World gathering on refugees opens in Geneva after ‘decade of displacement’

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Country: World

The first-ever Global Refugee Forum aims to generate new approaches and long-term commitments to help refugees and the communities in which they live.
A three-day global gathering aimed at transforming the way the world responds to refugee situations starts today in Geneva, Switzerland.

The first-ever Global Refugee Forum brings together refugees, heads of state and government, UN leaders, international institutions, development organizations, business leaders and civil society representatives, among others, at the Palais des Nations, the home of the United Nations Office at Geneva.

UNHCR is co-hosting the Forum together with Switzerland, and it is being co-convened by Costa Rica, Ethiopia, Germany, Pakistan, and Turkey. The aim of the Forum is to generate new approaches and long-term commitments from a variety of actors to help refugees and the communities in which they live. Worldwide, over 70 million people are displaced by war, conflict, and persecution. More than 25 million of them are refugees, having fled across international borders and unable to return to their homes.

“We are emerging from a decade of displacement during which refugee numbers have surged,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

“This week, at the first ever Global Refugee Forum, we must focus our efforts in the coming decade on building upon what we have learned and committing action to support refugees and the countries and communities hosting them. This Forum is an opportunity to attest our collective commitment to the Global Compact on Refugees and rally behind the aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals of leaving no one behind.”

The Global Compact on Refugees paves the way for everyone to take responsibility and play a role, including all levels of government, the private sector, development agencies and financial institutions, civil society, faith groups, and refugees themselves.

The contributions made at the Forum are expected to include financial, technical, and material assistance; legal and policy changes to enable greater inclusion of refugees in society; resettlement places, and the safe return for refugees as part of solutions.

“We need more help like this,” said Joelle Hangi from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, who is one of the Forum’s refugee co-sponsors. “Already there are many examples of cooperation – but with refugee numbers rising, we need more people to give us their support, more governments, companies, and communities to share the responsibility of helping refugees. That is how we will regain our freedom and independence, and repay those who came to our aid.”

The three days of discussions, special events, and high-level dialogues in Geneva will focus on six key areas: arrangements for burden and responsibility sharing; education; jobs and livelihoods; energy and infrastructure; solutions; and protection capacity. There will be many opportunities for sharing a number of initiatives and good practices demonstrating how the Global Compact on Refugees can make a difference..

The Forum will also examine how humanitarian and development responses can complement one another. Additionally, in a sign of the increasingly important role of the private sector, more than 100 companies and foundations are attending and are set to make pledges around jobs, finance and other assistance.

The programme and further details about the Global Refugee Forum and related events are available here

Photos and video footage from the Forum will be available on Refugees Media.

For more information, please contact:

An estimated 897,000 people need humanitarian assistance in Libya in 2020

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Country: Libya

Those in need of humanitarian assistance include internally displaced persons, returnees, non-displaced conflict-affected people, refugees and migrants.

Since 2011, Libya has been affected by political, security and economic volatility. Continued violence and insecurity, including escalations in conflict, coupled with political stalemate, has resulted in a governance vacuum which has created significant security, rule of law, and social and economic consequences.

An estimate of 897,000 people are considered to be in need of humanitarian assistance in Libya in 2020. This reflects the most vulnerable people that have been identified as having the most severe needs (severe, catastrophic and extreme). Those in need of humanitarian assistance include internally displaced persons, returnees, non-displaced conflict-affected people, refugees and migrants.


The humanitarian situation in Libya is increasingly complex. The protracted nature of the conflict severely impacts on people’s wellbeing and livelihoods. Political stalemate has resulted in a governance vacuum, and coupled with widespread violence and insecurity, including direct attacks on public infrastructure, have disrupted the economy and public service delivery across the country.
Furthermore, spikes in violence, such as the escalation of conflict in Tripoli since April 2019 and clashes in Murzuq in August 2019, have resulted in increased civilian casualties and further displacement.

Across the country, over 301,000 Libyans remain displaced, including 128,000 people due to the Tripoli conflict, reversing the declining trend in displacement. As displacement has increased, so has the number of Libyans who are returning to their homes, around 447,000 people.
Living conditions, including access to clean drinking water, medical services, and safe housing have all degraded due to the protracted situation in the country, particularly for women and children.

