Re: Addressing food insecurity in protracted crises: adequate and appropriate funding mechanisms

Dan Maxwell Convener of the discussion, United States of America

We’d like to thank the contributors who have weighed in with their ideas so far in response to the questions posed at the start of this discussion. Several themes emerge from these contributions. Among others, these include:

  • Timing and donor time horizons
  • Building partnerships (particularly donor/government/civil society partnerships)
  • Preventing fraud and corruption
  • Having some kind of tracking mechanism without becoming overly bureaucratic

Though no one has explicitly mentioned it, one of the obvious linkages between the Agenda for Action to address food insecurity in protracted crises and current practice is the whole area of resilience programming. “Resilience” is clearly the popular theme in programming—particularly in the aftermath of regional crises in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, and it touches on nearly all these topics:

I’ve been asked to comment or feedback on numerous program designs in both regions recently, and am struck at the range of interventions being implemented under the general objective of promoting resilience. But, while the very notion of resilience implies an increasing ability to manage risk and cope with adversity over time, the implementation timelines of many of these interventions continue to look like the kinds of program timelines we would expect to see in an acute humanitarian emergency (indeed, some of the emergency interventions themselves had a longer life span than some of the “resilience” programs designed to assist recovery and prevent repeat disasters). There is a willingness to try out new ideas—and to combine multiple interventions into one kind of program. But there is still a reluctance to engage with time frame necessary to plan for real change. This is an example of the kind of apparent mismatch between objectives and funding mechanisms that have long characterized work in protracted crises. The “resilience” concept (which in fact has been around for a long time, but has recently been rediscovered) has introduced a lot of new programmatic and policy thinking—but remains constrained by time frames. We’d like to hear some more about why people think this is the case?

The tracking mechanisms notion—and what to do about the consequences—should be another important issue to this discussion. Many of you will have seen the recent report from the Royal Institute of International Affairs (a.k.a. Chatham House) “Managing Famine Risk: Linking Early Warning to Early Action.” That report reiterates what many of you already know—that for many reasons even when we have good early warning and good tracking mechanisms, we still don't intervene in a timely manner even when tracking indicators suggest that we should. Sometimes we like to blame donors for this, but there is plenty of blame for nearly everyone in the Chatham House report. So the question is, what are governments, donors and agencies—and affected communities!—doing differently as a result of recent experience? We’d be interested to hear some front-line accounts of these changes. While the Chatham House report was specifically about famine risk, many of its findings and recommendations are more broadly applicable in protracted crises. And we’re interested in particular to hear about innovative mechanisms for adapting both programming objectives and activities in light of changing circumstances. Part of the Chatham House report was about the limited flexibility in program planning and funding mechanisms, and the limited extent to which program capacity incorporates good preparedness and contingency planning in chronically risk-prone areas.

We hope to hear from more of you on some of these themes in the coming days.