Conclusions, lessons and recommendations

AuthorDirectorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) (European Commission), Landell Mills International
Final Evaluation Report: Part B- NRC Partnership Evaluation
10. Conclusions, lessons and recommendations
10.1. Conclusions
The evaluation sought to test the intervention logic that, if there is a stable and long-term partnership
agreement, and there are simplified and efficient procedures to respond to humanitarian needs, and there
is regular, comprehensive and transparent exchange of information, then there will be a relationship of
trust and a quality partnership which will help to increase aid effectiveness.
The conclusion of the evaluation is that the partnership between DG ECHO and NRC is of high quality.
It is characterised by skilled and principled professionals who work sincerely to exchange information
through a range of policy dialogue processes that are oriented to delivering results for people in
humanitarian crisis. These exchanges between partners have a positive effect in promoting institutional
learning and development of best practice in both organisations. This results in a high degree of trust at
all levels, especially at country level where it matters most.
The weak point of the intervention logic is the assumption of the FPA that it will result in procedures that
are simplified and efficient. This aspiration has not yet been realised and, although staff on both sides
work conscientiously through highly detailed and lengthy processes, these can only be described as
inefficient in a humanitarian context. At this stage in the partnership, further improvements in procedures
are necessary for the impact level ambition of improved aid effectiveness to be achieved. This will require
resolution of the tension between principled risk-taking and compliance.
The FPA covers some 200 NGOs of varying size, experience and capacity. At country level the FPA is a
prerequisite for grant funding but it does not guarantee it and NRC has to demonstrate its capacity on the
ground and in relation to other partners. For the most part, DG ECHO is highly satisfied with the
performance of NRC and especially values its strength in and commitment to advocacy. But there are
areas where NRC has not met DG ECHO’s performance expectation. This is relevant as NRC justifies
its high cost relative to other partners on the basis of superior expertise.
The accountability justification for the current processes, including stringent financial audits, is clear and
DG ECHO managers fear loss of control if they are relaxed. However, the costs are disproportionate,
both in the timeliness of approvals and in the poor use of time. The focus of skilled DG ECHO DOs and
NRC managers should be on accountability for programme results and not on the detail of implementation
in budget lines and distribution lists. In terms of locus of decision making, the fact that NRC decentralises
control over inputs, activities and outputs to field level managers, whereas DG ECHO retains control at
central level, has the potential to create delay and misunderstanding.
Globally, where insecurity and protracted crises are becoming the norm, the increase in compliance
regimes have a high cost. This results in the dilemma that attempts to deliver principled assistance appear
to be increasingly at risk of falling foul of compliance requirements or, at a minimum, having very onerous
consequences for the partners. The unintended consequence is a retrospective shift of attention and
effort to activities, outputs and documentation that risks compromising principled action and undermining
achievement of outcomes and impact.
These factors set up a dissonance that has the potential to undermine the critical relationship of trust that
is at the heart of a quality partnership. Trust between DG ECHO and NRC is about reliance on and
confident expectation of integrity, strength, ability, and reliability. With a small number of exceptions, all
There is a stable and
long-term FPA
which specifies
rights and
Procedures are not
yet simplified and
Information is
and transparently
Trust is built Quality of
Effectiveness and
efficiency are

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