Bridging the Humanitarian-Development Divide: Three Priorities from Three Global Leaders

May 01, 2017

How can the world find realistic, workable solutions to bridge the divide between humanitarian response and development assistance? This question was front and center at a high-level discussion, co-hosted by CGD and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), in the run up to last week’s Spring Meetings. The event marked the launch of a new CGD-IRC report, which puts forth one emerging solution to the refugee crisis—compact agreements between host governments and development and humanitarian actors. The discussion featured three global leaders on the frontline of today’s displacement challenge: Jordan’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Imad Fakhoury, World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva, and IRC President and CEO David Miliband. Here are three takeaways:

1. Finance should follow the people in need, not country classifications

In 2016, the World Bank and partners made landmark commitments to offer concessional finance to Jordan and Lebanon—ordinarily ineligible for grants and below-market rate loans—to support refugees and host communities. Reflecting on the Bank’s entrée into the refugee space, Georgieva argued why in today’s reality, concessional finance should follow people in need rather than be determined solely by country-based lending classifications. Adjusting policies vis-à-vis borrowing eligibility not only acknowledges the global public good that host countries are providing, but also represents an investment in international stability and security. 

The Bank and its partners are translating this principle into practice through the Global Concessional Financing Facility. As this initiative—and other efforts—get underway, the CGD-IRC report offers 10 recommendations framed around process requirements to ensure new partnerships are grounded in best practice. These recommendations would advance progress if considered individually, but collectively incorporating them in a compact model offers the greatest potential. 


2. Focus on micro and macro issues

David Miliband underscored the importance of evidence at a micro-scale about what works to improve the livelihoods of refugees and their host communities. Under the Jordan Compact, the government committed to creating 200,000 employment opportunities for Syrian refugees, in part by issuing work permits. Experience with implementing the compact points to a need to better understand the multiple barriers at the micro-level—related to security as well as access to transportation and child care, for example—which prevent Syrian refugees from accessing job opportunities.

Minister Fakhoury emphasized the importance of macro-economic issues, as well. Understanding how and where refugees fit within the country’s long-term development trajectory is key to growing the economic pie for all, he said. Such an understanding complements the micro-level issues Miliband discussed.


3. Strive for better data to drive transparency and accountability

Minister Fakhoury and Miliband also underscored the importance of transparently tracking and sharing data on financing in displacement contexts. Emphasizing that transparency should flow in both directions, Miliband called on donors to also report where and how their own money is channeled. Speaking to his experience in Jordan, Minister Fakhoury recalled that donors often make requests to local governments to share data, but details on what the many (international and local) non-governmental players fund are needed to avoid duplication and ensure coordination on the ground.

The panelists also shared other key lessons from their experiences which dovetail nicely with the CGD-IRC report. Minister Fakhoury emphasized that the nationally-led nature of the compact process was a key factor; Georgieva said a willingness to learn from previous experiences and adapt to new realities will remain critical as additional compact agreements are developed; and Miliband reflected on the refugee crisis as a fundamental problem of politics, not just policies. In conclusion, Georgieva perfectly summed up why it is so critical that the international community prioritizes bridging this divide: “If displaced populations are deprived of a means of livelihoods, it is a failure of development.”

If you haven’t already, you can watch the full recap of the event here. And stay tuned to the CGD Podcast later this week to hear more from these global leaders on addressing the humanitarian-development divide.


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.