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It’s Planning Season Again – What CVA actors need to know about changes to the Humanitarian Programme Cycle

30 August 2019 — By Nathalie Klein

This time last year we wrote a planning season call to arms, urging Cash Working Groups (CWGs) and Clusters to work together for better inclusion of cash and voucher assistance (CVA) in the Humanitarian Response Plans (HRP). Well planning season has rolled around again, this time with some significant changes that are relevant to the planning, implementation and monitoring of CVA. We’ve broken down what these changes mean and what you – especially CWG leads – need to know.

The expansion of CVA, both sector-specific and multipurpose cash, continues apace. Development Initiatives estimates that $4.7 billion in cash and vouchers was delivered in 2018, up from $2.8 billion in 2016. Until now, fitting cash – an inherently multisectoral tool – into the sector-driven humanitarian planning process has been tricky. Recognizing this, the new templates and guidance Humanitarian Country Teams will be using to prepare for 2020 build in more space for planning multisectoral approaches, and ensure that all response options have been considered. This updated process is the result of a collective effort from the humanitarian community and has been signed off by the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Principals.

We recognize that the HRP process isn’t the highlight of everyone’s professional year. But CVA actors can offer a wealth of learning and evidence to inform the overall humanitarian strategy. Engaging in the key planning process is critical for building a more effective, efficient and accountable response.

Here are three important changes you need to know about (plus one smaller change we think is interesting):

1. There’s a new optional section on multipurpose cash.

Last year we emphasized the need to make space for the inclusion of multipurpose cash (MPC). Up until now there has been no agreed way of doing this, with different countries using different models. In Iraq, multipurpose cash is planned in a standalone chapter with an associated target and budget. In DRC, the response plan is based around multisectoral responses to meet specific objectives, and a chapter on cash is included. In Ukraine, MPC has its own budget line and target, but no associated chapter. SIDA published an analysis of how cash had been included in 2018 HRPs – of 18 HRPs they found a discussion of MPC in 12 and a standalone chapter in 4. Confusing? Yes. But help is at hand. While it’s still not as clear as we’d like, the new template includes an optional section for planning MPC.

The “optional section” consolidates the use of MPC response elements across all Strategic and Specific Objectives, where chosen as part of coordinated response approaches to meet these objectives and identified target populations. Given the multisectoral nature of MPC, this optional section is placed in the inter-sector response chapter of the HRP (Part 1), rather than in the sector plans. It should be used wherever MPC is being utilized in the response or where the development of a section would facilitate the planning of MPC.

We’d encourage you to take advantage of this – CWGs should be proactive in helping to develop these, including information on how MPC is coordinated with other sectoral interventions; how it relates to the use of other modalities and interventions; considerations of feasibility; any applicable standards and calculations, such as the development of the Minimum Expenditure Basket; the consolidated financial requirements; and partners involved in the coordinated use of MPC.

Where there is agreement to use the MPC chapter, an MPC option in the online system will be made available for inputting projects. Proposed MPC projects will be assessed by the entity agreed at the country level, which may include CWGs, among others.

2. There’s a much bigger role for market analysis in the overall response analysis process. 

Response options analysis now includes consideration of market functionality and access, as well as other sets of information that can help to identify the most feasible and appropriate modality to respond. This may include information such as the capacity of financial service providers, governments and implementing partners; recipient preferences; or potential protection and security risks.

CWGs – who tend to hold the most comprehensive information in this regard – should jump at this opportunity to ensure they’re feeding into the process. How? Clearly present information on the impact of the crisis on lives and livelihoods, barriers to market access, price trends and availability of key commodities. Make sure the evidence supports a sound decision on the right mix of modalities to meet needs, representing the most effective use of scarce resources in the context. Remember information on markets are not a cash-specific issue, but is important to assess feasibility and appropriateness of all types of interventions potentially impacting the local economy.

This also means that the most recent and consolidated overviews of cash feasibility should be available to be injected into the response analysis process, which will have implications on CWG internal timing and processes ahead of the HRP process.

3. There’s a much greater emphasis on understanding where needs can be best met through multisectoral responses, including through multipurpose cash.

The 2020 HRP template places a much greater emphasis on multisectoral responses. For all Specific Objectives and related target populations, it encourages collective brainstorming on what coordinated response approaches would be required, such as combining multisector modalities with sector-specific responses, or sequencing sector responses in a particular way. The CWG should be proactive in examining linkages between multisectoral and sector-specific cash responses, and exploring where multipurpose cash or sector-specific cash responses are preferable. This information should feed into the response analysis process, with CWGs aware of the key dates and opportunities for engagement and actively engaging with Cluster Coordinators.

4. Social protection systems are factored into the response options analysis.

While this isn’t a sweeping change it’s an important one for CWGs to be aware of. In many contexts CWGs will have the most up-to-date information on this issue, and engaging with social protection actors on developing this analysis can provide a useful entry point for improved coordination.

If you’d like to know more, this tipsheet provides some useful guidance. More information can also be found here in the annotated HRP template (specifically pp. 18-20) and Step-by-Step Guide (specifically step 5).

Do you need support in engaging in this process? The CALP Network’s regional representatives will be reaching out to regional networks of CWGs in the coming weeks to discuss these changes and what they mean. Any questions? Get in touch or put your query to the D-Groups.

Main image: Jeppe Schilder/Oxfam Novib