The Russia-Ukraine conflict resulted in billions of ODA being realigned or redirected to the Ukrainian government, civil society and other humanitarian actors in the country. While financing is necessary to reconstruct Ukraine and support its citizens, beyond its borders, however, several poor countries in the Global South are pushed to the sidelines when it comes to the amount and urgency of providing ODA.

One policy instrument that hopes to respond to conflict and fragility effectively and efficiently is the DAC Nexus Recommendation, signed by OECD-DAC members in 2019. The nexus approach (also known as HDP or Triple Nexus), which aims to coherently prevent and address conflict and fragility through integrating humanitarian, development and peace initiatives, is seen by development actors as instrumental in addressing protracted crises. 

This approach, however, remains at the early stages of implementation (a formal monitoring process of the Recommendation is underway this 2023) and there is limited evidence of how it benefits the world’s marginalized. Moreover, the approach is hounded by various challenges, which further impedes the delivery of much-needed assistance in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. These challenges include the lack of understanding surrounding this novel approach, inadequate and low-quality financing of initiatives, loan-based mechanisms in giving aid, and the accompanied non-transparency of donors on their aid flows. Donor countries and multilateral institutions have tried to address these challenges by providing technical assistance, forging new partnerships and promoting new financial modalities.

However, CSOs remain critical of how this state-sponsored approach could genuinely address the root causes of conflict and contribute to peacebuilding. While several donor countries, UN agencies and financial institutions have put forward their own policies or frameworks aligned with the DAC Nexus Recommendation, such documents largely reflect their own political and economic interests. The pressing issue on financing involves the entry of the private sector and corporate agenda, which undermines the importance of accessible assistance that is grounded on social justice. Furthermore, due to the volatility of conflict-affected contexts, lack of transparency and more flexible terms of aid flows pervade nexus responses. Consequently, there is a lack of adherence to development effectiveness principles in addressing the needs of fragile and conflict-affected contexts.

With all these challenges, there is a need to scale up monitoring and advocacy efforts in fragile, conflict-affected contexts, in order to pursue a people-centered, rights-based financing and programming of Triple Nexus initiatives that will allow for democratic ownership over outcomes and inclusive participation of communities and local CSOs in contributing to lasting peace. This would also allow the Triple Nexus agenda to contribute to addressing intersecting development challenges, such as the intensifying climate crisis and the off track implementation of Agenda 2030.

This primer articulates 1) what the Triple Nexus approach actually means for Reality of Aid – Asia Pacific and its members, 2) the principles that may guide any actor in carrying out the approach, and 3) intervention opportunities for development actors.

Our past and current efforts on the subject matter

  1. Research: Localizing the Triple Nexus
  2. Primer: Triple Nexus and the Localization Agenda
  3. Engagements: International Network on Conflict and Fragility (INCAF), Peace & Security Thematic Working Group, CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) Triple Nexus Task Force

The challenges we identified as urgent

  1. Governments, institutions and CSOs’ low level of awareness of the Triple Nexus as a framework that  can address conflict and fragility, along with its integration with other development challenges such as poverty and inequality, unsustainable development and climate change-induced conflicts, among others
  2. Donors and partner countries’ lack of commitment to upholding development effectiveness principles when funding and implementing Triple Nexus programs, as exhibited in the programs’ continued donor-driven agenda, states’ shrinking civic spaces, and overall lack of transparency and accountability
  3. Financing for Triple Nexus programs, more so direct financing to civil society organizations, remain lacking in quantity and quality, with the unequal funding across pillars, prevalence of tied aid and policy conditionalities, and undisclosed aid flows of governments and multilateral institutions

The Problem: The design and execution of the Triple Nexus approach is in silos.

