Submitted by Hannes Serocki and Matthias Amling
3 Jun 2024

How anticipatory action links to the Grand Bargain

A session at Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW), organized by Welthungerhilfe (WHH) and the Anticipation Hub, explored how the Grand Bargain could support efforts to scale up anticipatory action. In this blog, Hannes Serocki (WHH) and Matthias Amling (WHH/Anticipation Hub) provide some background to the ongoing efforts to embed anticipatory action within the Grand Bargain process. 

OK, first things first. What exactly is the Grand Bargain? 

The Grand Bargain originated from the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Türkiye. It is a unique agreement among the world’s major donors and humanitarian organizations to improve the effectiveness, efficiency, accountability and partnerships of humanitarian action, in order to better serve crisis-affected populations. Its uniqueness lies in its diverse stakeholders: while it started as a deal between the five biggest donors and six largest UN agencies, the Grand Bargain now has 67 signatories and is the only platform that brings together donors, UN agencies, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement, as well as international, local and national NGOs.  

On a day-to-day basis, the Grand Bargain supports priorities around ‘quality’ funding, localization and participation, with the ambition to catalyse a transformation within the humanitarian sector. Currently in its third iteration, the current focus is to address specific challenges through time-bound task groups, which are known as ‘political caucuses’.  

And how does anticipatory action fit into all this? 

We’re assuming that we don’t need to provide visitors to the Anticipation Hub with a detailed explanation of all the advantages that anticipatory action brings to the table. But despite these benefits – mitigating the humanitarian impacts of hazards, saving lives and livelihoods, preserving people’s dignity, protecting development gains – becoming increasingly well known among humanitarians, the limited funding and fragmented approaches to date mean that anticipatory action is not being adopted at the necessary scale.  

And that is the connection to the Grand Bargain: anticipatory action, if mainstreamed and scaled up, will support a sector-wide transformation, which is what the Grand Bargain is aiming for. With its unique composition, immense influence on the humanitarian system, and the political caucuses as an instrument for action, it is the initiative best placed to bring about the changes and agreements required at the political level that will tackle the challenges and barriers that anticipatory action faces.  

Anticipatory action, if mainstreamed and scaled up, will support a sector-wide transformation - which is what the Grand Bargain is aiming for.

Hannes Serocki WHH

During 2024 there have been a lot of discussions around the anticipatory action caucus within the Grand Bargain. What is a caucus in this context? 

As mentioned, caucuses are time-bound processes that can be activated to resolve political challenges, based on clear problem statements. Generally, they involve a limited number of participants from within the 67 Grand Bargain signatories. The caucus on anticipatory action was launched in February 2024 to: (1) address the challenges around scaling up ‘fuel’ funding for anticipatory action; (2) suggest ways to improve coordination; and (3) support a common understanding and an agreement on how to track anticipatory action and the related funding. More details on the goals and objectives of the caucus can be found in its problem definition and strategy.  

Current members of the caucus include national governments (Germany, Sweden, the UK), NGOs (Oxfam, Save the Children), UN agencies (OCHA), the European Union and DG ECHO, USAID, FAO, WFP and the IFRC. While important, these are far from a complete group of the actors within the anticipation community. In light of this, the session held at this year's HNPW allowed more people to get to know and influence the anticipatory action caucus.  

The interactive session at HNPW asked participants to suggest ways in which the Grand Bargain could help to scale up anticipatory action. Which were the most interesting ideas or relevant points? 

This session was very useful in two regards. First, it provided a better insight into what is currently happening at the caucus level, and why. Second, it provided a space to harvest the insights and ideas of humanitarians beyond the caucus members. These included how to tackle gaps in national and international coordination around anticipatory action; best practices and lessons learned in coordinating (other) cross-cutting humanitarian topics; how to ensure an equitable role for local and national actors and affected communities; and how to incentivize donors to commit to increasing their funding.  

Some of stand-out points from the discussions included:  

  • the utmost importance of handing power back to local actors and communities, allowing for locally led coordination and equitable partnerships 
  • giving local and national actors direct access to funding for anticipatory action 
  • ensuring that local knowledge and capacity are recognized and integrated into strategies and frameworks for anticipatory action 
  • the need for robust, systematic evidence of the impact of anticipatory action, which is required to strengthen advocacy efforts 
  • the need to address donor fragmentation and push for greater collaboration with national governments, so that everyone pulls in the same direction  
  • the value of a unified vision and communicating with a single, coherent voice when engaging with donors and non-humanitarian actors 
  • the opportunity to change the narrative on anticipatory action from ‘why?’ to ‘why not?’. 

And finally, what are the next steps? Where will things be at the end of 2024? 

All the valuable ideas and questions raised during the session at HNPW are now being fed into the caucus meetings. There, they will support the members’ efforts to find agreements on the various topics that will comprise the caucus’s outcome document.  

The beauty – and challenge – of a caucus is its time-bound nature. By October 2024, we will have the caucus results, which will be presented at the Grand Bargain annual meeting, as well as at the Global Dialogue Platform in Berlin

What is already clear, though, is that a one-off effort will not be enough for anticipatory action to become mainstream and reach the scale needed. We must continue working, implementing, learning and having candid conversations about the challenges, and adjust accordingly. The core group behind the Grand Bargain caucus is committed to increasing the tools available to achieve this, including creative ways of tackling (at least some of) the challenges and overcoming (some of) the barriers facing anticipatory action – and doing so with the necessary political backing. We know anticipatory action is the right thing to do, so let’s do it. More. Better. Together. 

By October 2024, we will have the caucus results, which will be presented at the Grand Bargain annual meeting, as well as at the Global Dialogue Platform in Berlin.

Matthias Amling WHH/Anticipation Hub

Watch the session online

A recording of the session at HNPW is available on the Anticipation Hub’s YouTube channel. 

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