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Execution of Humanitarian Assistance Through Implementing Partners: A Joint Inspection Unit Report

Executive Committee Meetings

Execution of Humanitarian Assistance Through Implementing Partners: A Joint Inspection Unit Report

15 August 1997


1. On 22 July 1997, the Executive Secretary of the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) sent to the High Commissioner its report on Execution of Humanitarian Assistance through Implementing Partners (JIU/REP/97/3). The report was addressed for action to UNHCR in accordance with the JIU Statute, Article 11, paragraph 4. The report was also submitted for action to the United Nations, UNICEF, FAO, WFP, WHO, UNDP and UNFPA.

2. The subject matter of the report is directly relevant to several issues on the agenda of the Standing Committee at its ninth meeting, particularly those items dealing with implementing partners (EC/47/SC/CRP.48), and UNHCR-NGO relations in the context of the follow-up to PARINAC (Partnership in Action) Plan of Action (Oslo 1994) (document EC/47/SC/CRP.52 refers).

3. The Office of the High Commissioner participated closely with the JIU in the preparation of the Report. The Office welcomes the overall thrust of the report as an important contribution to the role of implementing partners in the execution of humanitarian assistance.

4. The Report makes five recommendations. These are reproduced verbatim in Annex for ease of reference during discussion under the relevant agenda item.

Annex Extracts from the Joint Inspection Unit Report: Execution of Humanitarian Assistance through Implementing Partners (IPs)


In response to the plurality and complexity of humanitarian programmes, IPs have become more diversified and multi-functional. This evolution, also for reasons of clarity, calls for an attempt to classify the different types of IPs according to their activity and performance.

The cooperation of the United Nations system involved in humanitarian assistance with IPs is based on agreements and sub-agreements entered with each partner. The identification of the implementors and their inclusion in a specific category will help in view of adjusting the implementing agreements within the corresponding mandates and responsibilities in order to ensure an adequate managerial and financial control of the programmes. This exercise could be enhanced by the publication of a handbook listing the IPs categories to be circulated for consultation and assistance in the selection of the appropriate IPs (para. 18).


(a) The working relationship between United Nations organizations and their IPs is based mainly on partnership and less often on contractual terms. Due to the increasing need for a humanitarian assistance and subsequent increase of IPs, the selection of an appropriate partner has become one of the most important aspects of the programme/project management process. This requires a well-thought out mechanisms which guarantees project delivery as agreed in the project document and ensures the accountability of IPs. For these to be achieved, organizations should be more selective in identifying IPs by improving the existing legal, administrative and financial procedures for their selection. The establishment of a selected roster of reliable IPs in order to set up a more manageable core of implementors could be a helpful contribution to this process.(See recommendation V) (para. 25)

(b) Exchange of information on the performance of already employed IPs could take place among United Nations agencies (JIU/REP/96/4 - A/51/1655, E/1996/105, Rec. No.1) as well as consultation with NGO's coalition. This should not however, prevent to resort to any IPs when required by special complex situations as well as when their contributions to capacity building are relevant.


The responsibility for implementation of a programme/project is shared between the host government, the United Nations organization/agency and its IPs. The IPs are responsible for the activities specified in the project document while the United Nations organization and/or agency remains responsible for the overall results of the assistance programme/project. In order to make IPs more responsible for programme/project delivery the following two provisions are recommended: (paras. 26 & 28)

(a) The existing agreements with IPs should always include a provision of fund accountability and an adequate audit, monitoring and evaluation coverage of IPs activities;

(b) It is essential for all United Nations agencies to include in the agreements a clause defining the responsibilities of IPs and the consequences in case of default. Such a clause should be designed under the guidance of the IASC and agreed upon by humanitarian organizations.

(paras. 30 & 31)


The current financial and administrative procedures and guidelines for collaboration with IPs conceived in pragmatic ways are designed on the assumption that humanitarian assistance is a short-term task and accordingly short-term plans are put in place. This assumption does not take into account those realities by which humanitarian assistance requires long-term involvement. Based on these findings, the Inspector recommends two types of administrative and financial procedures: (para. 35)

(a) Special administrative and financial procedures for short-term emergency responses such as floods, earthquakes and limited refugee flows;

(b) Standardized and a more general administrative and accounting procedures for long-term humanitarian assistance in situations such as internal and external conflicts which go beyond a specific period of time. The time limit for this category of assistance should be decided by the IASC in consultation with all humanitarian agencies.(para. 36)


Periodic claims of the donor community asking for greater transparency and cost effectiveness for funds they provide have evidenced weaknesses in the management and accountability. The causes for these situations are to be found in poor planning, inadequate monitoring and evaluation of programmes and projects. The following remedies are proposed:

(a) During the primary stage of the planning of a programme/project, an effective management system of financial and human resources with a clear definition of the respective responsibilities should be agreed upon by all parties; (para. 41)

(b) All humanitarian agencies should give top priority to strengthening their monitoring and controlling mechanisms. The existing mechanism should be revised and updated in order to respond to the requirement for improving the efficiency of programmes/projects management and at the same time reinforcing programme delivery; (para. 47)

(c) All humanitarian agencies, if not already done so, should establish an evaluation strategy in order:

(i) to follow the progress and achievement of IPs;

(ii) to assess the cost-effectiveness as well as the financial management capacity of IPs;

(iii) to use the lessons learned for the selection of IPs based on their records for future assignments.(para. 53)


In recent years humanitarian assistance has become more complex being compounded by peace-keeping operations and defence of human rights. As the issues evolve and increase, so does the number of IPs which require clear guidance and leadership from the United Nations organizations. An organizational handbook which provides such guidance is therefore necessary. This will help to have an efficient coordination and a sound working relationship between the United Nations system organizations and their IPs. Those organizations which have not already produced a partnership handbook should do so in consultation with their major IPs. (para. 55)"