Overcoming barriers to coordination between social protection and humanitarian assistance – building on promising practices (June 2021) – Global

by Gabrielle Smith


The importance of strong coordination between actors preparing, designing and implementing responses to shocks is well accepted. This has been highlighted specifically in relation to shock-responsive social protection (SRSP) as well as the link between humanitarian action and social protection (HA-SP). However, despite the unanimous acceptance of the principle of coordination, practical experiences of linking responses to shocks with social protection systems have shown that this can be difficult to put into practice. The COVID-19 pandemic presents an opportunity for change – the global crisis has galvanized interest and experimentation with shock-responsive social protection (SRSP) and linking humanitarian action and social protection (HA-SP). This article presents a synthesis of global learning from efforts to coordinate responses to social protection shocks during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as in response to other shocks, to inform dialogue and action. future.

So why is coordination so difficult? Simply put, it is difficult to bring together a multiplicity of actors, from different disciplines, and with different mandates, guiding principles, visions and interests. Responses to shocks related to social protection seek to bridge the gap between development and humanitarianism. A range of actors (from across government and among partners) are involved in planning and implementation, and these actors are siloed – physically, technically and ideologically.

Experiences from the response to COVID-19 and beyond highlight several promising practices that have helped foster better coordination among stakeholders in policy/strategic and/or operational (design and implementation) areas. Where these practices were lacking, this contributed to difficulties in designing and implementing responses to shocks. These include: joint assessments and options analyzes for shock-responsive social protection and humanitarian-linked social protection; joint strategies between social protection, disaster management and humanitarian actors; forums or platforms bringing actors together across silos; protocols, partnership agreements and procedures defining roles and responsibilities; registration data sharing procedures and systems; donors assuming and investing in convening roles; funding mechanisms that encourage harmonization and collaboration; global donor commitments; and the inclusion of local governments and civil society organizations.

Analysis of experiences across responses to COVID-19 and beyond identifies common factors that have enabled or limited coordination in practice. The promising practices listed are not implemented everywhere. Moreover, when they were established, certain factors influenced the effectiveness (or not) of these practices. Factors influencing success include: strong leadership; an ability to find a compromise between divergent points of view; preparedness planning; dedicated and sustained resources; political will; the influence of the international humanitarian coordination architecture; and contextual factors.

So what are the main entry points where donors, governments and implementers can take steps to ensure coordination in the future? The document sets out a series of guiding principles for policymakers to consider at the national level, as well as considerations for action at the global level.

Joel C. Hicks