2010 Annual Report: Year In Review

2010: Year in Review

 

Introduction

InterAction is the largest alliance of U.S.-based international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), with more than 200 members working in every developing country. Members are faith-based and secular, large and small, with a focus on the world’s most poor and vulnerable populations.

The U.S. public, foundations and others support the efforts of our membership through funding of more than $13 billion a year, according to 2009 estimates. InterAction’s own funds come from dues and generous grants from others, such as foundations.

Using our collective voice, InterAction seeks to shape important policy decisions on relief and long-term development issues, including foreign assistance, the environment, women, health, education and agriculture. Members are at the forefront in responding to humanitarian crises and disasters worldwide and InterAction acts as a hub in these efforts, with the belief that saving lives and reducing extreme poverty are fundamental to building a secure and sustainable future for all.

InterAction tracks where members work through interactive mapping tools, such as one used after the 2010 earthquake in Haiti and another that plots food security projects. Our flagship monthly publication—Monday Developments Magazine—and other policy papers and documents showcase the work of our members and highlight trends and best practices in the sector.

Alliance members adhere to standards drawn up by InterAction, which aim to ensure accountability and transparency in financial management, fundraising, governance and program performance.

Our vision

A peaceful, just and prosperous world of nations with inclusive and sustainable societies.

Our mission

To eliminate extreme poverty, uphold human rights, safeguard a sustainable planet and ensure human dignity for poor and vulnerable populations worldwide by elevating and advancing the goals of the U.S.-based international nonprofit community.

Our impact

With policymakers

InterAction and our growing membership are actively educating and influencing the U.S. government on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch, as well as the United Nations and World Bank, the private sector and other institutions that shape development policy.InterAction sustains these relationships with policymakers through systematic person-to-person contact and by bringing our members’ knowledge and expertise to discussions on very diverse policy issues.

As a resource

InterAction has become a reliable and credible source of information about foreign assistance broadly, and we have increased our impact by pushing for foreign policy change both at home and through global networks of NGO platforms in other countries. The fact that InterAction shapes a collective but focused agenda gives us a reputation for neutrality, further raising our profile.

As a community hub for members

InterAction’s strongest asset is our membership. The unmatched size and diversity of InterAction’s network together with the field-based knowledge, household reputations and strong brands of our members enhance InterAction’s credibility and influence. Through the convening of our members, InterAction articulates clear points and policy statements, messages which have been well-vetted and that have broad member support.

As a professional body of organizations

InterAction is known for our commitment to our Private Voluntary Organization (PVO) Standards, which our members review themselves against every two years. This commitment is becoming a focus of other countries’ NGO platforms, helping them to build credibility in their own home countries.

As a go-to place for media

InterAction’s media advocacy and outreach focuses on providing timely expert information. Increasingly, media, opinion- and policymakers recognize both InterAction’s and our members’ expertise on key issues, such as U.S. foreign assistance. During the last year, InterAction has more than doubled the number of messages that get picked up by a diverse group of media outlets, despite the general public lately being less interested in global issues than in concerns at home.

Our role as a convener of ideas and a common voice

Through our members and partners

InterAction’s ability to define the issues well and convene members easily gives our community a strong common voice. This, in turn, has allowed InterAction’s members to develop their own more focused advocacy messages. Because InterAction is nonpartisan and nonpolitical, we are able to convene groups that are incredibly diverse, sometimes even ones that may be at odds with each other in some respects but that share the ultimate goal of eliminating extreme poverty worldwide. When this happens, groups are able to put aside their differences and work toward the common goal.

With international organizations, platforms and networks

InterAction supports global civil society as they build their capacity to participate in global processes that determine the effectiveness of aid in their own countries. InterAction also contributes to the leadership of international networks, like the International Forum of National NGO Platforms, a network of over 50 national NGO platforms from around the world.

Through our working groups

InterAction working groups allow member staff to gather together and use their technical field expertise to inform policy approaches, and attendance has steadily grown over the last three years. Working group members are motivated to engage in collective advocacy for a variety of reasons, chiefly to increase funding to the sector, to have better access to leaders, and for a stronger, safer, and more efficient impact and voice.

Between diverse networks at the annual InterAction Forum and CEO Retreat

InterAction holds two important annual events, the Forum and the CEO Retreat. Attendees at the Forum—including member staff of all levels, NGO staff outside of the InterAction membership, U.S. government officials, philanthropy professionals, students and other interested parties—network with each other and attend workshops and large plenary sessions on a wide variety of issues. The substance of these gatherings is valuable, but the chance to share experiences and ideas, particularly among CEOs, is even more so.