Despite the crisis, Libya remains an attractive destination for migrant workers due to an economy that relies on foreign labour, higher salaries and historical ties, as well as being a transitory route for people seeking opportunities or asylum in Europe. An estimated 655,000 refugees and migrants are in Libya, including 48,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers. However, refugees and migrants continue to be exposed to protection risks, human rights violations, exploitation and abuse.

UNHCR head appeals to South Sudan parties to ensure long-lasting peace

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Country: South Sudan

Despite the signing of the peace agreement last year, the situation remains critical, with millions of South Sudanese displaced and in need of safety and humanitarian assistance.
Six years after the outbreak of violence in South Sudan, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi is calling on all parties to boost efforts to form an inclusive national unity government in order to achieve permanent peace.

Despite the signing of the peace agreement last year, the situation remains critical, with millions of South Sudanese displaced and in need of safety and humanitarian assistance.

“South Sudanese people long for lasting peace,” said High Commissioner Grandi. “Only a political solution can end the crisis and bring relief to those who have been displaced over and over again.”

South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation, is Africa’s largest humanitarian and refugee crisis with over two million of its people seeking safety in neighboring countries and an equal number displaced inside the country.

For those already forced to flee their homes disrupting their daily lives, climate change has become an additional challenge. Recent flooding resulted in the loss of life, homes, and livelihood. South Sudan also remains one of the most dangerous countries for humanitarians to deliver aid.

“The momentum towards the implementation of the peace agreement must be sustained in order to ensure the safety of civilians and guarantee solutions for those affected. It is their only ray of hope,” said Grandi.

UNHCR is also urging parties to continue to include South Sudanese refugees and IDPs in discussions on the implementation of the Revitalized Peace Agreement.

For more information, please contact:

UNHCR urges intensified support for displaced Afghans and refugee hosting nations

Source: UN High Commissioner for Refugees
Country: Afghanistan, Iran (Islamic Republic of), Pakistan

As we enter the fifth decade of Afghan displacement, some 4.6 million Afghans remain uprooted globally – including 2.7 million registered as refugees, and another 2 million internally displaced.
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is appealing for intensified support for displaced Afghans and their hosting communities, ahead of the first-ever Global Refugee Forum in Geneva, next week.

As we enter the fifth decade of Afghan displacement, some 4.6 million Afghans remain uprooted globally – including some 2.7 million registered as refugees, and another two million displaced inside Afghanistan. Afghans represent the longest displaced and the longest dispossessed population under UNHCR’s mandate worldwide.

An overwhelming majority of some 90% Afghan refugees remain in the Islamic Republics of Pakistan and Iran. Afghans are also the single largest group of asylum-seekers arriving in Europe, due to a sharp deterioration in security in Afghanistan, and increasing financial pressure on hosting nations.

In both Iran and Pakistan, Afghan refugees access education and national healthcare systems. The results of this inclusive approach have been remarkable and world-leading. In Iran, the literacy of Afghan children has risen more than tenfold since 1979. Official figures estimate that some 480,000 Afghan refugees and undocumented children are currently enrolled in school for 2019-2020, indicating a continuing increase from previous years.

In Pakistan, the Government and UNHCR are working together under the Refugee Affected and Hosting Areas (RAHA) initiative to boost support to host communities and alleviate the burden placed on infrastructure and resources. Since 2009, these programmes have benefitted more than 12.4 million Pakistanis and Afghan refugees in total.

Inside Afghanistan, the Government is partnering with UNHCR and others to support returnees and host communities with return and reintegration projects, focusing on livelihoods, education, healthcare support and energy. This year alone, approximately 350,000 Afghans have been helped by sustainable development initiatives promoting access to key infrastructure including energy, education and affordable housing.

Socio-economic difficulties remain a serious obstacle to humanitarian efforts in all three countries. In Iran, economic downturn has given rise to soaring healthcare costs impacting Iranians and Afghans alike. Refugees have faced a corresponding 65 per cent increase in public health insurance premiums in recent months. Despite huge economic challenges, the Government remains committed to sustaining assistance and protection for Afghan refugees. But this cannot be managed alone and will require greater efforts by the international community at the upcoming Global Refugee Forum and beyond.

