Issue 48 - Article 18

NGO engagement with the Consolidated Appeal Process in Zimbabwe: is it worth the effort?

September 1, 2010
Mudasser Hussain Siddiqui, NGOs and Humanitarian Reform Project
Child support group in Zimbabwe

A record 66 NGOs, many of them national organisations, participated in the 2010 Consolidated Appeals Process (CAP) in Zimbabwe. Yet research undertaken by The NGOs and Humanitarian Reform Project shows that, despite considerable investment in the process, NGOs consistently receive much less funding directly from the CAP than UN agencies and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). National NGOs receive even less. For these reasons, NGOs are increasingly questioning whether involvement in the CAP is worth the time and effort.

This article analyses recent CAP funding trends for Zimbabwe, with a particular focus on direct funding to NGOs. It examines the CAP development process, analysing the differences between money requested and money received by the appealing agencies, identifying reasons for the lack of support to NGOs and suggesting ways in which the CAP process can be made more effective overall.


The process

The CAP is intended to provide a more strategic and coordinated approach to mobilising resources to meet the humanitarian needs of people affected by complex or major emergencies. The annual CAP is usually developed in September and October and presented to donors in November at launches in New York, Geneva and in participating countries. A mid-year review takes place in May and June.

The CAP involves discussion and work at various levels, including in-country and at cluster level, to agree sector priorities and select projects. Once sector priorities have been identified, participating agencies engage in the time-consuming process of developing and uploading project proposals onto the On-Line Project System (OPS), for review. Once this is complete, the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) distributes the draft document to humanitarian agencies for comments. The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) then finalises the draft for the HC’s approval. The OCHA CAP section in Geneva forwards the HC-approved CAP document to IASC members, whose comments are then incorporated into the final version.

The Zimbabwe CAP was launched in 2006. Over the last two years the government has taken an active part in consultations on the CAP, and the CAP is aligned with the government’s assistance priorities. The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) in Zimbabwe, which includes five NGOs, is responsible for supervising the process in-country, as well as developing a fund-raising strategy. Despite this, the HCT has not been proactive in raising funds for the 2010 CAP, or in developing a strategy for channelling more CAP funds directly to NGOs.


Efforts and results

The figures below show that NGOs have not benefited to the same degree as UN agencies and IOM from the CAP process. Only 26% of the project proposals submitted by NGOs in Zimbabwe received funding in the last CAP, compared with a 47% success rate for projects submitted by UN agencies. IOM had 35% of its projects funded under the CAP in 2009.





Despite such a poor success rate NGOs once again participated enthusiastically in the CAP for 2010, largely because they were encouraged to do so by OCHA and cluster coordinators. NGOs have a staggering 172 projects in the CAP for 2010, around three times the number submitted by UN agencies (55, five fewer than 2009). Eighteen IOM projects have been included in the 2010 CAP.

An analysis of funding in response to the 2009 CAP is even more revealing. UN agencies requested and received by far the largest share: 84% of the amount requested, while NGOs received only 49% of requested funds. In cash terms, this translates into over $400m for the UN, against a request of $475m, and $45m for NGOs, against requests for just under $93m.




The funding requested in the 2010 CAP ($394m as at April 2010) is substantially lower than the $606m requested in 2009. This decrease can be attributed to improved food security. In terms of money actually received, as at 27 April 2010 UN agencies had $111m, compared to $2.5m each for NGOs and the IOM.


The way forward

Because NGOs consistently receive very limited direct support under the CAP, many view engagement with the process as a poor investment of limited resources. As preparations for the CAP 2011 will soon begin, it is important to analyse why NGOs have fared so poorly, and reflect on whether the CAP, in its current form, is really helping humanitarian agencies to meet needs in Zimbabwe. Based on discussions with NGOs, UN agencies and donors, there are several key reasons why NGOs consistently receive less funding than the UN under the CAP.


Absence of a fund-raising strategy

Although the terms of reference of the Zimbabwe HCT include activation of fund-raising mechanisms as one of its primary objectives, the HCT has not made a concerted effort to raise funds for the CAP or to address the skewed funding of NGOs participating in it. The HC/HCT’s role has been largely limited to launching the CAP, occasionally receiving updates from OCHA about the CAP’s funding status and appealing for funding at meetings with donors. No serious efforts have been made to systematically review and address reasons for poor funding of the CAP generally, and of NGOs specifically. It is only recently that the HCT identified the need for an advocacy paper to be used for fund-raising with donors.


Lack of NGO ownership of the CAP

Given the effort and resources they expend annually on the process, NGOs should be much more proactive in determining the shape of the final document, advocating with donors for funding and lobbying the HC to lead on fund-raising more effectively. Cluster coordinators and NGO representatives should meet bilaterally with donors to advocate for funding under their sectors. The HCT should devise a mechanism to monitor the implementation and effectiveness of the whole process, and should play a lead role in ensuring that a strategy is devised and implemented.


