OXFAM calls for increased local and national actor involvement in responding to Uganda’s humanitarian crises


Oxfam in Uganda has today launched an innovative project entitled Empowering Local and National Humanitarian Actors (ELNHA) that aims at strengthening the capacity of local and national humanitarian actors to take lead in Uganda’s humanitarian response.  The project is premised on a study titled Fresh analysis of the Uganda humanitarian capacity, which involved a number of national actors including relevant government ministries, INGOs, private sector as well as a number of stakeholders across 7 districts. The study highlighted the fact that international actors dominate the humanitarian scene and there is need for all stakeholders, both local and international, to draw a plan that will actively involve more local and national actors in humanitarian planning, readiness and preparedness as well as to provide affordable and more sustainable humanitarian response.

The ELNHA project launch also comes at the back drop of an influx of South Sudan refugees to West Nile in the North western part of Uganda as fresh fighting broke out in July this year. With up to 6000 refugees coming into Uganda every day and up to 150,000 expected by the end of the year, the South Sudanese response is overstretched and underfunded. Humanitarian actors, many of them international, are struggling to give basics like clean water, food, health services as well as providing protection to the vulnerable such as women and children who form 97 percent of the refugees.  This under -reported crisis highlights the need to empower local humanitarian actors who have local knowledge and understand the context of the crisis and can deliver more timely and cost effective assistance.

This is by no means the only crisis. Uganda hosts a total of over 500,000 refugees from neighboring DRC, Burundi, and Rwanda among others.  Floods, landslides, drought, unpredictable weather patterns that affect small holder farmers and one of the highest population growth rates in the world are some of Uganda’s humanitarian crises.

Peter Kamalingin, Country Director Oxfam in Uganda noted that ‘Over the last 3-4 years, Oxfam in Uganda invested in pilot humanitarian capacity building for 15 local and national organizations across different parts of Uganda. Those partners, working closely with Oxfam have been very helpful in delivering timely and quality humanitarian services to people in need including during the influx of refugees from DRC in 2012/13, the influx of South Sudanese refugees since Dec 2013 to date. On the basis of this pilots here in Uganda as well as in many other parts of the world where Oxfam works, Oxfam designed a three year project to take this approach to scale and especially to bring on board more partners and stakeholders including national governments and institutions, local governments, International NGOs, local NGOs, private sector, and donors.

ELNHA, a three-year project funded by IKEA Foundation in Netherlands envisages that by the end of 2018, local and national humanitarian actors will have the capacity to design, deliver and lead in humanitarian preparedness and response in Uganda. Also, these actors will have the space and power to influence the humanitarian agenda in the country while large international donors will have tailored their policies; strategies and systems to enable local and national humanitarian actors lead in response and preparedness.

Mr. Kamalingin observed; “We all now realize that relying on international humanitarian actors alone is not sustainable, especially considering the shrinking basket of funds in the face of increasing frequency and complexity of natural and manmade disasters in different parts of the world. The world is fatigued and overstretched and it is time to invest in and hand the mantle of humanitarian planning, preparedness and response back to the local people,”

Kamalingin further added that the ELNHA program fits into Oxfam International’s Strategic Plan and vision for 2020 which whose ambition is to make sure national state institutions and civil society, with support from the international institutions, are supported to provide quality, impartial and independent assistance and strengthen the resilience of those in conflict or facing natural disasters.

Launching the ELNHA on behalf of the Prime Minister of Uganda, The Minister of Disaster Preparedness And Refugees, Hon Hillary Onek highlighted Uganda’s progressive refugee policies to guide disaster preparedness and response such as the “national policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management -2010. As government, we appreciate effective humanitarian preparedness and response requires a multi stakeholder approach, which is why as government, we applaud this convening role that Oxfam has adopted.

The ELNHA project clearly compliments government policy. He called upon humanitarian actors to emulate this example and dedicate more resources to local humanitarian actors such as NGOs, private sector, national and local government. Already, 51% of Oxfam in Uganda humanitarian funding passes through local humanitarian actors.

Hon Onek added that while the government recognizes the financial and technical support that UN Agencies and International NGO’s have accorded Uganda during humanitarian crises, local and national humanitarian actors can greatly contribute to bridging the financial and technical humanitarian gap and challenges as it is more efficient, cost effective and sustainable.

‘Local and national actors have a deep understanding of the context and the needs of the communities since they work closely with them and are able to link the short-term humanitarian assistance with long-term development towards building resilient communities.’

Hon Onek however cautioned that transforming the potential of Local and National Actors into reality needs robust and overt steps aimed at building their capacity to include: Financial support, training on the technicalities of emergency interventions and institutionalized and systematic inclusion of local actors.

Kamalingin concluded by explaining that Oxfam aims to see a shift of power, resources and capabilities towards Local or National Humanitarian Actors such as national or local government and the civil society. In this regard therefore, Oxfam is implementing the ELNHA project in two countries including Bangladesh to mobilize national/local actors as well as other international actors to work together and produce a plan for the transformation of the international humanitarian system but also working closely with the government to push for policies and practices that encourage adoption of such approaches.

