Can you explain the difference between Implementing Partners and Sub-delegatees?

An Implementing Partner may be any NGO, IO or a local authority that the UN Agency may work with in order to implement certain activities in the Action. The Implementing Partner needs to be mentioned in the Single Form at proposal stage or else subsequently communicated to ECHO.

The notion of an Implementing Partner has existed in ECHO's General Conditions since, at least, 2008 and has not substantially changed in terms of the tasks that they may perform (operational and related activities to implement the Action). Under the new Financial Regulation, however, an Implementing Partner is strictly speaking a “grantee” (a grant is to be understood as such under the rules of our Partner UN/IO) since it receives funds under the Action (even if this is not for its own benefit but that of the final beneficiaries). This is reflected in Article 1 of the General Conditions which says that an implementing partner is “a natural or legal person to whom a grant has been awarded by the International Organisation. Implementing Partners can sub-grant and procure for the implementation of their activities”.

The notion of a “sub-delegatee” came about under the new Financial Regulation which provides for a Delegation of powers in certain cases by the Commission to International Organisations. A sub-delegatee, as its name suggests, is not considered to be a “grantee” like an Implementing Partner is - but actually receives a delegation of powers in relation to the performance of Budget Implementation Tasks usually entrusted to the Commission. A sub-delegatee is placed in the shoes of the signatory of the Agreement with ECHO (the delegatee) for the purposes of the tasks delegated to it. This is why sub-delegation needs to be expressly justified and approved by the Commission.

Consequently a Sub-Delegatee can only be an IO/UN entity or an authority that would have been entitled to sign a Delegation Agreement in its own right. This means that the Sub-Delegatee must have passed an ex ante Pillars Assessment which is required of all IOs before working with the Commission though a Delegation Agreement.


Can you also provide some practical examples of how the UN works with these entities?

In practical terms the UN would work with an entity under the “Implementing Partner set up” in cases where the other entity is:

  • an NGO;
  • a local authority; or
  • another IO or UN body; and
  • being assigned particular operational activities to perform on behalf of the signatory of the Agreement with ECHO (i.e. not being delegated wider powers to perform Budget Implementation Tasks on behalf of the Commission).


UN could work with an entity under the “Sub-Delegatee set up” in cases where the other entity is:

  • an IO/UN body or local authority that has successfully passed a Pillars Assessment;
  • to be entrusted with Budget Implementation Tasks on behalf of the Commission, and
  • expressly accepted as a sub-delegatee by ECHO in the IMDA.


ECHO considers that, when it is possible to clearly assign tasks and objectives, Implementing Partners are sufficiently empowered to perform most humanitarian aid activities on the ground as, apart from carrying out the activities directly themselves, they may also sub-grant and procure for the implementation of their assigned activities.


Does the modular approach in the Single Form apply to UN organisations?

The Single Form has been developed in a modular fashion in order to accommodate the different characteristics of ECHO's Partners (e.g. UN) and Actions (see diagram below).

In May 2014 an updated version of the Single Form was released to take into account several changed requested for the UN. The Single Form for the UN therefore contains sections which will not appear in the Single form for NGOs (e.g. sections on sub-delegatees & reference to “remuneration”) while some sections which apply in the NGO Single Form do not apply in the UN single form (e.g. detailed information on Implementing Partners & reference to “indirect costs”).

For more information see the table highlighting UN-specific sections of the Single Form


Are the “Joint Visibility Guidelines for EC-UN Actions in the Field” still applicable?

Yes, the “Joint Visibility Guidelines for EC-UN Actions in the Field ” (2008) may still be referred to and they may become important if ever there is some conflict between the various texts on visibility. These Guidelines, however, were not drafted with humanitarian aid actions primarily in mind and they pre-date developments in social media so nowadays more specific and updated guidance also exists.
In practical terms the primary source for up to date information on visibility matters in humanitarian aid is DG ECHO's visibility web-site:
This web-site provides guidance on humanitarian aid visibility including the ECHO Visibility Manual and graphics that may be used by Partners.

Due to the co-existence of different guidance texts and the desire to avoid any confusion or conflicts, the following wording is included in the introduction of the ECHO Visibility Manual:

“The present Manual should serve as Partners' primary source of orientation when planning and implementing the standard visibility and communication activities as part of their EU-funded humanitarian aid action. […] The Manual complements existing general guidelines with advice particular to communicating about EU humanitarian aid, but does not replace or alter these. The EC-UN guidelines remain applicable for UN humanitarian partners when working with ECHO. In case of direct contradiction with this Manual, the EC-UN guidelines take priority. The same applies to the 2010 EU external actions manual.”

