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Position Paper from A4EP: New Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) structure and working methods

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In January 2019, the IASC Principals unveiled a new structure, which is encapsulated in the document ‘IASC Structure and Working Method’. It was endorsed by the IASC Principals who are the heads of the IASC’s full members (namely, UNDP, UNICEF, UNHCR, WFP, FAO, WHO, UN-HABITAT, OCHA, IOM), and IASC Standing Invitees (namely, ICRC, IFRC, OHCHR, UNFPA, the Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights of IDPs, and the World Bank). The NGO consortia ICVA, InterAction and SCHR are also invited on a permanent basis to attend. The Chair of the IASC may also invite, on an ad hoc basis, representatives of other specialized organizations. The note also mentions that each NGO Consortium may be joined at the table by one other NGO representing itself. A third NGO representative can join as a ‘plus 1’. NGO representatives can rotate seats on an as needed basis.

The composition of the IASC membership remains as per established in 2008, well before the World Humanitarian Summit and the Grand Bargain Commitments. It seems inappropriate to continue with structures which are outdated, reflect unequal power dynamics and do not reflect the current commitments to localisation. Although both ICVA and InerAction have local and national NGOs as members, there are increased calls by local and national actors for direct inclusion in international policy discussions and decision making processes. The new structure does not take note of the commitments that are made on localisation and does not formally recognise local and national actors on equitable basis.

In the present structure, the Operations, Policy and Advocacy Group (OPAG) serves as a forum supporting the normative and strategic policy work of the IASC, including on system-wide policy matters with a direct bearing on humanitarian operations. It is responsible for overseeing the work of the Results Groups on behalf of the IASC. This group is chaired by WFP and NRC, there is no representation from local/national actors in this very important group that could have impact on local and national actors.

The Results Groups are time-bound subsidiary bodies responsible for delivering the agreed normative outputs under each of the IASC Strategic Priorities (SPs) for the biennium (currently five SPs for 2019-2020). Their support may also be sought to review guidelines produced by inter-agency bodies outside of the formal IASC structure. The current Results Groups, operational response, accountability and inclusion, collective advocacy, humanitarian-development collaboration and humanitarian financing are crucial issues to localisation. The result groups are chaired by a UN agency and INGO or NGO networks based in the North and dominated by INGO members. Although each results group is expected to reach out to concerned stakeholders, there is no formal recognised role for local or National NGO Networks. This risks perpetuating the problems of current imbalance of power. We note that results group have been given very tight timeframe to come up with priorities for the Results Group for 2019/20 to present at the first IASC OPAG meeting on 11 April 2019. This does not facilitate in-depth consultation and reaching out to broader stakeholders, the responsibility placed on the cochairs of the results groups and perpetuates the lack of participation of national and local actors.

The International Convening Committee of Alliance for Empowering Partnerships calls for Local/ National networks to be invited as an IASC standing Invitee on permanent basis. This will proactively demonstrate the seriousness of the localisation commitments and give recognition to the important role they play nationally, regionally and globally. We urge that at each level there should be a recognised role for local/national/ regional network and at least two result group should have a local/ national/regional NGOs network as co-chairs and that local and national NGO network should play an active role in setting the results. The time frame for feedback and participation should be appropriate so broad consultation can take place.