A Grand Bar­gain to foster lo­cal lead­er­ship in the hu­man­i­tar­ian sec­tor in Myan­mar

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Upen­dranadh Chor­agudi

High­light­ing the role of women in ad­dress­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian crises, UN Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral An­to­nio Guter­res pointed out “from sup­port­ing civil­ians caught up in cri­sis to ad­dress­ing dis­ease out­breaks, women hu­man­i­tar­i­ans are on the front lines”.

The role of women and strength­en­ing lo­cal lead­er­ship in hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­port is in­creas­ingly ac­knowl­edged by the global hu­man­i­tar­ian com­mu­nity as strate­gic and op­er­a­tional im­per­a­tive to achieve gen­der equal­ity and in­clu­sion.

This year’s World Hu­man­i­tar­ian Day (Aug 19th), high­lights and ac­knowl­edges the ex­em­plary role of women in hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse and lead­er­ship. It is of­ten women who risk their lives as first re­spon­ders in cri­sis sit­u­a­tions. Women and chil­dren face sig­nif­i­cantly higher vul­ner­a­bil­ity as non-com­bat­ant civil­ians in sit­u­a­tions of armed con­flict; they are also most vul­ner­a­ble dur­ing nat­u­ral dis­as­ters and calami­ties.

Con­flict con­tin­ues to re­main as a main driver of hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse. The global hu­man­i­tar­ian over­view-2018 points out that over 134 mil­lion peo­ple, spread across 42 coun­tries are in need of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid and pro­tec­tion re­quir­ing. Fo­cus­ing on sav­ing lives, al­le­vi­ate suf­fer­ing based on hu­man­i­tar­ian prin­ci­ples

re­quire sig­nif­i­cant re­sources, ex­per­tise and ef­fort from all sec­tions of the so­ci­ety. With a short­fall of over 40 per cent of hu­man­i­tar­ian re­source needs due to the aid fa­tigue and eco­nomic down­turn in many de­vel­oped coun­tries, chan­nel­ing avail­able re­sources ef­fi­ciently to reach the com­mu­ni­ties re­mains an im­por­tant goal for global hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tors. It is in this con­text, lo­cal­i­sa­tion of lead­er­ship as­sumes im­por­tance.

With pro­tracted con­flict, cli­mate change in­duced and man-made nat­u­ral dis­as­ters like mon­soon floods af­fect­ing large num­ber of peo­ple in Myan­mar, the need for ro­bust hu­man­i­tar­ian aid de­liv­ery ar­chi­tec­ture is evolv­ing in the coun­try with many in­ter­na­tional and na­tional or­gan­i­sa­tions com­mit­ted to pro­vide sup­port to the af­fected peo­ple. Re­newed armed con­flict in Kachin and Shan States and stale­mate in the res­o­lu­tion of the Rakhine sit­u­a­tion in terms of repa­tri­a­tion of dis­placed com­mu­ni­ties, has ren­dered more than a mil­lion pop­u­la­tion in dire need of hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance. This year tor­ren­tial mon­soon rains have af­fected sev­eral parts of the coun­try with over 150,000 peo­ple af­fected since June. Close to 80,000 peo­ple are still in tem­po­rary shel­ters (as of 11 Au­gust) and they need food and non food items ur­gently, and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and restora­tion of liveli­hoods on a long term ba­sis.

Af­fected com­mu­ni­ties and their lead­ers, re­main first re­spon­ders with their own mech­a­nisms of sur­vival, safety and pro­tec­tion - of­ten sup­ported in a small way by CSOs, CBOs, char­i­ties and na­tional NGOs. Govern­ment has the pri­mary re­spon­si­bil­ity to sup­port, as­sist and pro­tect the com­mu­ni­ties that re­quire hu­man­i­tar­ian help and en­sure long term re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and wel­fare. But these are not al­ways suf­fi­cient. With the tra­di­tion of ‘char­ity and vol­un­tary giv­ing’, large num­ber of lo­cal aid agen­cies and phil­an­thropic or­gan­i­sa­tions re­main at the fore­front mo­bi­liz­ing hu­man and fi­nan­cial re­sources in serv­ing the com­mu­ni­ties. They of­fer their time, ef­fort and experience. Such ef­forts of­ten meet short-term dis­as­ter re­lief but long term re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion and re­set­tle­ment of com­mu­ni­ties af­fected by long drawn crises like con­flict needs sus­tained sup­port of global part­ners. In­ter­na­tional hu­man­i­tar­ian agen­cies (INGOs), in­ter­na­tional donors, UN fam­ily or­gan­i­sa­tions who se­cure and trans­late hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­port and com­mit­ment of the global north to the af­fected coun­tries are im­por­tant play­ers. They do play a sig­nif­i­cant role in Myan­mar’s hu­man­i­tar­ian land­scape. Their ef­fort to­wards build­ing lo­cal lead­er­ship in hu­man­i­tar­ian aid sec­tor is in­creas­ingly been ac­knowl­edged.

There is a global ef­fort in strength­en­ing the lo­cal lead­er­ship in hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sponse as part of em­pow­er­ing the lo­cal and shift the power dy­nam­ics of the aid sec­tor. The chal­lenge be­fore hu­man­i­tar­ian agen­cies who oth­er­wise have vast experience in pro­vid­ing as­sis­tance is to con­tinue to evolve the most ef­fec­tive and ef­fi­cient ways to re­spond faster and quicker. This re­quires quick data, in­for­ma­tion, ac­cess, lo­gis­tics and de­ci­sion mak­ing which can be har­nessed with the lo­cal lead­er­ship.

