The Grand Bargain: We are not yet involving women from local communities in decision-making

  • Date: 16/06/2021
  • Author: Jo-Ann Ward

The Grand Bargain launched during the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016. It is a unique agreement between humanitarian agencies and donors. It aims to reform and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of international humanitarian aid.

2021 marks the fifth year of the Grand Bargain. And so, Signatories are meeting this week to agree and endorse a new iteration of the agreement – the Grand Bargain 2.0.

The Grand Bargain remains the most important initiative to strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of humanitarian aid. As a result, important progress has been made towards achieving the Grand Bargain’s ambitions, including:

  • Improving joint and impartial needs assessment.
  • Harmonised reporting requirements, and recognition for greater transparency.
  • Strengthening steps towards supporting and funding local and national responders.

Local Women Left Out

Unfortunately, the Grand Bargain still fails to meaningfully shift power, resource, and decision-making power to women’s rights and women-led organisations.

For instance, in 2019, only 2% of signatories reported against the core commitment indicator on building the capacity of local women’s rights and women led organisations.

Similarly, tracking of the volume of funds directed to these organisations remains very limited. Only 4% of signatories reported against this indicator. Efforts to introduce more detailed tracking of funding for local women’s organisations have failed.

And, only 3% of women’s rights and women led organisation survey participants directly engaged in any Grand Bargain meetings or events over the first five years.

When women and their organisations’ contributions are undervalued, the impact on their rights can be detrimental and long-lasting. In addition, undervaluing local women’s roles in responding to a humanitarian emergency impacts the effect of the response for them and their communities.

Bringing a Feminist Lens to the Grand Bargain 2.0

As the review takes place, ActionAid authored a policy brief entitled: “Bargaining for Better: Bringing a Feminist Lens to the Grand Bargain 2.0.”

The report includes feedback from women’s rights groups and women-led organisations. And by ActionAid humanitarian staff, working on the frontline in 10 countries. The ten countries are: Bangladesh, Colombia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Jordan, Myanmar, Nigeria, Lebanon, Liberia, and Palestine.

The findings of the report are:

  • The agreement remains gender-blind. To-date, there are limited commitments on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls.
  • To date, it has failed to meaningfully engage with women’s rights and women-led organisations.

Our recommendations

  1. Include Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and Girls as an essential political goal within the Grand Bargain.
  2. Increase the representation of local women’s rights organisations and women-led organisations within the formal structures of the Grand Bargain Facilitation Group.
  3. Grant the Friends of Gender Group a formal seat in the Facilitation Group to increase the voices of local women’s rights organisations and women-led organisations.
  4. Donors, UN agencies, and international NGOs must support women’s rights and women-led organisations who they partner with to become full signatories of the Grand Bargain.

Humanitarian policy, including the Grand Bargain, cannot continue to make decisions about how to serve crisis-affected women and girls without the direct input of the women’s rights and women led organisations.

However, the Grand Bargain 2.0 is an opportunity to correct this. And so, it is crucial that we work to address the blockages that obstruct progress on gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

We must invest more resource and funding in women and their organisations. And local women-led and women’s rights organisations need to be part of those decision-making processes.

Read the full report here.

Pictured above: Portrait of Sharmin Akter Rina, 21 is a case management worker for ActionAid. She supports women and girls living in the Rohingya refugee camps at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Photo credit: Fabeha Monir/ActionAid

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