The HP Watch Group
The Humanitarian Partnership (former Framework Partnership Agreement) defines the contractual relationship - regulations and responsibilities - between the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and humanitarian organisations. An EU Humanitarian Partnership Certificate is awarded to organisations that, as a result of the positive assessment of their partnership application (ex-ante assesment) are considered suitable to apply for EU funding for the implementation of humanitarian aid actions.
The former Framework Partnership Agreement (FPA) 2014 covered the period 2014-2020: from the 1st of January 2021, a new set of documents entered into force covering the period 2021-2027. Thanks to the strong engagement of the Secretariat and the HP Watch Group and Task Force, a continuous dialogue with DG ECHO has been maintained to ensure that the first year of the new Humanitarian Partnership would go as smoothly as possible for humanitarian NGOs.
The Humanitarian Partnership Watch Group ( former FPA Watch Group) represents the views of all ECHO’s NGO partners in the monitoring, review, and consultation of all matters relating to the Humanitarian Partnership. It works towards a common interpretation and consistent application of the HP. Composed of a smaller number of members elected by the Watch Group, the HP Task Force is the "executive" of the HP Watch Group. The HP Watch Group is currently under renewal as per its Terms of Reference.
As well as the technical aspects of the HP WG, it is necessary to underline the importance of the Watch Group as a platform for cooperation, exchange of information and reflection. This dynamic of cooperation solidifies the strength of the Group but above all improves the level of professionalism of NGOs allowing them to retain and protect their unique status.
Contact for questions relating to the FPA WG
+32 (0)2 541 13 60
Click here for related documents
For more about the history and impact of the HP (FPA)Watch Group, see the briefing produced by VOICE ‘Partners in Humanitarian Aid: The development of the ECHO-NGO relationship as governed by the Framework Partnership Agreement’ (September 2019).
The role of VOICE
Through its membership, VOICE represents about half of ECHO partners and acts as main interlocutor for humanitarian NGOs with EU institutions. To date, the role of VOICE regarding the FPA consultation process has included:
- Facilitate the work of the FPA Watch Group and organise the contacts between the FPA Watch Group, the FPA Task Force and ECHO;
- Contact with all ECHO partners in order to ensure that they are informed and have an opportunity to express their opinions;
- Inform the VOICE members who are not participating in the FPA Watch Group (circulation via the VOICE website and the FLASH);
- Supervise the preparation of preliminary documents and draft the reports of meetings and other documents;
- Correspond officially with ECHO’s management, as required;
- Facilitate the (re)constitution of the Watch Group.
As part of the consultation process, VOICE attempts at all times to ensure that the interests of humanitarian NGOs are protected and defended. It provides information to its members and acts as a point-of-contact for NGOs which may have sensitive questions they do not wish to address directly to ECHO. Comments and concerns from NGOs, whether they are members of the Watch Group or not, can be sent to programme@VOICEeu.org.
Click here to access the ECHO website dedicated to humanitarian partners
The development of the new Humanitarian Partnership
1. The consultation process – 3 years of engagement
2. The Ex-ante assessment & EU Humanitarian Partnership Certificate 2021-2027
June 2019: ECHO launched the Terms of Reference for the ex-ante assessment. NGOs were invited to submit the report of their assessment before the 1st of July 2020 to DG ECHO.
Two additional annexes (annexes 4A and 4B) complement the ex-ante assessment: one to be fulfilled for NGOs organized in ‘family’ and the other for NGOs working systematically with Implemented Partners.
The FPA Watch Group organized exchanges with ECHO on this new exercise and a webinar allowed partners to seek further clarification. ECHO released a number of additional guidances in an FAQ document.
As of 2021, the ECHO Partnership will be based on a certification process – outcome of this ex-ante assessment review. Instead of signing an FPA, partners will receive a certificate in case of successful review of their ex-ante assessment. This certificate will be accompanied by a letter from ECHO DG.
Partners are then asked to make this certificate visible on their website.
What’s new with the certificate(s)?
- You can see the three types of Certificates on ECHO Partners' Website (Partnership Certificate, Niche Partnership Certificate and Programmatic Partnership Certificate)
Main changes & main features
- Reduced content compared to the FPA as technically, it is not a contract
- Focused only on partners’ obligations
- Stresses the importance of a principled and needs-based approach
- Call for reducing as much as possible the environmental and carbon footprint of the aid operations
- Introduce an annual reporting to the Commission on the implementation of its policy related to sexual exploitation, abuse, harassment and other types of unethical behaviour - applicable Commission guidance to be released soon.
You can find here the feedback from the FPA Task Force on the content of the Certificate.
FPA Watch Group survey on the ex-ante assessment
In August 2020, the VOICE FPA Watch Group launched a survey on the ex-ante assessment to evaluate NGOs’ experience with this new process. The survey has generated a great deal of interest among VOICE membership: 57 members have completed it. Responses from the survey have been consolidated and the main findings and recommendations were shared both with the FPA Watch Group and ECHO.
Find here the presentation of the results of the survey.
- ECHO has received 140 applications and as of the 20.10 ECHO starts releasing first certificates
- The FPA Watch Group and VOICE will monitor the certification process to make sure NGOs receive it in due time
- The FPA WG will maintain its engagement with ECHO and clarify future expectation regarding the audit and annual assessment exercises
3. The Model Grant Agreement (MGA)
A new corporate Model Grant Agreement (MGA) was imposed from 2021 by Commission Decision of 12 June 2020 (C(2020)3759 final) to all EC DGs.
The MGA template was presented to the Task Force and then to FPA Watch Group (01.10). Minutes from the exchange of the Watch Group with ECHO are accessible here.
