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Independent review of individual donor assessments in humanitarian operations

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Executive Summary

At the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit, humanitarian organizations and some of their largest donors signed the so-called Grand Bargain, a comprehensive agreement that aims to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian action. Commitment 4.5 specifically seeks to increase "the proportion of funding used for the direct benefit of affected people." Toward this end, signatories agreed to "reduce individual donor assessments."

This report summarizes the results of an independent review that collected evidence on and analyzed the effects of donor assessments conducted between 2016 and 2019 across five humanitarian organizations: OCHA, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, and the ICRC (hereafter referred to as "agencies").1 Assessments conducted or commissioned by donors include: 1) financial audits and verifications; 2) assessments and reviews of governance structures, systems and processes as well as comprehensive performance assessments; and 3) programmatic evaluations and monitoring exercises.

The report analyzes trends in the volume of formal assessments, captures practices around informal assessments, investigates whether there were overlaps between assessments, and explores why donors choose to conduct so many different assessments in the first place. Moreover, we evaluate how assessments have affected the humanitarian work carried out by different agencies and their cooperating partners. The independent review aims to inform donors and agencies about the progress that has been made when it comes to reducing the number of individual donor assessments and formulates recommendations to help meet Grand Bargain commitment number 4.5.

The review team collected data on the volume of donor assessments and studied the content of these assessments. In addition, we interviewed more than 116 representatives from different donor governments, the five humanitarian agencies that are the subject of this review, as well as their local and international NGO partners at both the headquarter and country levels. The analysis also includes three country case studies: Afghanistan, Uganda and Yemen.