2010 At a Glance

2010 was a busy year for InterAction, with the crisis in Haiti cutting across all teams and activities for most of the year. Some ofInterAction’s other notable work in 2010 includes foreign aid reform, with two new Obama administration reform initiatives and discussion drafts of the Foreign Assistance Act rewrite; a transparency initiative to map NGOs’ aid programs; producing the second Foreign Assistance Briefing Book; and collaborations on aid effectiveness, protection of vulnerable populations, food security and more.

Haiti

On January 12, 2010, Haiti was rocked by a devastating earthquake that killed hundreds of thousands and left millions without shelter or access to any kinds of services. InterAction worked to facilitate members’ response on the ground, tackling one of the greatest organizational challenges since the 2004 tsunami. InterAction took on a number of initiatives to help shape the efforts of our more than 80 members who raised $1.29 billion from the American people to support relief and reconstruction projects.

With funding from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and in coordination with the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), InterAction set up the NGO Coordination Support Office in Port-au-Prince after the earthquake. The office worked with over 100 international and local NGOs in Haiti. When InterAction’s coordination term expired, NGOs in-country assumed these activities, guided by a steering committee.

InterAction’s crisis response list was featured as the go-to place for reputable charitable organizations on Good Morning America and other television programs, as well as in top newspapers across the country. This prominence helped InterAction to negotiate a fee waiver program with American Express Card, which was extended to all members on InterAction’s Haiti crisis list; Visa and MasterCard agreed to waive fees for some of our members.

InterAction convened our members, Haitian civil society, multilateral organizations, foundations, international financing institutions, think tanks and the U.S. government at major meetings that shaped the outcome of the “Friends of Haiti” donor conference in New York.

InterAction’s Haiti Working Group met frequently in the early months of the response and they engaged with the major U.S. government and UN agencies working in Haiti. To bring the field perspective to the dialogue, the working group prepared a paper, From the Ground Up: InterAction Member Recommendations on Recovery and Reconstruction in Haiti.

InterAction’s Gender-Based Violence (GBV) group developed a policy brief outlining key concerns and recommendations for the international humanitarian community, donor governments and Haiti’s government. InterAction also worked closely with the U.S. government to protect orphans and vulnerable children in Haiti.

Foreign assistance reform

InterAction continued our strong advocacy campaign on the need for robust foreign assistance, inspiring the desire for reform in an environment that was previously unreceptive to these messages. This advocacy contributed to the administration’s renewed focus on country ownership and participatory development principles.

InterAction responded to the U.S. government’s requests for NGO feedback on its reform processes by engaging its CEO- and staff-level Foreign Assistance Reform Task Forces to provide comments and recommendations. The groups submitted their feedback to the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) and their consensus comments to the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s partial draft of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act rewrite.

When the Presidential Study Directive, A New Way Forward on Global Development, was leaked, InterAction responded in a media push. Once the final version, the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, was published, InterAction hosted an off-the-record discussion with senior government representatives to help our members understand its implications.

Mapping

In 2010, major progress was made on NGO Aid Map, an InterAction initiative focused on collecting information on NGOs’ work at the project level and making it accessible to donors, NGOs, businesses, governments and the public through an online interactive mapping tool. Through this platform, InterAction strives to increase transparency, facilitate partnerships, improve coordination and help NGOs and other actors make more informed decisions about where to direct their resources.

In response to the Haiti earthquake, InterAction launched Haiti Aid Map, which featured hundreds of projects from over 70 NGOs responding to the disaster. This map is an easy-to-use tool to see who is doing what, where.

With input from a member advisory committee, InterAction finalized data standards and definitions for the type of information to be collected for NGO Aid Map. InterAction worked with a development company to build the website for NGO Aid Map in preparation of its official launch in early 2011, with two sub-sites—Haiti Aid Map and Food Security Aid Map—and the ability to expand and map the work of NGOs in different sectors or countries, or their response to humanitarian crises.

Budget and Appropriations

InterAction’s federal budget and appropriations advocacy has long been a mainstay of our public policy work, with members relying onInterAction staff for information, guidance and leadership as they try to influence an important but often arcane process. InterAction undertook a variety of activities on the budget and appropriations front in 2010.

The Obama administration requested supplemental appropriations for fiscal year (FY) 2010. InterAction developed recommendations for this supplemental, three of which members of Congress adopted in a letter to congressional leadership, leading to the final bill providing an additional $165 million for Migration and Refugee Assistance that was not included in the president’s budget. Additionally,InterAction put forward strong arguments to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah and other key individuals in response to news of possible cuts of up to 40 percent in USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance across all regions to begin funding the massive response in Haiti. The administration later announced that the cuts would not occur.

