, and whether it expects them to include reporting on how they are targeting assistance to the most vulnerable, ensuring gender-sensitive programming and being accountable to affected populations within their own formats.
    2. Since HCP does not have the capacity at present to review evaluation reports to identify lessons and issues for follow-up, it should finance a help-desk function. This would involve commissioning consulting organisations and/or academic institutions capable of supporting HCP with analytical and research tasks. HCP could use this for short tasks such as synthesising evaluation findings. It would only pay for the consultants’ time that it uses so this would be a cost-effective way to increase its analytical capacity.
    3. Danida should work with other donors on joint evaluations, particularly of UN partners and the response to large-scale crises. It should also encourage partners to commission more independent evaluations to support their internal learning.[81]
    4. Apart from a greater use of evaluations, Danida should strengthen its field-level follow-up on partner performance through a variety of mechanisms. These could include more UFT reviews, ensuring that HCP has greater capacity to travel to the field, working with other donors that have a field presence and fund the same partners, and ensuring that embassies take responsibility for follow-up on humanitarian assistance.
    5. HCP could increase the utility of NGO reports by requiring them to be submitted earlier in the year, setting a page limit on the humanitarian component of reports, and requesting the inclusion of short sections on key issues, such as lessons learned or the implementation of specific strategic priorities.
  3. HCP should allocate funding to partners on the basis of performance and ensure that it works with the most effective partners.
    1. HCP should review the programme delivery and results for affected populations achieved by all partners every three to four years (through reviews, independent evaluations and capacity assessments that include programme delivery). Where it identifies problems, it should support partners to improve but also set a clear timetable so that, if partners fail to meet standards within the given time frame, it can find alternative partners.
    2. HCP should consider opening up its special calls for proposals to non-framework NGOs that have been quality assured by another reliable donor in order to ensure that it is working with the most appropriate NGO partners in a given crisis.
    3. As part of the Strategy revision process, Danida should consider whether its level of humanitarian funding to UN agencies is appropriate, given that they often fail to pass on the benefits of Danida’s adherence to the GHD principles to their implementing partners.
  4. Danida should ensure greater complementarity between its humanitarian and development assistance.
    1. Danida should strengthen capacity within embassies to follow up on Danida-funded humanitarian assistance and engage in field-level humanitarian policy dialogue and donor coordination in major crises. It should implement the ambassadors’ recommendations for fragile states on promoting synergies between its different forms of assistance and could consider mechanisms such as posting programme managers or advisors funded or co-funded by the humanitarian budget line to embassies in countries or regions with major humanitarian crises.
    2. Danida should consider fostering greater collaboration between different actors working in a particular crisis through the use of task forces, such as the Afghanistan Task Force. The task forces should not be used simply as an information-sharing mechanism but to promote coordination and better follow-up of Danida-funded interventions.
    3. MFA senior management should make it clear to ambassadors and embassy staff if it expects them to take responsibility for monitoring humanitarian projects and ensure that humanitarian responsibilities are included in the job description of at least one staff member. This would address the challenge of a lack of clarity about the extent to which embassies have this responsibility.
    4. HCP should share information on funding to humanitarian partners consistently with embassies in countries covered by the priority crises to facilitate follow-up of Danida-funded humanitarian interventions.
    5. The MFA should ensure that embassy staff working on development assistance in countries with humanitarian crises understand the interconnections between vulnerability, stability, strengthening state capacity, development assistance and humanitarian action, through training if necessary. This would support them to work more effectively in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.

[80] See Scott (2014), Caritas (2013) and http://www.theguardian.com/global-development/poverty-matters/2014/may/22/david-miliband-humanitarian-response-goals-crises

[81] This would be in line with the existing strategic priority of ‘initiating and supporting relevant evaluations and joint thematic reviews’. The previous evaluation of Danish humanitarian assistance also recommended that monitoring and evaluation be strengthened and used for learning (ETC UK 1999).


This page forms part of the publication "Evaluation of the strategy for Danish humanitarian action 2010-2015 – Synthesis report – Evaluation 2015.01" as chapter 5 of 5.
Version no. 1.0, 2015-05-13
Publication may be found at the address http://www.netpublikationer.dk/um/15_evaluation_2015_01/index.html