Dear Forum Members
Oxfam has been working in protracted crises for many years and recently participated in the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) on this issue. We are working with others – particularly in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel - looking for creative solutions to the problems we face.
How do we define protracted crises? The SOFI report describes them rather well – they are not a series of one-off short-lived phenomena, and they are not temporary interruptions from which countries easily return to a path towards longer-term development. Rather they represent ongoing and fundamental threats to both lives and livelihoods, from which recovery may become progressively more difficult over time.
In this unpredictable and unstable environment, it is necessary to build particularly resilient livelihoods. In policy and programmatic terms, we know the solutions; they have been widely and regularly proposed in evaluations of regional responses:
Promotion of agricultural and rural livelihoods enabling people to adapt to the impacts of climate change, conflict and resource constraints.
Social protection and disaster risk reduction programmes, which protect consumption and help promote more resilient livelihoods.
Early intervention and early recovery in response to recurrent crises to help people protect and recover their livelihoods and limit the need for large scale life saving responses
Supporting local institutions and capacities that often remain resilient and adapt during protracted crises.
Promoting improved food security analysis and early warning
But there seems to be a block; whilst progress is being made in some situations, and there certainly are examples of successful programming, results are not being seen at scale. And my fundamental question is: why is this not happening?
What are the barriers to effective programming in protracted crises?
Is it lack of detailed guidance at the operational level? Some tools and guidance around their use – for example the IPC and the ‘decision flow tree’ for cash programming – have been very useful. How can we develop a more advanced and varied programming toolbox to better address protracted crises? What else do we need - for example, how do we incorporate protection in protracted crises, how do we mainstream disaster risk reduction etc?
Is it limitations due to funding streams? Flexible, multi-year, sophisticated responses are required, yet funding for such programmes is seldom available. This may be due to donors’ lack of long-term commitment, or a rigid development/humanitarian approach which doesn’t fit the reality, or an unwillingness to take risks. But are there good examples, where donors have developed appropriate funding mechanisms and procedures, which could serve as a model for others?
Is it a lack of leadership at national level? The CFS recently agreed that the UN should promote “better coordinated, multi-stakeholder participation in the development and implementation of country-led, comprehensive plans of action in a small number of countries affected by protracted crisis”. What direction should this take, how can this be successful, and which countries should be chosen?
Or perhaps there are other barriers. I would appreciate your insights and I look forward to your contributions, a stimulating discussion and a creative search for solutions.