For FY2011, InterAction partnered with other coalitions and networks on a sign-on letter supporting the president’s International Affairs budget request for the fiscal year, resulting in 158 U.S. NGO signatories. InterAction also developed a document outlining both humanitarian and international development highlights within the Senate’s FY2011 State-Foreign Operations appropriations bill. Encouraged by InterAction, members agreed to consolidate the community’s efforts, speaking with one NGO voice to protect foreign assistance overall, rather than championing individual projects.

For FY2012, InterAction drafted a sign-on letter supporting the president’s upcoming International Affairs budget for the fiscal year, which garnered support from 107 of our members.

Foreign Assistance Briefing Book

Briefing books and other InterAction materials are enormously valuable and they save member organizations from having to prepare separate materials. They also demonstrate collective messaging, and because InterAction is a trusted messenger, our collaborative material brings great value.

InterAction working groups and staff compiled the January 2011 edition of the Foreign Assistance Briefing Book (FABB), which lays out NGO views on core policy issues ranging from foreign assistance reform to food security to country-specific issues and more. First published for the new administration in 2008, the latest edition targets Congress and key committee staff; select personnel at the Department of State, USAID, the White House and the National Security Council; and existing and potential strategic partners at think tanks, academic institutions, corporations, foundations and multilateral institutions. U.S. government officials, members, corporations, think tanks and universities have all acknowledged the FABB’s effectiveness.

Best Practices and Innovations Initiative

InterAction continues our Best Practices and Innovations Initiative (BPI), which launched in September 2009 with an initial focus on agriculture and rural livelihoods. BPI promotes information sharing on effective program approaches and aims to improve practice standards by boosting the efficiency and impact of field programs. A selection committee composed of member and nonmember experts chose the winners. Two rounds of the BPI were completed in 2010. Round one winners were ADRA International, Heifer International, Helen Keller International, Mercy Corps, World Vision Australia and World Vision Honduras. Round two winners were ADRA InternationalAfricare, Freedom from Hunger, Heifer International and Winrock International.

Food security/agriculture

InterAction was heavily involved in several global food security initiatives. In all these engagements, InterAction continued to push for more structured consultation between the U.S. government and the NGO community around development strategies and implementation, both here and in host countries.

InterAction continued our engagement with the Inter Agency Task Force for the President’s Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative. Additionally, InterAction joined a panel providing a technical review of the initiative’s draft results framework at the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s request, and convened members to report on their organizations’ food security activities in-country for a Rwanda consultation.

InterAction’s Food Security Working Group engaged with USAID on planning Feed the Future’s 20 priority Country Investment Plan reviews. The group also drafted a response to the interagency task force’s Feed the Future Guide, focused largely on implementation. The U.S. government asked for a follow-up document describing specific benchmarks for measuring consultation with civil society organizations.

InterAction convened a meeting to discuss structures and process for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, a trust fund administered by the World Bank to handle approximately one-third of the increased food security funding. InterAction’s advocacy for this fund to include civil society organizations on its steering committee gained a seat each for the Global North and the Global South.

InterAction was instrumental in standing up the 1,000 Days Partnership, which is the U.S. response to the UN’s Scaling Up Nutrition challenge. The partnership’s hub is housed at InterAction, and will spend the next two years working to improve maternal and child nutrition from pregnancy to age 2.

Millennium Development Goals

InterAction engaged in a concerted advocacy push to include NGO views at the UN High-Level Plenary Meeting on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September 2010. At the 2009 UN General Assembly, President Obama announced that he would present a U.S. plan in 2010 to meet the MDGs by their 2015 deadline. InterAction developed a consensus position among our membership to influence the administration’s plan through a policy paper, Achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): The Road Forward for the U.S. The paper was the foundation for target advocacy with the National Security Council, the State Department, USAID, the Treasury Department, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

G8/G20 work

InterAction continued to play a key coordination role in the G8 and G20 summits. InterAction also published seven policy briefs for the Canada summits: 1) Food, Hunger and Agriculture; 2) Global Health; 3) Global Safe Drinking Water and Sanitation; 4) Basic Education; 5) Global Economic Crisis; 6) Climate Change; and 7) Accountability. The policy briefs resulted in a number of advocacy meetings with government officials, including U.S. Sherpa Michael Froman at the White House and USAID Administrator Shah. InterAction also spearheaded a campaign to raise three interlinked priorities at the summit, leading local NGOs to send letters to the Canadian ambassadors in their countries.

