This briefing note highlights the key observations and recommendations emerging from a longer study, which focuses on the use of identification and registration Management Information Systems (MIS) throughout humanitarian response, including protracted and recurrent crises and transitional contexts, and incipient government participation in social protection transfers. The research explores the feasibility of humanitarian aid MIS being designed to link with social protection systems and to support a transition, in the long-term, to state social assistance. While it provides global recommendations based on a literature review and key informant interviews with a range of stakeholders at a global level, case studies focused on Fragile and Conflict Affected States (FCAS), namely Yemen and South Sudan.
Data systems to register and identify recipients of transfers underpin everything in a targeted distribution system, including who is eligible, who is not, why, for what and for how long. Data collection for these systems is often the first contact point between crisis-affected populations and responders.
Data is therefore often collected when people are at their most vulnerable, and when their options are limited.
There is a trend among donors and humanitarian actors interviewed as part of this research to increasingly support the development of single or social registries for social assistance programmes (particularly where eventual government ownership is envisioned), or greater interoperability and information sharing, and to move away from separate and disconnected MIS. This is evident in the Joint Donor Statement on Humanitarian Cash Transfers, which envisages “solutions whereby interoperable, non-proprietary, data registries can allow a level of data sharing between humanitarian agencies and private sector service providers” and “ensure that where possible cash programmes link to existing social protection interventions or build the blocks of future longer-term assistance”. UN agencies are pushing for common approaches to humanitarian cash and scaling up collaboration amongst agencies. Both in the literature and stakeholder consultations, the benefits of increased interoperability and/or centralisation are largely defined in terms of efficiency gains, with little reference to protection and other advantages and trade-offs.
In addition to greater interoperability amongst different humanitarian actors, the drive for interoperability between humanitarian actors and government-led social protection is growing. Whilst there is increasing recognition that the success of linkage depends on the level of maturity of the government system and the political and economic context, there is also a push to bridge the humanitarian-development nexus.