Early December, ECHO released the Humanitarian MGA for NGOs. Find it here!
Main changes and main features:
The format is different from the current ECHO Grant Agreement but the majority of rules are similar to the current FPA. The MGA include both specific and general conditions of the current FPA.
Here is the new structure of the MGA:
Terms and Conditions:
Data sheet is the ‘specific’ part of the agreement
Chapters 1-6 are the ‘general’ part of the agreement
Annex 1 Description of the action (e-Single Form)
Annex 2 Budget (corporate template)
Annex 3 Accession Form for multi-beneficiary actions
Annex 4 Financial statement model
Annex 5 Specific rules for humanitarian aid
Because of its corporate nature, this MGA adopts a new language. You’ll find below the main changes in wording from the current FPA to the new MGA:
- (aid) Beneficiaries = final recipients
- Partners = (grant) beneficiaries
- Implementing partners = financial support to third parties
- Reporting not linked to payment, e.g. interim reports = continuous reporting
- Reporting linked to payment = periodic reporting
- Financing decisions = World Wide Decision/HIPs
This new language will be further explained in the corporate guidance (Annotated Grant Agreement, AGA) and specific ECHO guidance that will be released in the coming weeks.
ECHO specificities and key changes:
The Annex 5 (specific to ECHO) will integrate ECHO’s specificities that are not included in the general MGA template. It will notably include:
- A specific article allowing financial support to third parties (IPs) above EUR 60 000
- Simplified Procurement procedure: beneficiaries’ (i.e. ECHO partners) can follow their own procurement policies
- A sanctions clause – but specifying that vetting final beneficiaries is not requested
- The MGA also introduces some new elements including:
- The possibility to have a multi-beneficiary agreement
- One single exchange rate with no possibility of derogation
- Personnel cost calculation (daily rates with a calculation basis of 215 days per year)
- A difference between purchase of goods/services and subcontracting
- DG Legal Service is still introducing certain corrections and changes to fit all DG needs including some requested by ECHO following exchanges with VOICE and the FPA Watch Group
- To know more about the MGA see the slides from DG ECHO presented to the Watch Group meeting
- Minutes of this Watch Group meeting are also posted there
- ECHO will release the final MGA and guidelines
4. The e-Single Form (e-SF)
ECHO introduced some changes to the e-SF based on ECHO evaluation of the tool and in order to reply to the recommendations from the European Court of Auditors (ECA).
A first exchange on the e-SF with the Task Force of the FPA Watch Group took place in the summer You can find the Task Force feedback on the new tool here.
The new e-Single Form was then presented to the Watch Group (19.10). Click here to access the recording of the presentation.
On IT development, ECHO launched mid-October the testing phase of the new tool (many NGOs took part to this piloting exercise).
On the budget: two new template budgets were presented to the Watch Group. The first budget (Annexe 2 of the MGA) is contractual and part of this corporate tool. The second one “Operational budget” will be annexed to the e-SF and provide more details to ECHO. The objective is that this operational budget also allows for the Annex 2 to be automatically filled in.
There’s an on-going working group gathering NGO financial experts and ECHO financial and operational staff. This group is fine-tuning the template « Operational Budget » to make it as user-friendly as possible.
Find a document summarising main novelties in the e-SF as well as offline and online Single Form Quick Start guides and a detailed Manual. ECHO also released notes on the Pre-release version of the offline Single Form 2021.
Main changes in the e-SF
- Only one variant of the Single Form for emergency action (i.e. complementary actions templates are dropped)
- The structure and the order is revised (18 sections instead of 13 chapters)
- All quantitative information is aggregated in a new section, section 2 (project data overview by country)
- Annex for detailed budget is to be submitted next to the Single Form data (on top of Annex 2 of the MGA)
- Section 14 on ‘Alternative Arrangements’ incorporated to keep flexibility despite the corporate approach of the MGA
- In IT terms, the performance is increased, more responsive and faster interface, pop-up windows to explain what ECHO is expecting for each of the questions
- Feedback from partners testing the tool will be incorporated in the e-SF
- The Operational Budget template will be finalized in the next weeks
- ECHO will share the final tool with partners in November (world version requested)
- Change of e-SF on APPEL in January
5. Transitions and HIPs 2021
In the FPA Watch Group meeting with ECHO (19.10) ECHO provided key information regarding the transition and next HIPs.
- For the 2020 Budget: new actions and top-ups of existing actions will be operated under the current Single Form and with the current Grant Agreement
- For the 2021 Budget: use of the new Single-Form and MGA becomes the norm (in principle no Modification Request will be made on-going actions to avoid working with parallel systems for too long)
- HIPs 2021 will be released in the coming weeks – deadlines for proposals not before end of January
!!! Preparatory work should not be done on the current Single Form in APPEL : there will be no possibility to transfer proposals from current Single Form system to the new one.
The Watch Group has requested ECHO to share a word version of the new e-SF to facilitate preparatory work.
- A case by case review at desk and field level will be made for ongoing actions ending in the next few months to limit discontinuity of aid
- For UK entities, the new MFF is not available for them (Brexit) = only top-ups on the 2020 Budget can be allocated to UK entities
- For Pilot Programmatic Partnerships actions, 2021 and 2022 allocations will be made on the current Single Form
6. Going forward: what to do next? Get prepared!
- Register to upcoming trainings on the ELSE platform
- Minutes of meetings and regular updates will be posted on VOICE website
- Update on the development of the next ECHO Partnership Certificate
- HIPs 2021 and their technical annexes soon to be published on APPEL
- HIPs presentation will be accompanied by a short presentation of the new partnership framework; dates of meeting will be announced in country and on ECHO website