The Inter Agency Working Group for Disaster Preparedness for East and Central Africa (IAWG) hosted the second Humanitarian Partnership Conference in collaboration with UNOCHA, World Vision and Save the Children in September 2014.

Recognising that humanitarian crises in the region are becoming more frequent, more widespread and more complex and the conference aimed to develop new approaches to preparing for and managing disasters. The overall objective of the conference was to discuss ways of addressing humanitarian crisis in Africa through partnerships and in doing this brought together prestigious learning institutions, NGOs, private sector and experienced practitioners and responders from across the world to share their experiences and insights. In 2014 there were over 150participants from INGOs, academia and government representatives.

In 2014 the conference focused its discussions on the themes selected for the World Humanitarian Summit as well the core business of the conference which is addressing the education needs of humanitarians. The conference examined the themes through the lens of partnership; it looked at how partnership can play a role in addressing the key issues that were raised and embedded discussions around innovation within each theme.  The key outcomes from each of the themes is are outlined below.

Humanitarian Effectiveness

  1. Well-designed partnerships can help address issues of relevance and appropriateness of aid. Partnership can ensure program design is contextually appropriate, culturally sensitive and responsive to needs, based on communities own understandings.
  2. Partnerships enable us to complement and not compete. Experience from other sectors can help us to learn, and apply learning – in this key partners for humanitarian actors must be technical and academic institutions. By working with these partners we can undertake and improve research, primary data collection, evaluations and analysis of what is effective in our work. The impact of aid can thus be greatly strengthened.
  3. Accountability is about more than just compliance; it’s also about responsibility for quality and impact and is a central part of effectiveness. Compliance and contracting agreements between partners can undermine our efforts at being equal in our relationships. The administration of our relationships needs to be sensitive to this.

Reducing Vulnerability and Climatic shock

  1. There is a need to divert more funding towards DRR, mitigation and prevention initiatives linked to early warning and early action. Experience has shown that early warning DOES work so we should respond to this. Often donors wait until the emergency breaks and end up responding often at the cost of lives and at great cost.
  2. There is need to learn from the global South and especially from communities, research institutions and agencies working with communities. There are innovative initiatives that can reduce vulnerability to climate change that need to be documented and brought to scale.
  3. There is need to scale up innovative approaches that give communities more decision making rights and which cushion vulnerable communities from the effects of climate change. These include cash transfers for safety net programming and insurance projects such as weather index based insurance projects.

Serving the needs of people in conflict

With the ever increasing number of people being affected by humanitarian crises, it’s quite clear that things need to change in order for the sector and all the people working in it to be able to respond appropriately – both in terms of those in the sector and bringing new people in.  These 3 points transcend the national aspect and focus more on the global points.

  1. Humanitarian actors need to better understand conflict dynamics and contextualized approaches. We need to rely on local knowledge and the work of local actors. The key is collaboration and complementing; we need to work with those who are doing what we are not doing. It is important to build the capacity of government and regional bodies and local organizations – partnership is essential.
  2. There is a dire need to expand the scope of humanitarian interventions in the region. Demand-based programs need to be put in place taking into consideration the needs and aspirations of people. People’s rights to protection, truth and accountability need to be seen as rights that are important and fundamental even in times of conflict. In the same breath, we need to be careful as humanitarians not to be too close to the politics. We need to have a delineated sphere of action. Maintaining this balance is key.
  3. In view of the increasing diversity of armed conflicts and forms of violence, to better respond to the needs of affected people humanitarian actors need to better share information; improve on the systems that exist (such as the cluster system) so that they work for all actors, including new and local actors and improve accountability between ourselves.

Humanitarian Education

  1. There is a greater need for continued and expanded collaboration in training and Learning and Development programmes to reduce replication and foster more coordinated and joined up approaches. This needs to happen now and at all levels – local, national, regional, global.
  2. There is a need for well thought through and greater number of partnerships with other sectors in order to find better, more innovative ways to approach the increasing number of staff to develop in the sector.
  3. There is a need for continued long term funding for capacity building – new partnerships in this regard need to be explored as well as ensuring ways to increase the information about how we measure impact of Learning and Development programmes.

Sustainable Pastoralism Development

  1. Humanitarian assistance over the years has created relief villages and eroded indigenous leadership institutions in pastoral areas making communities aid dependent.
  2. Pastoralism is a viable livelihood, but must be supported by greater investment in relevant and quality education (basic, vocational and specialized Universities) and livelihoods for risk reduction and sustainability.
  3. Effective coordination/partnership mechanisms needed at sub-national level (County level) in Kenya.

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