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Rocking cash and vouchers with U2 and the InterAction Forum

By Jenny Coneff , North America Regional Focal Point

It was such a pleasure to meet so many CaLP members and other folks interested in cash and vouchers and U2 at the 2017 InterAction Forum!

In case you missed it, CaLP members Relief International (RI), International Rescue Committee (IRC, Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), and Catholic Relief Services (CRS) came together to share about getting “ready to get cash right”.

  • Alex Gray shared RI’s experience conducting an organizational capacity assessment of cash readiness.
  • Yoann Tuzzolino shared IRC’s cash preparedness approach, including establishing pre-agreements with vendors, both locally and globally.
  • Tenzin Manell of WRC explained that as with all programming, for cash and voucher programming to be effective, implementers need to design to mitigate risks specific to men, women, boys, and girls, and different subgroups within these (i.e., female-headed households, disabled, etc.).
  • Dina Brick of CRS spoke about the lessons she learned from CRS’s experience scaling up the number of beneficiaries in a project in Greece by 150% in two weeks.

            

In short, presenters agreed that investments in self-assessment and cross-departmental readiness, pre-agreements with vendors, practice, and context and people-centered analysis are key to getting ready to get cash right. 

It is not surprising as well that the 2017 InterAction Forum invested a great deal of energy processing new Administration’s proposed changes to U.S. foreign assistance budget. This discussion is relevant to the global cash and voucher community because under the previous Administration, the U.S. was the single largest donor of cash and voucher programming (by dollar value) and funded in 2015 almost 40% of global humanitarian cash and voucher assistance. So here’s what I gleaned from those many conversations. 

In the U.S., that which is made by legislation cannot be formally unmade but through legislation. For example, USAID/Office of Food for Peace’s authorizing legislation requires it to deliver a significant portion of humanitarian assistance as U.S. in-kind food aid, irrespective of USAID’s interest in using its resources to deliver the assistance most appropriate to any given context. Of the changes the Administration is expected to propose to U.S. foreign assistance through State/USAID, approximately 60% may require Congressional action to accomplish. Congress will play a pivotal role in foreign assistance both through the FY2018 budget discussions this summer and fall and for the 2018 Farm Bill which funds a large portion of U.S. humanitarian assistance. 

Many in Congress are concerned that the FY2017 level of U.S. foreign assistance spending is unsustainable. While budget cuts are likely real, well-targeted and articulated justifications, particularly those that matter to local constituents, can help legislators and donors protect funding for critical programs. This kind of communication may also broaden support for political solutions to foreign policy.  

That’s enough politics for now. See you at the Global Cash Forum in Geneva!

 

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