The overwhelming majority of Afghans both within the country and in exile are youth. In Pakistan and Iran, approximately three quarters are under the age of 25. These young refugees are the future of Afghanistan and are critical to shaping their communities – but they will require more support to do so.

As the world comes together for the Global Refugee Forum next week, it is imperative that those affected by decades of Afghan displacement remain a shared priority.

For more information on this topic, please contact:

A forgotten crisis: Half a million people displaced by drought in Ethiopia

Source: Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre
Country: Ethiopia

Conflict over resources and ethnic violence triggered more displacement in Ethiopia than any other country in the world in 2018, according to a new report by the IDMC.
A forgotten crisis: Half a million people displaced by drought in Ethiopia

Geneva, 13 December 2019 – Around 425,000 people are estimated to be living in internal displacement in Ethiopia as a result of drought. Children and youth make up half of this figure. As the Ethiopian Government launches a new initiative to find lasting solutions to displacement in the region, a new report calls for more investment in local capacity and resilience.

Conflict over resources and ethnic violence triggered more displacement in Ethiopia than any other country in the world in 2018, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC). More than one million people are still uprooted from their homes. A further 425,000 people have been displaced by drought that occurred between 2015 and 2017. New IDMC research, launched today in Geneva, looks at the Somali region of eastern Ethiopia, where pastoralists lost up to 80 per cent of their livestock and many still live in camps reliant on aid up to four years later.

“Despite the scale and duration of displacement associated with drought in Ethiopia, it has been overshadowed by the recent fighting and become a ‘forgotten crisis’. Pastoralists told us “We have no hope for the future.” Many of these people have nowhere to return to, so alternative solutions must be found,” said Pablo Ferrández, IDMC researcher and the report's author.

The report findings show that displacement triggered by drought in Ethiopia is a protracted but short-range issue, and that those displaced prefer to integrate in their new locations rather than to return home. More than 200 displacement sites that have existed since or before 2017 are still open today. Around 70 per cent of those interviewed did not travel far from their place of origin. IDMC researchers spoke to pastoralists who rely on livestock to make a living, moving around to find grazing land and water. Since they lost their animals in the drought, respondents said that they have no reason to return.

The Ethiopia Durable Solutions Initiative (DSI); a joint endeavour between the government of Ethiopia, the UN, non-governmental organisations and donors, was launched in Addis Ababa last week. Its aim is to facilitate cooperation and collective action on the issue of internal displacement. Strategies proposed by the DSI involve shifting the approach from short-term humanitarian crisis management to long-term development and planning for future risks.

“The testimonies of the 219 Ethiopians IDMC spoke to all point to the need for investing in local capacity, supporting livelihoods and building resilience – and the new Durable Solutions Initiative aims to do just that.

“We commend the Ethiopian Government for the taking the lead in investing in long-term, lasting solutions for displaced people and we are proud to be a partner on this crucial issue,” said Bina Desai, IDMC’s head of policy and research.


The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC) is the world's authoritative source of data and analysis on internal displacement. Since its establishment in 1998, as part of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), IDMC has offered a rigorous, independent and trusted service to the international community. Our work informs policy and operational decisions that improve the lives of the millions of people living in internal displacement, or at risk of becoming displaced in the future.

Download the report: “Nothing to put in your mouth”: Seeking durable solutions to drought displacement in Ethiopia here.

Watch a short video of the research findings here.

For interviews please contact:

Frankie Parrish, IDMC

Email: (

Office: + 41 22 552 36 45

Sustaining the ambition, delivering change after the World Humanitarian Summit

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Country: World

In the final year of providing self-reports against the commitments to advance the Agenda for Humanity, 117 stakeholders described the efforts they made in 2018 to realize this ambitious vision.
At the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul in May 2016, leaders made over 3,500 commitments to advance the Agenda for Humanity. In the third and final year of providing self-reports against these commitments, 117 stakeholders described the efforts they made from January to December 2018 to realize this ambitious vision.

