Consultant - North-East Syria NGO Forum, Strategy - Remote

Programs Anywhere, United States



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The North-East Syria (NES) NGO Forum, hosted by Mercy Corps, is the lead coordination body for NGOs working cross-border from Iraq and from within North-East Syria, into SDF-controlled areas of Aleppo, Deir-ez-Zor, Ar-Raqqa and Al-Hasakeh Governorates in Syria. The NES Forum was formally endorsed by the Whole of Syria Strategic Steering Group (SSG) in April 2017 and most recently in 2019. Given the unique coordination arrangements in North-East Syria, the NGO Forum is recognized as the key coordination body for NGOs operating in the North-East, within the Whole of Syria (“WoS”) coordination architecture. The Forum has a seat on the SSG and performs OCHA-like functions, including representation, operational coordination, information management and humanitarian advocacy as well as access mapping.

This happens in coordination with, and as part of, overall inter-hub, hub specific or Whole of Syria “WoS” processes. The NES NGO Forum coordinates with the UN - based out of Amman, Damascus and Qamishli, but with data sharing protection protocols in place due to the sensitivities involved in such exchanges.

The NES NGO Forum’s overarching objective is to contribute a principled, appropriate, accountable, timely and effective humanitarian response in North-East Syria. The NES NGO Forum seeks to: lead on operational coordination amongst NES NGOs in coordination with UN agencies to identify needs, gaps and standardize response across agencies; share timely information for action; streamline advocacy and policy messaging; and represent NGOs before a range of stakeholders and authorities, including vis-à-vis civ-mil coordination bodies. The NES NGO Forum is governed by a Steering Committee of elected members and a Secretariat comprising 12 staff, who support the administrative, coordination and thematic functions.

Purpose / Project Description:

This consultancy will aim to support the NES Forum in developing a strategy that will allow it to strengthen its operational representation and coordination on behalf of its members, in conjunction with the Whole of Syria (WoS) architecture. This should include guidance on enhanced engagement with local, regional and international actors, as well as with developing strengthened coordination systems which can better inform the NES operational response, HPC products and engagement with other fora (SIRF, NWS Forum, InterAction, IVCA etc.).

As such, the consultant is expected to explore these inter-linked work streams at a NES level but also at WoS and at a global level, hold consultations with the NES Forum membership (at the NES and WoS levels), UN and other NGO fora stakeholders as well as with donors, local authorities and CSOs, international experts on area-based coordination mechanisms and humanitarian policy; review HPC standard operating procedures and produce recommendations and engagement plans for the NES Forum.

Consultant Objectives:

1. Map Future Scenarios for NES:

  • Engage with key analysts and donor community to forecast scenarios for international engagement on NES, and what this could mean for humanitarian response and ever-shrinking operational space.
    • E.g. To what extent can the NES Forum maximize its capacity to further influence current humanitarian funding streams.
    • E.g. To what extent is there space for a mechanism such as the NES Forum to engage in addressing needs beyond the purely humanitarian – in so far as they exacerbate humanitarian needs and thus need to be better understood.
    • E.g. To what extent can and should NES Forum members advocate for developmental/stabilization donors to increase efforts in NES?
  • NES-Specific Programming Priorities: Examine current gaps and response modalities and activities in NES, to recommend which areas of response should be prioritized moving forward (i.e. taking into account in camp and out-of-camp responses as well as resilience and humanitarian needs combined)

2. Strengthen the NES Forum’s Structure and Coordination Capacity

  • Review current structure of the NES Forum, including NES Forum secretariat roles, Steering Committee and Host Agencies, as well as working groups’ functions, mechanisms, and reporting lines and suggest ways to enhance this.
  • Propose any identified structural changes needed in order to strengthen the NES Forum’s internal Humanitarian Program Cycle/Project Cycle Management capacities (i.e. identification, planning, implementation, M&E, Exit etc) as well as information management, and communication modalities and products.
  • Identify red lines for the Forum in terms of Response approaches as well as approaches that should be pursued more concertedly, taking into account existing emergency as well as early recovery capacities.
  • Explore alternative funding mechanisms that could be instituted, to fit the new structural changes and strategic vision of the Forum. Draw from examples of financing mechanisms globally.
  • Special attention should be paid to the implication of coordination within the Whole of Syria architecture as well as other fora, and the impact of such on the NES Forum’s ability to represent its membership.

