Skip to main content
We are sorry but the page you are looking for is not available in the language you have selected, please go to the corresponding homepage
  1. Home
  2. Library

Convergence in the Sahel: How to link humanitarian cash assistance and national social protection systems?

November 2023 — By Mira Saidi , Claudia Santamaria Ruiz

Convergence is the merging or coming together of separate elements. In the realm of social protection, this translates into the effective coordination and alignment of different humanitarian and development initiatives toward a shared national vision. Convergence between humanitarian operations and national social protection systems has gained momentum in the last few years, as reflected in the humanitarian-development nexus.

In the Sahel, a growing overlap between humanitarian activities and government interventions is emerging, particularly with the advent of adaptive social protection. Humanitarian assistance tends to operate in emergencies and volatile contexts with short-term horizons. In contrast, national social protection systems—including regular social safety nets—typically are longer term, more predictable, and focus on issues such as structural poverty rather than emergencies. However, both types of interventions share a broad goal to protect the poorest and most vulnerable and to promote their resilience to future shocks. Hence opportunities to better connect humanitarian assistance to the national social protection system do exist, particularly in the context of protracted crises.

Increasing convergence with national systems can lead to greater efficiency and effectiveness of humanitarian and government interventions, particularly shock responses. Convergence can encourage cross-learning, prevent duplication, reduce confusion among beneficiaries, increase coverage of programs, minimize transaction costs, and optimize response time. In the Sahel, compounded crises have increased the pressure on fiscal spaces, which necessitates optimizing resources for maximum impact. Convergence can be seen as a fluid and adaptable concept in which some elements of programs may be more amenable to harmonization than others.

While important, convergence does not always result in better outcomes. Convergence can be a helpful approach to strengthen national social protection systems. However, any measures taken towards it must be appropriate for the country’s context and aimed at improving responses to the fast-growing regional needs. Evidence shows that linking the two can present definite benefits but also potential drawbacks.