The 2019 annual synthesis report provides a summary of their collective achievements around the 5 Core Responsibilities and 24 Transformations of the Agenda for Humanity, as well as persistent challenges since the Summit. The 2019 report includes a few new elements: visual summaries at the beginning of each chapter (in addition to a global one) to provide a quick overview of key findings and recommendations, and a new 'Assessing progress' section which explores potential indicators and methodologies that could be used in future to determine collective progress.

Looking at progress in 2018 and comparing it to work done since the Summit, the report found progress in shifting to a culture of conflict prevention, working to integrate gender in all aspects of humanitarian programming, and that more national and local organizations are being represented in coordination processes. The report found that there are strengthened efforts both to make humanitarian action more inclusive and, separately, to enhance humanitarian-development-peace collaboration. But there are persistent challenges: fiduciary risk intolerance is preventing local and national partners from accessing funds, and risk aversion is also preventing greater investment in preparedness and multi-year funding. There is a gap between normative commitments and applying them in the field. Despite these challenges, among others, the momentum brought about by the Summit continues and the report exhorts stakeholders to maintain the Summit's broader ambition for structural change.

The Executive Summary provides an overview of trends in progress and gaps that need to be addressed. Each chapter can also be downloaded separately for an in-depth view of progress.

Education Cannot Wait allocates record US$64 million to support education in Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Syria

Source: Education Cannot Wait (ECW)
Country: Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic

Funding will support wider multi-year programmes that support quality inclusive education for marginalized and vulnerable children affected by the protracted crises in the four countries.
11 December 2019, New York – Education Cannot Wait (ECW) has allocated US$64 million in seed funding grants to support four new multi-year resilience programmes in Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Syria. This is the largest new investment announced by the Global Fund for Education in Emergencies to date.

The seed funding will roll out interventions that are part of wider multi-year programmes facilitated by Education Cannot Wait to support quality inclusive education for marginalized and vulnerable girls and boys affected by the protracted crises in the four countries.

Taken together, the multi-year programmes aim to mobilize over US$1 billion across the four countries over the next three years to provide about 5 million children and youth with improved access to inclusive, equitable, safe and protective learning environments. “Across the world, the number of children and youth suffering the brunt of wars, disasters and forced displacement is on the rise, as humanitarian crises are lasting longer than ever before. Girls and boys living in the most challenging conditions in Chad, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Syria have been waiting for too long for the hope and protection that only education can offer,” said Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait. “Today, together with our partners, we are taking action to end this interminable wait. We are investing in the opportunity of a brighter future for these children and youth, their communities and their countries.” The multi-year resilience programmes are designed to bridge the gap between emergency response and long-term development. In ensuring no one is left behind, the programmes all have specific focuses on reaching the most marginalized and vulnerable children and youth, such as girls and children with disabilities.

The programmes were developed on the ground in partnership with a wide range of stakeholders – national governments, UN organizations, donors, private sector and civil society. Interventions are designed to provide whole-of-child solutions in protracted crises situations where armed conflict, forced displacement, climate change, poverty, hunger, gender-based violence and discrimination are jeopardizing children’s future and derailing efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Programme interventions include everything from building protective learning spaces, training teachers and expanding school feeding programmes. Specific retention initiatives for girls and boys whose education has been interrupted due to harmful practices such as early marriage and forced recruitment are also included, as well as targeted psychosocial and mental health support to help children and youth cope with the stress and adversity that stems from living through conflict and displacement.

Humanitarian crisis in Mali: Overmilitarized and overshadowed

Source: Refugees International
Country: Mali

As insurgent violence in the north rages on, anti-government elements have spread south into central Mali. The number of IDPs has jumped from 38,000 to over 187,000 in two years.
Alexandra Lamarche

Mali has been the scene of perpetual conflict and displacement for nearly eight years. In January 2012, tensions in the marginalized north came to a head when rebels took over almost a third of the country. Frustrated over the government’s failure to quash the rebellion, soldiers in the capital city of Bamako overthrew the president. As a mix of rebels and terrorist groups moved south toward the capital, France intervened and was subsequently joined by African Union forces. Shortly thereafter, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was launched. Together, these interventions have restored some semblance of peace and government control, but the country’s northern and central regions remain trapped in cycles of violence.

