Bringing M&E to the New Kid on The Block – The “Humanitarian-Development-Peace” Nexus

m&e humanitarian nexus

M&E in pursuit of the triple-nexus objectives: an overlooked actor?


Why do we monitor in humanitarian and development programs? In the case of humanitarian and development programs, which intend to contribute to relief of suffering and acquisition of basic needs (water, food, shelter, health, livelihoods, etc) and development goals to reduce poverty and hardship, implementing monitoring and evaluation (M&E) means assessing if these programs actually deliver the needs they intend to. Following the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC) (or OECD-DAC) criteria which guide M&E, it is important to assess those activities are relevant, effective, impactful, sustainable and efficient. But is M&E only useful to evaluate these parameters related to the specific need(s) it is trying to address in humanitarian relief or development programs– or does it have the potential for more 

Specifically, the question is if M&E has the potential of, beyond assessing the goals of the humanitarian and development programs it is called upon, to evaluate programs’ contributions towards their underlining end-game: peace. That is, one could say, the end-game of any humanitarian and development program. 

Therefore, how does M&E support the addressing of grievances – most often basic needs and poverty reduction related to the need for humanitarian and development programs-, that can enable peace?  

M&E, as a crucial part of programs providing humanitarian aid and contribution towards development, often occurs in locations that are in crisis or where conflict might arise. 90% of humanitarian aid, for example, as of 2019 was headed towards protracted crises. This growth of humanitarian and development programs in crisis-prone settings portrays challenges to conducting M&E in two scenarios:   

  • 1) in projects in areas that can cover humanitarian and developmental programs (as mentioned);   
  • 2) in projects that aim to implement direct peacebuilding and peace-related operations.   

 The interlinkages of both two scenarios are, however, crucial: grievances related to lack of economic stability, livelihoods and appropriate conditions of sustenance can fuel violent conflict that affect both humanitarian and development projects (which try to address those grievances) as well as the peacebuilding programs in itself.  

 Peacebuilding, according to the OECD and the UN, at least until the first decade of the 21st century, included long-term support and establishment of actions and policies that are aimed at preventing the reoccurrence of armed conflict, creatingviable political, socio-economic and cultural institutions capable of addressing the proximate and root causes of conflicts, as well as other initiatives aimed at creating the necessary conditions for sustained peace and stability”. Since then, the OECD-DAC in 2019 has created a framework on the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus, highlighting the important interlinkages of the peacebuilding agenda and sustainability with humanitarian aid and development cooperation, with recommendations included.   

 These recommendations set to provide the triple nexus (Humanitarian-Development-Peace), hereafter HDP, followers with a “comprehensive framework that can incentivize and implement more collaborative and complementary humanitarian, development and peace actions, particularly in fragile and conflict-affected situations”, according to the DAC recommendation on HDP nexus. The recognition of the triple nexus is also already part of the EU agenda, where the nexus appears to have been underlined in the programming of the new Neighbourhood, Development and International Cooperation Instrument (NDICI)–Global Europe. At its basis, the nexus mirrors also the Sustainable Development Goals agenda, where sustainable development requires the interlinkage and achievement of different goals, such as access to food, water, but also gender equality, the rule of law and ultimately, peace. In order to implement this nexus, these bodies pinpoint several key ingredients: joint context analysis; joint planning and coordination mechanisms; adaptive management; the use of flexible funding mechanisms; technical capacities and finally, (and in our case importantly) M&E, lessons learnt and good practices.  

However, as peace is a concept within peacebuilding, and is the “new” member of the humanitarian-development relationship, it is a concept in need of clarification. What peace is it that the nexus and peacebuilding is actually building? What peace is the M&E supposed to monitor and evaluate? Peace can be considered the absence of violence and conflict (negative peace) and in addition the condition in which structural violence is addressed (positive peace). Positive peace, discussed more vehemently and differentiated by Galtung, presupposes that structural inequalities must be addressed in order to effectively create peace which is sustainable: it is not only the absence of violence but the conditions and structures in society that might create inequalities that can fuel grievances. Hence, it is not only that parties lay down arms, but also that people have structures and conditions in which to thrive. Humanitarian and development programming has attempted to give these conditions and structures, in the hopes (the end goal) that it will provide –and build- peace. However, how do we know, through M&E in these programs, that they are doing so? Programs that have not, yet, outlined and positioned themselves clearly in the new-found HDP Nexus?  

That seems a question to continue exploring– how does M&E in humanitarian and development programming contribute to peacebuilding?. Which means, how does M&E of implementation of programs related to, for example, health services, or of cash assistance, show linkages between program implementation and the status and recognition of peace in that area or region?  

So far, since the HDP nexus is also fresh, there is little comparison and subject of discussion to this question. We do know that M&E in peacebuilding programs has been more and more deemed necessary, similarly to the view in humanitarian and development programming. It is one, however, that also entails its own problems and weaknesses, which is our next point of analysis in envisaging the difficulties M&E can have in the HDP nexus. 

What we can say – at least in this short piece- is that M&E has the capacity to monitor and evaluate projects beyond its analysis in silo and towards the HDP nexus- and that the call for the nexus brings M&E to an ambitious agenda. 




About the Author

Ana Guimarães has recently graduated with an MSc with Distinction in Politics of Conflict, Rights and Justice fromSOAS University of London. Prior to SOAS, Ana did her BA and MA in Psychology in Portugal, where she wrote herthesis on altruism and its contributions to peace. After completing her studies, she worked over three years in humanitarian and development projects in the Middle East, including in Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon, with a focus on MHPSS. During this time, she continued researching and publishing work in the field of psychology. She is a strongbeliever in deepening the humanitariandevelopment-peacebuilding nexus. 

Learn more about Ana on LinkedIn.

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