In other words, EU’s humanitarian partners such as UN should consult ECHO's visibility web-site and follow the ECHO Visibility Manual in their visibility and communication work as long as the requirements therein are not explicitly in conflict with the wording of the Communication and Visibility Manual for External Actions, in which case the latter prevails.


How does ECHO calculate the final payment to be paid to the UN in multi-donor Actions?

In Multi-Donor Actions, ECHO systematically checks the costs incurred by the UN Organisation against the eligibility rules. Nevertheless, by virtue of the notional approach, which still applies under the 2014 General Conditions, when assessing the eligibility of costs under Multi-Donor Actions, it is sufficient for ECHO to ascertain that the level of eligible expenditure under EC rules is at least equal to the amount of ECHO’s contribution specified in the Delegation Agreement, and that the amount contributed by other donors is sufficient to pay for those aspects of a larger Multi-Donor Action which, for whatever reason, cannot be funded by ECHO.

This application of the notional approach is a direct result of the fact that when contributing to Multi-Donor Actions ECHO, in compliance with the FAFA and the General Conditions of 2014, does not require any financial ear-marking. This means that the funds contributed by the different sources (at least 2) are pooled into the Multi-Donor Action and there is no earmarking of budgetary items to any specific source of funds.

Article 2.4 of the 2014 General Conditions explains which results of a Multi-Donor Action should be included in the Single Form's Log-Frame and which should not. The aim of this is not to introduce financial ear-marking but simply to avoid any confusion as to what the Partner is committing itself to produce in terms of results towards ECHO.
There can be situations when the Single Form (but not the Log-Frame) includes elements which do not fit within ECHO's funding strategy, policies or legal framework, but are relevant or important for the understanding of the larger context in which the ECHO-UN Action is set. Such “ineligible items” have no impact on the amount of the ECHO contribution where the ECHO eligibility requirements are met as long as the amount contributed by other donors is sufficient to cover the costs which are ineligible under ECHO rules.

The final payment in Multi-Donor Actions covers the remaining 20% of the ECHO contribution compared to the 80% pre-financing already made, unless the level of eligible expenditure does not justify so, or unless there are grounds to reduce ECHO's contribution (see ECHO-UN Guidelines, June 2012 which are still valid in this respect).


Art 1.4 of the Special Conditions, IMDA states that in certain cases the International Organisation shall apply the Commission rules for procurement procedures. When and how would this apply?

In principle under the Financial Regulation, 2014, an International Organisation may apply its own procurement procedures, as assessed by the Commission in an ex-ante Pillars Assessment. The Pillars Assessment seeks to ascertain that the International Organisation's procurement procedure respect the principles of sound financial management, transparency and non-discrimination and generally guarantee safeguards equivalent to the Commission's own rules.

According to the EU's Rules of Application on the Financial Regulation, the Commission may accept that procurement rules and procedures are equivalent to its own if the following conditions are met:

a) they comply with the principle of broad competition of tenderers to obtain the best value for money, and negotiated [i.e. restricted participation] procedures are limited to reasonable amounts or are duly justified;
b) they ensure transparency with adequate ex ante publication, in particular of calls for tenders, and adequate ex post publication of contractors;
c) they ensure equal treatment, proportionality and non-discrimination;
d) they prevent conflicts of interests throughout the entire procurement procedure.

National law of EU Member States or third countries transposing Directive 2004/18/EC shall also be considered equivalent to the rules applied by the institutions in accordance with the EU's Financial Regulation.

In those rare cases where the International Organisation's procurement rules are not considered to be equivalent to the Commission's then the International Organisation would in practice need to agree up front on an ad hoc set of rules to apply.

If the results of the Pillars Assessment are still pending but the Commission has worked with the International Organisation previously in the past it may still be possible for the International Organisation to use its own procurement rules based on the “presumption of conformity”. If that is the case this will be expressly mentioned in the Special Conditions of the IMDA


Are the “Single Form Guidelines” applicable to UN Actions?

ECHO released a version of the Single Form Guidelines for the new modular single form. The Guidelines offer useful tips which are relevant to all types of Actions and Partners. Where the UN's Single Form is different, following the modular approach, clearly not all sections of the Guidelines will be relevant. The Single Form Guidelines may therefore be read by the UN in conjunction with further Q&As posted in this website.


Does ECHO plan to publish new ECHO-UN Guidance for the Actions signed in 2014?

The ECHO-UN Guidelines, issued in June 2012 are still valid for all agreements signed in 2013.

Once we become aware of the issues surrounding the implementation of the General Conditions issued in January 2014 there may be the need for joint guidance similar to the ECHO-UN Guidelines. Any such text will be discussed and agreed with the UN and seek to reflect a common interpretative framework which reflects the working-methods and terminology used within both ECHO and the UN.