Role, de­ci­sion mak­ing power and con­tri­bu­tion of the lo­cal lead­er­ship is also iden­ti­fied as the game changer in al­ter­ing the pol­i­tics of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid, North-South di­vide in aid sec­tor and build­ing a gen­uine sol­i­dar­ity among the hu­man­ity. This re­quires sig­nif­i­cant trans­for­ma­tion in ways of work­ing within hu­man­i­tar­ian aid sec­tor. There are ef­forts in this di­rec­tion in Myan­mar, which need closer ex­am­i­na­tion to iden­tify chal­lenges and bot­tle­necks.

Ac­cel­er­at­ing Lo­cal­i­sa­tion through Part­ner­ships (ALTP), a multi coun­try project to strengthen lo­cal lead­er­ship in hu­man­i­tar­ian sec­tor is one such ex­am­ple. Led by Chris­tian Aid, a con­sor­tium of in­ter­na­tional agen­cies have ini­ti­ated this project to en­hance the lo­cal lead­er­ship in hu­man­i­tar­ian sec­tor. For many INGOs this would mean iden­ti­fy­ing new ways of work­ing, step­ping out of their com­fort zone, a shift in power re­la­tions and giv­ing up their own de­ci­sion mak­ing pow­ers. And for many lo­cal agen­cies it would mean strength­en­ing their own ca­pac­i­ties, skills, con­cep­tual un­der­stand­ing and build­ing pro­fes­sion­al­ism to meet the in­ter­na­tional stan­dards and qual­ity in de­liv­ery of pro­grams. The spirit of such an ini­tia­tive stems from the be­lief - which was ar­tic­u­lated by INGOs and lo­cal agen­cies of Myan­mar at a re­cent work­shop on this sub­ject - that ‘em­pow­er­ing lo­cal orgniza­tions to take a lead in hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tions would bring in ground level per­spec­tives into pol­icy mak­ing’ and ‘it re­quires de­lib­er­ate ac­tions by INGOs to open up spa­ces, roles and de­ci­sion mak­ing to the lo­cal en­ti­ties. INGOs need to walk the talk’. Sev­eral lo­cal na­tional NGO lead­ers view this de­vel­op­ment pos­i­tively, but re­main skep­ti­cal, as lo­cal lead­er­ship de­vel­op­ment in­volves sig­nif­i­cant com­mit­ment of re­sources by INGOs and donors for lo­cal in­sti­tu­tional de­vel­op­ment. En­thu­si­as­tic ini­tial ef­forts to­wards lo­cal­i­sa­tion are of­ten stymied by bu­reau­cratic, and the slow and in­flex­i­ble ways of work­ing of large or­gan­i­sa­tions. INGOs and donors need to ac­com­mo­date lo­cal­i­sa­tion as part of their or­gan­i­sa­tion-wide strat­egy.

The global ‘grand bar­gain’ of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid agen­cies, launched at the World Hu­man­i­tar­ian Sum­mit (2016), tar­gets 25% of global hu­man­i­tar­ian re­sources to be chan­neled di­rectly through lo­cal lead­er­ship by 2020. It is a laud­able goal and pos­si­ble to reach, only with sus­tained ef­forts to­wards in­sti­tu­tion build­ing of lo­cal agen­cies. The Grand Bar­gain, which has been en­dorsed by over 60 hu­man­i­tar­ian agen­cies, also iden­ti­fies the need for ca­pac­ity strength­en­ing, part­ner­ships, and co­or­di­na­tion in or­der to en­sure ef­fec­tive lo­cal lead­er­ship to de­liver hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­port to the com­mu­ni­ties. This com­mit­ment has to work as a cat­a­lyst to­wards sys­tem change. As a re­cent progress re­port (of 2018) on the grand bar­gain points out ‘lo­cal­i­sa­tion is now a key nor­ma­tive prin­ci­ple of hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tion’ …’though there is no sys­tem-wide shift in op­er­a­tional prac­tices…. It helped to drive progress, pro­vid­ing in­cen­tives for and fa­cil­i­tat­ing shar­ing lessons and ex­pe­ri­ences on im­ple­men­ta­tion a lo­cal­i­sa­tion ap­proach’.

It is in this con­text, ac­cel­er­at­ing lo­cal­i­sa­tion through part­ner­ships in Myan­mar as­sumes ad­di­tional sig­nif­i­cance. It is not only a moral im­per­a­tive that lo­cal wis­dom, in­for­ma­tion, data and lead­er­ship in­form the de­ci­sion mak­ing, but also of­fers sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic and ef­fi­ciency div­i­dends to in­volve lo­cal lead­er­ship in hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­port. At the same time, core hu­man­i­tar­ian prin­ci­ples and ac­count­abil­ity stan­dards need to be fol­lowed which be­comes cor­ner­stones for all hu­man­i­tar­ian ac­tions.

While on one side Myan­mar is mov­ing in terms of eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­forms, this ef­fort of strength­en­ing lo­cal lead­er­ship in the hu­man­i­tar­ian aid sec­tor is sig­nif­i­cant which en­ables the lo­cal hu­man­i­tar­ian lead­ers to demon­strate en­hanced ca­pac­i­ties and be able to lever­age re­sources with­out hav­ing to re­sort to the help and sup­port of in­ter­me­di­ary agen­cies. It is a long-haul jour­ney.

There is a need to fur­ther foster lo­cal lead­er­ship to help deal with lo­cal crises. Photo: EPA

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