  1. The lack of political will to stop militarism and to fund context-based and locally-led conflict prevention initiatives, along with development and humanitarian efforts, continue to marginalize communities living in conflict-affected, fragile states.
  2. Donors, parties to conflict, the private sector, and other development actors have differing interests when addressing the humanitarian, development, peace aspects of a conflict.
  3. For instance, in some cases of a humanitarian emergency, relief takes a long time to reach the most in need due to the political situation of a country or due to economic sanctions.
  4. But often, and when thinking long-term, economic interests prevent donors and other actors from putting an end to poverty and inequality in a conflict-affected, fragile states.
  5. The need to extract or the continuing extraction of resources and the search for new or to sustain current markets affect how financing modalities and policies on development cooperation, especially in relation to fragile contexts, are developed, promoted, and implemented.
  6. In terms of financing, accessing Official Development Assistance (ODA) is met with the following challenges:
    • securitization of aid
    • limited, unsustainable project-based funding that is not flexible and multi-year
    • burdensome administrative and financial requirements
    • debt and conditionalities
  7. The resounding call to increase the private sector’s role in responding to conflict and fragile contexts also reaffirms that economic interests are primary over addressing long-standing HDP issues.
  8. On the other hand, recognizing that many conflicts today are either climate-induced or exacerbated by the climate crisis, donors are not doing enough in raising climate finance, which is supposed to be new and additional to ODA.
  9. Lastly, alternative financing modalities, such as South-South Cooperation, Triangular Cooperation, and Fragile-to-Fragile Cooperation, are not given much attention and emphasis.
  10. In terms of policy, the Triple Nexus approach is not gaining ground and not taking off because of the following challenges:
    • incoherent and mismatched HDP policies between national and global actors
    • policy is not context-based
    • local actors are not involved in the design, decision-making and implementation processes
  11. To sum up, the Triple Nexus approach is in silos because of donors’ differing interests when responding to conflict and fragility. These interests inform how they provide financing and form policies related to their response.

Our proposal: The Triple Nexus approach has the potential to promote human dignity and sovereignty.

  1. A people-centered Triple Nexus must be based on the principle of solidarity and social justice; it must strive for the common good to ensure that no one is left behind.
    • Upholding the principle of solidarity and social justice recognizes the need to decolonize the system and shift the power to local actors, without abandoning donors’ historical commitment and responsibility in responding to humanitarian emergencies, preventing and resolving conflicts, and in addressing multiple fragilities.
      • This ensures local leadership in designing, coordinating, and implementing an HDP response. Local leadership means responsibility over decision-making, managing funds, and monitoring and evaluation. An effective locally-led response values partnerships among the national government, civil society, and the domestic private sector.
      • This ensures that an HDP response is context-based, which means that culture (social practices, religions, identities, and indigenous knowledge and practices, etc.), political economy, and geography are considered when designing, coordinating, and implementing the response.
      • This ensures that an HDP response incorporates gender sensitivity at all levels, and that all actors involved respect all genders.
  2. RoA-AP’s intervention model:
    • In any humanitarian and/or climate-related emergency, an HDP response must be agile enough to cater to life-saving needs. Local leadership must be the norm and the country or state’s context must be the basis of the response.
    • However, an HDP response should not be limited to the humanitarian emergency. A parallel process of developing conflict prevention strategies to address development issues and conflict resolution initiatives to address peace and security issues must be pursued.
    • The development and peace pillars of the nexus must work together to address concerns related to the government, economy, and people. Below are some priorities that must be taken into account:
      • Government – alignment of relevant global policies with the country’s national development plan; alignment of global HDP nexus response plan or policy (when applicable) with the local HDP nexus response plan or policy; adherence to development effectiveness principles
      • Economy – review or creation of rights-based policies addressing issues related to livelihood, employment, and basic social services and infrastructure; prioritization of local industries toward national industrialization and self-reliance
      • People – development of resilience-building or capacity strengthening initiatives, ensuring gender equality; prioritization of accessible and quality education for all and at all levels; ensuring inclusive and democratic participation from civil society

In the described process, a Triple Nexus approach, based on solidarity and social justice, is able to help a country regain or assert its sovereignty and rebuild its peoples’ dignity. In a sovereign country, people have access to, control of, and can benefit from resources necessary to narrow the poverty and inequality gap, which in turn promotes human dignity.


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