Findings on policy level dialogue

AuthorDirectorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) (European Commission), Landell Mills International
Final Evaluation Report: Part B- NRC Partnership Evaluation
7. Findings on policy level dialogue
Finding 4: Dialogue takes place through a range of channels, in structured and unstructured ways,
involving all levels of DG ECHO and NRC.
Finding 5: Dialogue at the country level is functional and timely, based on a mutual desire to raise the
quality of programme performance. Partners attribute this to the quality of DG ECHO Technical
Assistance (TA) and the operational expertise of NRC.
Finding 6: DG ECHO and NRC share the view that the quality of dialogue, and therefore the
effectiveness and influence of the partnership, is very high. Mutual learning is highly valued by both
7.1. Structure and function of dialogue
Dialogue takes place between DG ECHO and NRC at several levels. At the highest level, the mechanism
for strategic dialogue is very strong. As well as mutual interest, this is dependent on an established and
close relationship between the Secretary General of NRC and the Director General of DG ECHO. High
level technical dialogue is at least weekly and can be daily because of the strategic implications arising
from work at country level in contexts that can be changing rapidly.
At policy level, senior NRC staff in Oslo and the representation offices in Brussels and Geneva maintain
an ongoing dialogue with their DG ECHO counterparts and describe it as organisationally mature. In
Brussels, NRC has a dedicated Partnership Adviser who engages at operational level with DG ECHO
DO’s to facilitate dialogue and resolution of any issues. However, this dialogue is mainly unstructured
and takes place on an as-needed basis rather than according to a schedule. NRC would like to develop
the partnership strategically but, in the absence of a more structured dialogue, are unclear how to reach
out at the senior level of DG ECHO between the very top and the country desk.
Some interviewees say that the mechanism for dialogue works well because both organisations are
relatively flat in structure and each party can simply pick up the phone to talk. Others in DG ECHO say
that NRC’s regional structure sometimes adds an unhelpful layer because the context of each country is
so different, and the region is not always a meaningful entity. For this reason, policy dialogue at regional
level is not structured.
At field level, dialogue is frequent but with greater dependence on individuals and a need to re-establish
the relationship when there is a change in personnel, which is sometimes frequent. NRC notes that
partner performance at local level depends on the relationship between DG ECHO in Brussels and the
field and that sometimes different messages are being conveyed and the formal response can be different
from informal agreements. This issue is covered in the efficiency section.
On both sides, at policy and operational levels, there is a desire to improve formal strategic dialogue. The
formal mechanisms of the Annual Partner Meetings (see below) and the HIP process serve a useful
purpose but often involve large numbers of people, and multiple technical and general agendas. Smaller
forums work better in terms of establishing trust and having focused dialogue. Although NRC shares its
strategies with DG ECHO, DG ECHO is unable to share strategies such as the Joint Humanitarian
Development Framework (JHDF), which is an important tool in relation to the nexus, but is confidential.
NRC has various ways of pursuing ad hoc strategic dialogue such as bringing staff from the field or Oslo
to Brussels to talk about key issues with DG ECHO. Continuous round table dialogue about Ukraine and
a forum on Afghanistan, for example, were very useful and DG ECHO was able to provide NRC good
access to the political wing of the EU. At other times, visits by NRC’s Oslo staff were not always perceived

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