Absence of robust needs assessment

The nature and timeline of the CAP exercise leaves very little scope for agencies or clusters to carry out robust needs assessments involving communities in their areas. Although discussions take place at cluster and inter-cluster level to identify priorities for the year, there is seldom sufficient time or space for agencies to consult with beneficiary communities. The CAP has become a theoretical exercise rather than a strategic process. The timing of the CAP process (development as well as review) does not always match the timing of needs assessments. Furthermore, agencies spend much more time developing, uploading, reviewing and revising project proposals than they do agreeing sector priorities. The CAP should be developed on the basis of a comprehensive needs assessment. This should be accompanied by a longer-term 2–3-year strategy which would provide scope for robust needs assessment and help to address the challenges of incorporating ‘humanitarian plus’ and early recovery-based interventions in the document. Flash appeals should be used to mobilise funds for any rapid-onset emergencies requiring additional money.


Needs-based CAP

The CAP in its current form is developed after project proposals submitted by appealing agencies are approved by the clusters for inclusion in the document. It largely contains information about participating agencies and their proposed interventions and associated costs. In order to make the CAP exercise less burdensome and more strategic, the current format should become a needs-based document instead of a project-based document. OCHA along with cluster lead agencies should bring agencies together to identify and cost sectoral needs in specific geographical locations (provinces and districts). Agencies involved in the appeal should be given adequate notice to enable them to carry out field assessments and consult with communities, local authorities and other stakeholders, and common needs assessment tools and frameworks and costing mechanisms should be developed and implemented, with consistent leadership from clusters to roll them out. The HCT, with the Humanitarian Coordinator as its chair, should facilitate and supervise the entire process, with support from OCHA. After lobbying from NGOs, OCHA in Zimbabwe is considering revising the CAP format to make it a needs-based document.


Donors’ preference for funding UN agencies

Donors’ preference for funding UN agencies – and NGOs indirectly through UN agencies – may partially account for the disproportionately large amount of funding the UN receives under the CAP. By funding UN agencies, donors seek to minimise their administrative costs and mitigate compliance-related risk. In fact, however, outsourcing fund management responsibility to the UN simply transfers these costs to the UN agency concerned, creating further problems along the funding chain. NGOs find that working through the UN can reduce efficiency and increase operating costs. Accessing funding can be a slow and cumbersome process, and negotiating sufficient overhead costs to support effective implementation can also be a challenge. The application of UN management costs (transferred from donors) means that less money is available for project activities and to cover NGO overheads.

UN agencies are not always best placed to act as fund managers, and donors should continue supporting NGOs directly. INGOs could also be encouraged to act as pooled fund managers. An increasing number have experience of fund management globally, and recent experience in Zimbabwe with the NGO-led Joint Initiative, a consortium set up in 2005, suggests that NGOs can successfully and efficiently manage pooled funding. In all, seven donors contributed $5m to the initiative.

Most donors expect their recipients to be certified by their HQs (usually in Europe or North America) to be eligible for funding. This puts local NGOs at a disadvantage. Donors need to consider ways in which they can engage local NGOs more, both within and outside the CAP. The UN and INGOs should demonstrate that they are partnering with local NGOs in their work. A reward system (giving additional points while evaluating the project proposal) could be introduced to encourage the UN and INGOs to include local NGOs in a meaningful way.


Funding cycles and poor reporting

The mismatch between the funding cycles of some donors and the CAP cycle also affects the percentage of the CAP funded overall. Many donor funding decisions have already been made by the time the CAP is launched. OCHA should look into the possibility of rescheduling the appeal development process to bring it more into line with the funding cycles of the majority of donors.



The CAP process in Zimbabwe and elsewhere is in clear need of reform. NGOs, particularly local and national NGOs, do not benefit from the CAP in proportion to the time and resources they invest in the process. Within the Humanitarian Country Team, and under the leadership of the HC, NGOs and UN agencies need to work together to streamline the cumbersome and labour-intensive CAP process, transform the CAP into a strategic, needs-based document and develop a fund-raising strategy which takes into account the comparative advantages of the stakeholders involved. Donors should use this strategy to provide funding directly to agencies best able to implement efficient and effective programmes. This will contribute towards improving the speed and quality of humanitarian response. It would also increase accountability, both to donors and to crisis-affected populations.


Mudasser Hussain Siddiqui is Humanitarian Reform Officer, NGOs and Humanitarian Reform Project. NGOs and Humanitarian Reform is a three-year NGO consortium project funded by DFID. Member agencies are ActionAid, CAFOD, Care International UK, ICVA, the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam and Save the Children. 




[1] All figures related to the 2010 CAP are based on information available on the Financial Tracking System (FTS) as of 27 April 2010.



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