For more information, please contacts;

Dr Ruhakana Rukunda, the RT Hon Prime Minister, Republic of Uganda

Speech at Oxfam launch of the Empowering Local and National Humanitarian Actors (ELNHA) project 15th September at Golf Course Hotel

  • Honorable Ministers
  • Honorable members of Parliament
  • The Representatives from government ministries and departments
  • The Country Director of Oxfam
  • Development partners and NGO representatives
  • Representatives from the various Local Governments
  • Our partners from the Private sector
  • Our friends from the media
  • Distinguished guests
  • Ladies and gentlemen

It is an honor for me to launch so important a project that seeks to change the way we look at and support humanitarian work in our various capacities- whether as government, INGOs, NGOs, and private sector.

The Empowering of Local and National Humanitarian Actors (ELNHA) initiative in Uganda, implemented by Oxfam and funded by the IKEA foundation in the Netherlands, aims at strengthening the capacity of Local and national humanitarian actors to take lead in the humanitarian system in Uganda. For long, humanitarian work has been seen as a preserve for international actors particularly the UN and INGOs.

Government, private sector and every other humanitarian actor relies on these agencies whose humanitarian work over the years we highly appreciate. However, we all now realize that relying on international humanitarian actors is not sustainable, especially considering the shrinking basket of funds in the face of increasing frequency and complexity of natural and manmade disasters in different parts of the world. The challenges we are facing in our response to the ongoing South Sudanese response highlights the importance of casting the humanitarian net further and involving the local actors. Our international friends have held our hands through other humanitarian interventions in the past such as the IDP emergency in Northern Uganda and in more recent times the Bududa response and Kasese and Teso floods, to mention but a few, and I am emphatic that their response is valuable.

  1. As government of Uganda, we are committed to living up to our record as a country open to helping those who have been affected and displaced by disasters. Our successful hosting of over 500,000 refugees has depended a lot on the cooperation and involvement of the local community. It is important that we learn from these successes to empower even more local actors in other emergency interventions.

My congratulations to Oxfam for leading an initiative to invest in the capacity of local and national actors.

Humanitarian intervention is not only part of our legal and policy obligations, it is also deeply cultural-

Embedded in the spirit of “Ubuntu” that every African subscribes to, and as we must all embrace it.

We at OPM, mandated to handle humanitarian issues, are, the Settlement Transformative Agenda, partnering with local communities and governments to support refugees. Through the Refugees Host Communities Programme, we further recognize the unique challenges of host communities and require that at least 30 per cent of interventions focus on host communities and 70 per cent on refugees. Under the refugee policy, we appreciate the expertise of local actors and remain committed to invest more resources in building their capacity. We recognize that local actor’s best understand the context and are better placed in delivering quality, timely and cost efficient response- if only we can support them. We, as government, are fully in support of providing an enabling environment for local actors in the humanitarian system. Yet, government cannot work in isolation. Empowering local and national humanitarian actors can only happen if all the relevant stakeholders convene and map out a practicable action plan towards this important initiative.

During this year’s World Humanitarian Summit, where I (RT Hon. Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, the Prime Minister) led the Ugandan Government delegation, Oxfam endorsed the Charter for Change and committed to work with others to enable greater local leadership in humanitarian action, including passing at least 30 percent of its own humanitarian funding directly to local NGOs by May 2018. I congratulate Oxfam for leaving up to its commitment. I am aware that here in Uganda, Oxfam invests significant resources to strengthening local humanitarian leadership and already passes 51% of its funding to local and national humanitarian partners- This is much appreciated. . As government, we would like to see all humanitarian actors and donors emulate this example.

The reality is that United Nation agencies and International NGOs have the financial and technical resources needed to deliver large scale humanitarian response and preparedness. However, the global

  1. humanitarian system is overstretched and unable to meet rising needs of crisis affected countries. The assistance provided is often insufficient, inappropriate and late. We believe that empowering Local and National humanitarian actors approach can greatly contribute to bridging the financial and technical humanitarian gap and challenges as its more efficient, cost effective and sustainable. Local and national actors have a deep understanding of the context and the needs of the communities since they work closely with them and they will be able to link the short-term humanitarian assistance with long-term development towards building resilient communities. Transforming the potential of local and national actors into reality, however, needs robust and overt steps aimed at building their capacity. These steps could include:

Financial support, training on the technicalities of emergency interventions and institutionalized and systematic inclusion of local actors.

The fresh Humanitarian Country Capacity Analysis of local and national humanitarian actors Assessment (HUCOCA study), that Oxfam carried out, particularly the recommendations for all actors- including government, is a good place to start. I believe that the discussions that have transpired today are a starting point for the development of a joint humanitarian action plan that supports local and national humanitarian actors to lead in the humanitarian agenda.

I therefore call upon the donor community, UN bodies, International NGO’s and other humanitarian actors to build the capacity of local and national humanitarian actors as well as deliberately increase funding to them as one of the sustainability mechanisms of humanitarian response and preparedness. To echo the remarks of the Hon Eng. Hillary Onek, Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugees on the commemoration of World Refugee Day 20th June 2016, as OPM we envisage that in two years’ time, 50% of the implementing agencies in the Humanitarian response should be local NGO’s.

I am very proud to launch this ELNHA initiative whose approaches and objectives are as unique as they are essential. Very often we see partners who come and leave after the response but Oxfam has

demonstrated, through this initiative and its past work that it is important to invest in sustainability besides the short – term responses. Only then shall we create lasting impact in our communities. I thank all of you for sparing time to attend this epic event. I hereby launch the Empowering of Local and National Humanitarian Actors Initiative in Uganda.

For God and My Country

Source: OXFAM

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