In November, South Korea hosted the G20 Summit and released a development issue paper that outlines how the G20 will add development to their agenda where it overlaps with economic issues. InterAction’s G8/G20 Task Force responded with its own paper, The G20 and Development: a New Era, which included policy recommendations on accountability, education, financial inclusion, food security, the global economic crisis, governance and transparency, and trade. Korean NGOs presented InterAction’s policy paper to their government as an example of civil society G20 positions. InterAction also attended the Civil G20 Dialogue in Seoul, including a small meeting with the president of the Korean G20 Commission. The media remained interested in the NGO perspective InterAction and the task force had on the summit, resulting in increased coverage of the development agenda.

Protection and Humanitarian Partnerships

InterAction’s Protection Working Group and Humanitarian Partnerships Working Group actively engaged in influencing UN decision-making regarding the Standing Operating Procedures for Protection in Natural Disasters. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs adopted InterAction’s position—that UNHCR should assume a more significant role in responding to protection needs in natural disasters—with implementation on a pilot basis planned for 2011.

Open Forum and BetterAid

InterAction is involved with two diverse global networks: the Open Forum for CSO Development Effectiveness, made of civil society organization (CSO) platforms and networks like InterAction, and BetterAid, made of individual CSOs, platforms and networks.

The Open Forum evolved out of CSO engagement in the aid effectiveness processes led by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Development Assistance Committee. The Open Forum’s purpose is to ensure that CSOs lead in defining their roles and responsibilities as development actors.

At the beginning of 2010, the Open Forum initiated a series of national, regional and sector-specific consultations—each focused on the same four components—and over 70 were completed by the end of 2010. InterAction supported the consultations that took place in North America and the Pacific region, led the consultation process in the U.S., and drafted the U.S. and regional consultation reports.

InterAction also provided leadership at the Open Forum’s first Global Assembly in September 2010 in Istanbul, Turkey, where the consultations led to a consensus set of principles on development effectiveness that were vetted and agreed to by over 190 representatives from more than 80 countries. Work has continued to finalize the remaining areas of the Framework for CSO Development Effectiveness, which will be carried forward to the 2011 4th High Level Forum in Busan, South Korea.

The purpose of BetterAid is to see CSO priorities reflected in the shape and content of agreements under the OECD’s aid effectiveness process and in the evolution of development cooperation architecture. InterAction is a member of BetterAid’s Coordinating Group and takes an active role in representing the positions and perspectives of U.S. NGOs in it.

InterAction participated in the October 2010 meeting of the Working Party on Aid Effectiveness. We went on to present at the November 2010 Conference on Aid Architecture in Seoul, South Korea, on private development assistance. InterAction’s president and CEO contributed a chapter on this topic to the Brookings Institution publication Catalyzing Development: A New Vision for Aid.

Gender

InterAction’s gender work continued in 2010 to focus on building technical capacity of member organizations, supporting gender integration in advocacy campaigns and efforts, and promoting gender as a cross-cutting initiative in technical activities as well as continuing several ongoing initiatives.

InterAction developed an online course in partnership with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), with input from NGOs and UN agencies. The IASC Gender Handbook in Humanitarian Action online course Different Needs, Equal Opportunities demonstrates how to develop gender-sensitive programming during humanitarian crises. Many InterAction and IASC members have also included the course in their staff training, and OCHA now requires all staff to complete it prior to travel. The new InterAction Gender Audit Handbook includes all steps and materials for conducting a gender audit process for organizational transformation.

Evaluation

InterAction and the International Initiative for Impact Evaluation (3ie) co-hosted an Impact Evaluation Design Clinic. This was aimed at improving the evaluation of development interventions. Participants heard from experts and helped design impact evaluations based on project case studies developed for that purpose. InterAction’s Evaluation and Program Effectiveness Working Group continued its virtual meeting series with presentations on topics such as measuring meaningful interim advocacy outcomes, and defining organizational effectiveness.

Looking Forward

InterAction is proud of our accomplishments in 2010, which go well beyond this report and build on the work of over 30 working groups and multiple special task forces. Looking forward, we have set 2011-2014 strategic goals and will continue to work with members and partners to alleviate extreme poverty and help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people.

Some of the challenges ahead of us include:

  • Cross-cutting work like our 2011 initiative to more closely align the environment and development communities.
  • Championing the need to fund global poverty alleviation and humanitarian crises in today’s strapped fiscal environment.
  • Leading a strong collective voice with positive messages about the benefits of development to work with a U.S. government now focusing more on security.

Further Resources

(Photo: Maki Suzuki)