3. Enhance Strategic Engagement with Relevant Actors:

  • Propose a roadmap of principled engagement between the NES Forum and relevant local actors (authorities and NGOs) as well as regional international stakeholders to strengthen the sustainability of the NES response, to reduce needs holistically and to mitigate barriers to access, on behalf of its current and future membership.
  • After consultation with other hubs, suggest engagement and coordination strategy (if needed) with other fora (particularly SIRF and NWS Forum) to cover any gaps created by the fragmentation of the current UN Coordination architecture.
  • Take into consideration possible impediments or opportunities posed by the WoS architecture and engagement as it is currently modelled.
  • Identify an appropriate engagement modality with authorities in the AANES, including providing clarity on legal restrictions as well as collective positions, representation, and structural engagement on operational matters.
  • Delineate operational and strategic engagement with the AANES authorities, UN and KRI authorities as needed, including capacity building of local authorities on humanitarian issues.

4. Enhance advocacy and representation opportunities

  • Propose a structure for advocacy engagement, building on the current advocacy strategy, to ensure that the corresponding outcomes fit within the overall NES Forum Strategy
  • Review public and private information products and set up protocols for the production and sign off of both regularly and on ad hoc products and identify red lines for the NES Forum in terms of both messaging and response strategies.

5. Strategy Development

  • Outline an appropriate NES Forum Strategy to enhance NES Forum structure, objectives, and ways of working in a way that mitigates threats and optimizes opportunities identified throughout

Consultant Activities:

The Consultant will:

  • See objectives above.
  • Conduct a desk review of the available literature and documentation on NES Forum, Syria humanitarian architecture and other coordination fora in and around Syria including accessible guidelines and procedures
  • Conduct interviews with key informants from the ISWG, WoS NGO coordinators, SIRF, NGO fora including local NGOs, institutional donors, local authorities in NES, OCHA Regional and NWS Forum and OCHA Gaziantep teams, UN inter-agency leadership and Inter-Sector Coordination Group (ISG)
  • Interview leading authorities on alternative coordination mechanisms, including area-based coordination as well as on global humanitarian financing mechanisms
  • Convene inter-agency meetings with NGO fora memberships, donor community and UN leadership pertaining to the identified workstream
  • Report back on a biweekly basis to the consultancy steering committee
  • Review draft report as per the above outlined objectives. and present it to NES Forum steering committee

Consultant Deliverables:

The Consultant will:

  • One final report including:
  • Future Scenarios for NES – Context Setting Overview (4-6 pages)
  • Proposal for strengthened coordination systems within the NES Forum (8-10 pages)
  • Roadmap for Strategic Engagement (4-7 pages)
  • Advocacy and Representation modalities (2-4 pages)
  • Strategy Development (3 pages)
  • Summary of the same report in 2-4 pages
  • Propose an updated TOR to reflect the findings of the final report
  • Presentation of the finding to the consultancy steering committee

Timeframe / Schedule: 

2 months. 

The Consultant will report to:

A steering committee composed of the NES Forum Steering Committee and NES Forum Coordinators will work closely with the NES Forum Director to review the Consultant outputs, and to support provision of inputs needed by consultant.

The Consultant will work closely with:

The NES Forum Director and Secretariat

Required Experience & Skills:

  • 5-10 years of experience in relevant technical field (required)
  • Extensive experience in humanitarian architecture and on humanitarian coordination and developing and implementing humanitarian interventions in protracted crisis settings
  • Familiarity with experiences of NGO Fora globally and/or regionally
  • Knowledge of the humanitarian reform process and roles/responsibilities of humanitarian actors.
    • Including on engaging with local authorities and local civil society
  • A strong understanding of the UN system and developing HPC processes, and with experience and understanding of the coordination architecture in Syria
  • Strong grasp of foreign policy and international geo-political dynamics

Diversity, Equity & Inclusion
Achieving our mission begins with how we build our team and work together. Through our commitment to enriching our organization with people of different origins, beliefs, backgrounds, and ways of thinking, we are better able to leverage the collective power of our teams and solve the world’s most complex challenges. We strive for a culture of trust and respect, where everyone contributes their perspectives and authentic selves, reaches their potential as individuals and teams, and collaborates to do the best work of their lives. 

We recognize that diversity and inclusion is a journey, and we are committed to learning, listening and evolving to become more diverse, equitable and inclusive than we are today.

Equal Employment Opportunity
We are committed to providing an environment of respect and psychological safety where equal employment opportunities are available to all. We do not engage in or tolerate discrimination on the basis of race, color, gender identity, gender expression, religion, age, sexual orientation, national or ethnic origin, disability (including HIV/AIDS status), marital status, military veteran status or any other protected group in the locations where we work.

Safeguarding & Ethics
Mercy Corps team members are expected to support all efforts toward accountability, specifically to our stakeholders and to international standards guiding international relief and development work, while actively engaging communities as equal partners in the design, monitoring and evaluation of our field projects. Team members are expected to conduct themselves in a professional manner and respect local laws, customs and MC's policies, procedures, and values at all times and in all in-country venues.