In 2015, months of difficult negotiations between the Malian government and coalitions of armed groups culminated in the Agreement of Peace and Reconciliation. The accord offered hope for investment in the north, the decentralization of authority and service provision, and improved governance, but much of its promise remains undelivered. International troop contributors and donor governments continue struggling to present a unified front and convince the Malian government to fulfill its responsibilities under the peace deal or expand its authority in rural areas. As a result, the government in Bamako runs the very real risk of further marginalizing and alienating communities outside of the capital.

Nearly eight years after the onset of the crisis, the international community remains heavily focused on stabilization and counterterrorism, at times to the detriment of the worsening humanitarian situation. As insurgent violence in the north rages on, anti-government elements have spread south into central Mali, where they have exacerbated intercommunal tensions and dissatisfaction with the Malian government, dividing communities and breeding violence. As this trend continues, the number of Malians displaced by violence continues to climb. As of September 2019, 187,139 Malians were internally displaced, compared to 38,000 only two years ago.

On their part, humanitarian organizations struggle to effectively provide for the 3.2 million Malians in need of assistance this year alone. Aid efforts are hindered by underfunding and the complex security environment. However, opportunities exist at the local level to broker access to communities in need. Although humanitarians can do little to mitigate certain threats—particularly those posed by terrorists or kidnappers—they can improve access to certain areas through highly localized negotiations with community power brokers.

Similarly, security actors like MINUSMA struggle to gain and maintain the trust of communities. Their use of Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) to build community support has blurred the lines between the international stabilization presence and humanitarian actors. UN peacekeepers and humanitarians must strengthen civil-military coordination as part of a wider effort to more clearly delineate and communicate their roles and responsibilities to the communities in which they operate. These efforts are essential if humanitarians are to build the acceptance and maintain the neutrality required to access populations in crisis.

There is no purely military solution to the crisis in Mali. In addition, though international humanitarian aid must be strengthened, Mali’s citizens also require a government willing and able to meet the needs of its people. The state must address the grievances at the root of the conflict and implement the terms of the peace agreement in a timely and transparent fashion.

South Sudan: US$1.5 billion needed to address the humanitarian needs of 5.6 million people in 2020

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Country: South Sudan, Sudan

Some 7.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance or protection and 3.7 million are displaced inside or outside of the country.
Response Plan Overview

The cumulative effects of years of prolonged conflict, chronic vulnerabilities and weak essential services have left 7.5 million people – more than two thirds of the population – in need of humanitarian assistance. Nearly 4 million people remain displaced:

1.5 million internally and 2.2 million as refugees in neighbouring countries. Limited availability and a lack of access to health services have largely contributed to one of the highest under-five mortality rates (90.7 deaths per 1,000 live births) and maternal mortality rates (789 deaths per 100,000 live births) worldwide. The country remains in a critical period of unprecedented severe food insecurity with 6.4 million people considered food insecure, and with malnutrition rates of 16 per cent – surpassing the global emergency threshold.
Protection concerns remain significant, with affected populations expressing fear over persistent insecurity, protection threats, human rights violations and gender-based violence (GBV).
In 2020, the humanitarian operation will focus on three overarching strategic objectives (SOs) aimed at responding to the needs of 5.6 million vulnerable populations as a result of the crisis: (1) Reduce morbidity and mortality, as well as suffering from protection threats and incidents; (2) Facilitate safe, equitable and dignified access to critical cross-sectoral basic services; and (3) Enable vulnerable people to recover from crisis, seek solutions to displacement and build resilience to acute shocks and chronic stresses through targeted programming in specific geographic locations.
To fully meet these objectives, the humanitarian community will need US$1.54 billion in 2020. This Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) is based on an enhanced, intersectoral analysis of needs across population groups. A rigorous prioritization approach has been applied in identifying the geographical areas and activities included in the scope of the plan. As per the previous 2019 HRP, the Humanitarian Country Team has agreed to focus on activities that can be scaled up, depending on the availability of funds.
The response approach strengthens multisectoral planning and delivery, mainstreams protection activities across the strategic objectives and focuses on strengthening accountability to affected people (AAP). A robust intersectoral mechanism has been put in place to ensure that targeted populations and beneficiaries feel informed and consulted throughout the entire humanitarian programme cycle. Through a targeted community communication and engagement plan, it aims to protect vulnerable communities in high risk areas from sexual exploitation and abuse. A focused approach to incorporating age, gender and diversity considerations will be applied in all aspects of partners’ response. This includes prioritizing vulnerable population groups such as female-headed households, providing safe spaces for children and taking into account the needs of the elderly and persons with disabilities during the response. Cash and voucher assistance (CVA) will be used by a number of sectors as a modality of response aimed at improving livelihoods of local communities and businesses and strengthening local markets.
In 2020, partners are enhancing their efforts in intersectoral collaboration and impact monitoring. The intersectoral severity analysis provided for the identification of prioritized geographic locations displaying the highest severity of need. Regular situation and response monitoring will provide the Humanitarian Country Team with timely evidence for operational decision-making.
Through consolidated humanitarian hubs, humanitarians will provide secure access to hard-to-reach locations and enable consistent delivery of quality integrated basic services to underserved and vulnerable populations. Subnational inter-agency coordination will enable operational decentralization of response activities and facilitate the involvement of affected populations.
In support of the humanitarian-development nexus, partners will aim to ensure that humanitarian activities are aligned and contribute to the shared objectives and collective outcomes of development programming through the United Nations Cooperation Framework (UNCF) (2019–2021).

Webinar brings humanitarian logistics community together to discuss protection challenges

On 3rd July, the much-anticipated webinar titled Exploring protection challenges in humanitarian logistics jointly organised by HLA and the International Association of Professionals in Humanitarian Assistance and Protection (PHAP) took place. The well-attended event hosted from Geneva brought together professionals in the humanitarian logistics community and other areas of humanitarian practice who are based in some dozens of countries.

This webinar was a timely event that helped clarify some key questions humanitarian logisticians have about ensuring and safeguarding protection during response. PHAP Executive Director Angharad Laing co-hosted the webinar with HLA Chief Executive George Fenton, which was streamed via the PHAP webinar platform, with many others also listening in via YouTube.

The idea that the issue of protection in humanitarian logistics is underexplored across the sector, set off the discussions with George asking the ultimate question if the proliferation of humanitarian responses in recent years have in fact led to enhanced safety and security for the communities at risk. He noted that protection in logistics practice should indeed reflect the right capacity and a common understanding between humanitarian response actors and of course the affected communities, and that enhancing protection requires engagement between these communities. George further noted that the tools to aid these protection mechanisms require critical and continuous development, and as such the humanitarian logistics community therefore has a duty to recognise these challenges and address them accordingly.

Survey results

Findings from the pre-event survey of which 172 responses were received from across 45 countries were presented by Angharad prior to the open discussion and revealed that most respondents had in fact witnessed some sort of protection issue during the course of their work. The most common were issues related to logisticians not being sufficiently prepared to handle protection issues they were confronted with, which more than a majority of respondents revealed that they had in fact witnessed in the field. There were also various levels of reports of abuse with the procurement, recruitment, transportation, distribution of aid, and sexual exploitation and abuse.  Some respondents cited lack of awareness of principles and guidelines as a cause for the lack of capacity to deal with the observed protection issues.

Overall, corruption in procurement was highlighted, with the case of kickbacks in South Sudan cited by a respondent, and in Somalia collusion between logisticians and suppliers that divert aid elsewhere than the intended targets.  Recipients at risk from robberies by armed gangs following distribution and militia attacks during distribution itself were also cited. In the area of recruitment, child labour was mentioned as an observed problem, especially from sub-contracts. The area of safety for logistics staff themselves also came up and may require a separate webinar to effectively interrogate. Finally, the gap in existing guidance to deal with protection issues as a result of not being implemented, and not being localised enough to deal with contextual nuances was also highlighted.

