Re: Addressing food insecurity in protracted crises: Resilience-building programming

Tim Waites DFID, United Kingdom

I want to mention 3 elements of building resilience to disasters which DFID is interested in:

Multi-annual humanitarian funding: Until recently humanitarian aid instruments have been designed assuming need is transitory and short-term. Humanitarian project cycles have been 6-12 months with budgetary processes to match. Yet the majority of humanitarian aid (estimates are 70-80%) is spent in long term protracted crises where need extends beyond 5 years. Long-term financing has been difficult to get because of political and security issues have limited the use of development instruments. This has led to the much talked about ‘gap’ between relief and development. Secondly, timeliness of response to spikes is constrained due to the inability to get funding quickly from capitals to people in need.

To address these 2 challenges, DFID has been developing multi-year business cases in 5 countries (e.g. Somalia, DRC and Ethiopia), designed to support both timely humanitarian responses and interventions that can help to build resilience. This approach combines 2 key elements. The first, predictable 4-year funding, enables partners to meet acute needs as well as finding new and longer-term strategies to help communities build resilience. The second, is innovative pre-approved internal risk financing arrangements, or contingency budget, which allow UK to early warning/ action, preparedness activities and rapid response should there be a disaster. In effect we are giving our funding partners the space to innovate and address the underlying causes of risk and chronic poverty whilst also having the resources to respond to the inevitable spikes.

Building resilience in fragile and conflict affected contexts: Efforts to address the risks resulting from natural hazards, fragility and conflict have tended to be operationalized separately within distinct Communities of Practice (CoP). On the one hand, DRR practices have tended to work ‘around’ conflict and fragility, seeking to ‘do no harm’ but not actively addressing conflict dynamics. Humanitarian actors (particularly those working on protection) and conflict prevention and peace-building actors, on the other hand, have worked more directly ‘on’ conflict albeit without applying a natural disaster lens. Donors, UN agencies and NGOs typically have separate departments and processes to deal with disaster and conflict risk; this has often translated into siloed policy and practice at the global level in conflict-affected and fragile states.

The concept of resilience offers an opportunity to connect the different policy CoPs working on these different types of risks, including humanitarian, stabilization and development actors; actors working on disaster risk reduction, conflict prevention and climate change; and those working on social, economic and institutional resilience. In doing so, it provides an opportunity for these actors to join forces to understand how risks can be identified and addressed; and to strengthen the resilience of those people and systems (i.e. at different scales) who need it most – households, communities, the private sector and governments.

In recognition of this, the UK Government’s new humanitarian policy (DFID, 2012) puts humanitarian action, conflict prevention and DRR at the heart of its work on resilience. In order to take this forward and conceptually explore further the links between disaster resilience and conflict prevention, DFID commissioned a study titled – When Disasters and Conflicts Collide in 2012. The study found that conflicts can increase a population’s exposure to additional hazards and erode coping mechanisms whilst, at the same time, the occurrence of natural disasters during or in the immediate aftermath of conflict can exacerbate conflict’s humanitarian consequences. The relationship between conflict and disasters can, therefore, be mutually and negatively reinforcing. The study concluded that, where feasible, integrated programmes should be designed to reduce the impact of both natural disasters and conflict – or where there are separate interventions, they should be more coherent. The common denominator for both CoP’s / disciplines is the need to focus on the multiple risks faced by vulnerable people.

However, it is extremely difficult to identify what this may ‘look like’ in fragile and conflict states because each context is different and even in a particular country there may be varying levels of conflict and fragility in different areas of the country. So far, conceptual studies suggest that a mix of humanitarian, risk sensitive development, and state-building initiatives will be required. The key requirement is to ensure there is robust contextual analysis with a strong focus on fragility and conflict. Other key operational requirements might include:

  • The need for common analysis that supports a coherent approach to managing multiple risks
  • Financing mechanisms that allow predictable and sustained commitments
  • Early warning systems that lead to early action
  • A stronger interface between development and humanitarian actors and principles

Programmes that flex: Emerging lessons from Ethiopia and Kenya suggest that social protection may offer a more cost-effective approach to protecting lives and livelihoods than humanitarian aid. However, the evidence base is relatively weak on the effectiveness of social protection in responding to additional needs as a result of stresses and shocks, particularly in LICs and fragile and conflict affected contexts. There is limited guidance for practitioners and policy makers on how to design and implement social protection programmes/ systems that can respond to shocks, particularly how to assess where and when they offer best value for money.

Beyond the Horn of Africa, there are relatively few examples of social protection programmes in LICs and fragile and conflict affected contexts that can rapidly scale up to meet the additional needs of either existing beneficiaries or newly affected populations following a crisis or shock.

This is because a social protection system that can rapidly scale up in response to a shock has a number of requirements that are unlikely to all be in place in these contexts, including:  

  • Longer-term programmes and broader social protection systems in place for the poorest and most vulnerable before shocks and crises hit;
  • Existing programmes and systems (and complementary programmes) whose design and implementation focus on all key stresses and shocks;
  • Existing and/or additional counter-cyclical programmes or programme components that, when a shock hits, can:
  • immediately address additional crises needs of existing beneficiaries;
  • capture the newly poor and vulnerable (e.g. through flexible eligibility mechanisms and effective appeals mechanisms);
  • be introduced to protect the newly poor and vulnerable (such as public works and unemployment insurance); and
  • Financing for crisis response (including rapid-response lending instruments and insurance mechanisms).

Beyond social protection systems, what are the options for long-term health, WASH and food security and nutrition programmes to scale up in response to stresses and shocks?

Finally, measuring resilience and developing models to improve our understanding on predicting degrees/ levels of resilience. This will determine the flexibility needed in our multi-year programmes to address the degree of certainty of having the right outcomes.

With thanks to members of my team in Conflict Humanitarian and Security Department, the Growth and Resilience Department and Research and Evidence Department.