Evaluation of the Strategy for Danish Humanitarian Action 2010-2015: Synthesis Report

Itad conducted an evaluation of Denmark’s humanitarian strategy, covering the period 2010-2015. This synthesis report draws on interviews and data collection from three case studies in South Sudan, Syria and Afghanistan, as well as interviews with Danida and its partners at headquarters level. The purpose of the evaluation was to both document results achieved from implementing the strategy, and to inform Danida’s decision-making and strategic direction when it formulates its new strategy in 2016.

The evaluation has added significant value for Danida in three ways:

Timing – Not only will the evaluation team’s findings and recommendations inform the development of the next strategy, but will also feed into Danida’s preparations for the World Humanitarian Summit in 2016;

Participatory and inclusive approach – the evaluation team worked closely with Danida and its partners throughout the evaluation to ensure that findings and recommendations would be relevant and usable;

Structure – We will also be undertaking a follow-up to the evaluation in late 2015 to track Danida’s progress in implementing the recommendations.

The evaluation found that Danida’s strategy has remained relevant despite changes in the humanitarian context, partly because it was far-sighted in including issues such as vulnerability, resilience and innovation, which have become increasingly important. The strategy is also very broad – with 47 strategic priorities – giving its partners a great deal of flexibility, although the evaluation recommends a more limited set of priorities in the next strategy based on Danida’s comparative advantage. Denmark’s level of engagement in global policy forums and on the boards of international organisations is impressive. It has also been active in the Good Humanitarian Donorship (GHD) initiative. However, its limited humanitarian presence at field level has restricted its ability to participate actively in policy discussions and donor coordination at country level.

All partners were very appreciative of the relationship with Danida and the quality of its funding, in particular its flexibility, the predictability of the framework agreements and Danida’s willingness to support innovative approaches. Danida’s trust-based relationship places less emphasis on independent verification of results, particularly in the case of international organisations. The reliance on self-reporting is a potential challenge because even strong systems do not always translate into effective programmes, and reviews have identified weaknesses in the reporting systems of a number of partners. This suggests that, as part of implementing the priority of a greater focus on results, it is important for Danida to use a variety of mechanisms to increase independent oversight of its partners’ programmes. It is also currently challenging for Danida to base its funding levels on performance criteria and to assess whether it is working with the most effective partners.

Linking emergency and development assistance was another key focus of the evaluation. We found that there were areas of common ground at the strategy and policy level, and that humanitarian and development programme managers provide input into each other’s decision-making processes. However, there are still a number of barriers to collaboration between the humanitarian department and Embassies, including stretched resources, a lack of clarity about the extent to which embassies are responsible for following-up on humanitarian activities, very little sense of joint responsibility for Danida’s assistance to a country overall and to following- up on results, and a lack of adequate humanitarian expertise at embassy level.

The findings and recommendations of the synthesis report were presented in Copenhagen in May 2015. Case study reports are published separately and can be accessed, together with report annexes and the management response, here.

The team included Tasneem Mowjee, David Fleming and Erik Toft.