Summary of discussions

The esteemed panel of facilitators who shared valuable insights from their considerable collective experience and perspectives with the audience consisted of Will Holden, Managing Director of the Emergency Logistics Team, HLA’s Africa Regional Representative Tikhwi Muyundo, Supply Chain and Communications Consultant Valerie Craigie, and former Head of the Protection Division of ICRC Pierre Gentile.

According to Will, there was a sea change in recent years regarding the interactions between the programs and support (logistics) functions of most humanitarian responses which is causing gaps in adequately dealing with protection issues as a result of the perceived separation. He noted further that sufficient duty of care must be in place for staff of humanitarian logistics organisations during the planning and implementation of the distribution, and also for the affected communities in particular the most vulnerable (i.e. women and children). In terms of the capacity of humanitarian logistician staff, Will called for more training to give logistics staff, at minimum, some basic understanding of what the protection concerns are and how to deal with them, and said this was a clear gap as their role is so key and fundamental to any humanitarian response.

Tikhwi, on the other hand, sharing first-hand experience from countries such as Somalia and Afghanistan, was of the view that most organizations would have mechanisms in place to identify and of course address the most predictable of protection challenges. She gave a whole range of such issues including harm from sub-contractors who are transporting or distributing on the ground. She also mentioned improper management of distribution centers, poor commodity management and certification, cultural insensitivities, as well as staff misconduct and the deployment of untrained staff, as factors that can result in affected communities suffering harm.

A specific practical example shared was of extreme protection implications where violence and demonstrations occur in opposition to unwanted goods making their way into certain communities where they are prohibited resulting from unsolicited donations.

Valerie shared some insights on gender-based violence (GBV) from interviews and interactions with humanitarian logisticians from camps in Liberia, Sudan and Greece in particular.  She tackled the issue of making these spaces safe for all, especially the vulnerable, and called for the immediate needs of these communities to be factored in during the response. She noted that while the guidelines call for communications, multisectoral approach, and shared learning in avoiding or dealing with these issues, it just does not happen in practice, leading to the observed protection challenges. She provided a good practice case study from Ethiopia where a logistician had a key role to play in planning the structure of the camp that made it more liveable and safer for residents.

Pierre on his part, gave valuable insights from both the field and head office (Geneva) experience. He identified three categories of note – the need for and adherence to organizational code of conducts, the attention to the principle of do no harm, and the capacity and ability to address directly or refer the abuse that is witnessed. He (as well as most of the other facilitators) noted the availability of a variety of guidance and guidelines to aid in the address of these incidents of protection challenges, though there are certainly issues with how they are utilized or implemented.

Key highlights

  • Guidelines need to be tailored in order to take into consideration local norms and cultures.
  • Too many strategies for addressing different issues targeted at the different groups of humanitarian actors (logisticians for example) can present problems for understanding and adherence. As such, an integrated approach is more useful.
  • There should be consistent identification and awareness of the particular types of protections issues that are prevalent in each area in order to plan for and address them effectively.
  • As humanitarian logisticians are not expected to be protection experts, there should be clear referral mechanisms in place for them to direct concerns to the appropriate channels to be addressed.
  • Some good practices are for staff to know the procedures and follow them, for example vetting suppliers, and for aid agencies to have an integrated approach to train and retrain staff which includes community leaders and involves security forces.
  • There is a need to draw from lessons learned in the past and apply those to mitigate these preventable risks to affected communities.
  • Have a code of conduct in place, which is well understood by all staff, both direct and sub-contractors (suppliers), and to have sanctions in place for misconduct.
  • Future efforts regarding this conversation should note that while a lot of guidance is already available, they may not necessarily be understood or followed by field logistician staff, who are often sub-contractors.

In conclusion, there was the agreement that the logistics function is at the heart of humanitarian response, and while this webinar’s discussion is a useful first step, the conversation does not end here and must be taken forward. As such, HLA and PHAP is looking forward to further collaboration that take these recommendations and takeaways forward through further discussions.

 “HLA should be commended for raising this vital issue and I look forward to future collaborations that explore this further.” Angharad Laing