Enhancing Southern capacity

rhetoric and reality
FMR 28
July 2007

Virtually every humanitarian agency talks about their commitment to building – or enhancing – Southern capacity. To our surprise, however, our call for papers for this issue did not produce the flood of articles we expected. Perhaps this tells us something about lack of fit between rhetoric and reality? Do international agencies still define ‘capacity building’ in a way which implies that Southern recipients have no capacity to start with? Is the capacity-building industry a North-driven, patronising and uni-directional transfer of knowledge? Is there genuine commitment to helping nationally-based organisations respond to future crises? The first 15 articles in this issue address these and other questions.

This issue – published in English, Arabic, Spanish and French – also includes 23 articles on a wide range of other subjects.

Contents

Brooke Lauten

Since 2001 the Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict has worked with local civil society organisations, child protection networks and grassroots organisations to build capacity to monitor and respond to abuses of children’s rights. Through our capacity-building partnerships, we work to shift the power structure that defines the roles of national and international NGOs in humanitarian programming.

Arjuna Parakrama

The largest ever evaluation of an international humanitarian response found that most lives were saved by affected and neighbouring communities in the immediate aftermath of the December 2004 tsunami. When the international community bypassed or appropriated local and national response, the impact was inefficient in terms of cost, effort and time.

Bambang A Sipayung

In Indonesia it is easy to tell who works for an international NGO for they stand out with their organisational tags and memory sticks. Many Indonesians crave jobs with INGOs but do these organisations transfer knowledge and skills to local NGOs? Or do they simply poach their staff and undermine voluntarism?

Katherine Haver

Where security considerations compel the withdrawal of international aid workers, humanitarian agencies rely increasingly on national staff. Agencies tend to assume that locals are at less risk but this is not necessarily the case. They have largely failed to consider the ethics of transferring security risks from expatriate to national staff.

Johannes van der Klaauw

Facing tighter European border controls, increasing numbers of refugees and asylum seekers from sub-Saharan countries find themselves stranded in North Africa. In the absence of functioning state asylum structures and with a growing caseload of asylum seekers, UNHCR is working to strengthen regional protection capacity, particularly in Morocco.

Mathieu André and France Charlet

In 2006, at the request of UNHCR, the French NGO Forum Réfugiés led two missions to help strengthen local capacity in Morocco to provide legal advice and assistance for asylum seekers and refugees.

Josep Zapater

The south-western Colombian department of Nariño has developed an innovative, demand-led and participatory initiative for the local integration of IDPs. The long-term sustainability of such partnerships between local administrations and grassroots communities hinges on ability to influence national and international financial flows.

Katharine Derderian, Helene Lorinquer and Stéphan Goetghebuer

In the aftermath of conflict, people’s health and their ability to survive remain fragile, while basic infrastructure may be weak, damaged or non-existent. Serious gaps emerge at the crucial juncture between emergency relief and development aid, with few available and affordable health services to respond to still urgent medical needs.

Lina Abirafeh

Capacity building is a catchy phrase, suggesting ideals of national ownership and strengthened local institutions. But how can we avoid it being a North-driven, patronising and unidirectional transfer of knowledge?

Naomi Pardington and Melanie Coyne

What does institutional capacity building (ICB) mean for southern- based NGOs? What are the ICB challenges they face? Most importantly, what are the impacts for the beneficiary populations?

Anisya Thomas and Desiree Bliss

In 2004, the leaders of 15 African Red Cross and Red Crescent (RC) Societies and staff from Fritz Institute met in Johannesburg, South Africa to further the growing belief that Africa’s humanitarian problems can not be solved from the outside in.

Eva Ayiera

In November 2006, after 15 years of consideration, the Kenyan Parliament enacted the Refugee Act, believed by many to be potentially the most important milestone in the management of refugee affairs in Kenya.

Colleen Thouez and Sarah Rosengaertner

Capacity building is context specific and often subject to North-South political games. This is often apparent in Regional Consultative Processes (RCP), fora for states, international organisations and NGOs to informally exchange information on migration-related issues of common interest.

General articles

Hassan Noor

International media report that over 300,000 Somalis have been newly displaced by fighting in Mogadishu. Conflict-related displacement hits the headlines, but the numbers displaced by environmental change are also colossal. The international response remains woefully inadequate.

Toby Lanzer and Amanda Weyler

The international community is waking up to the strategic importance of the Central African Republic (CAR) in the crisis over Darfur. Will current interest endure long enough to help the people of CAR beyond the immediate future? 

Maarten Barends

A rule of law vacuum exists in Darfur, more so than in any other region in Sudan. UNDP’s Rule of Law Programme is supporting law enforcement and judiciary officials in assuming their responsibilities under national and international law – and working with them to end the current climate of impunity.

Julia Freedson, Simar Singh and Sarah W Spencer

The protection and well-being of children in Sudan are at a crucial juncture. While children in the South are enjoying improved security and access to services, those in Darfur continue to face appalling levels of violence and denial of basic services. Protection of children must be at the forefront of efforts to bring peace and stability to Sudan.

Tim Morris

The pace of repatriation of Sudanese refugees and return of IDPs to south Sudan has picked up but expectations at the time of the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in January 2005 have yet to be realised. With all eyes on Darfur, assistance to sustain returns to South Sudan remains inadequate.

Benjamin Zawacki

During the Indochina war the USA recruited fighters from the Hmong people of Laos to disrupt North Vietnamese supply and troops movements along the Ho Chi Minh trail. While an estimated 170,000 ex-combatant Hmong and their relatives now live in the USA, others seeking asylum have bizarrely fallen foul of the post-9.11PATRIOT Act.

Maria Beatriz Nogueira and Charalampos Efstathopoulos

Ground-breaking decisions in two cases brought against the state of Colombia have demonstrated the potential of human rights jurisprudence in clarifying IDP rights and establishing new mechanisms and standards in domestic and international protection.

Heather Rae

The history of post-independent Burma is characterised by numerous conflicts in this extraordinarily heterogeneous country. Since military rule began in 1962 Burma has witnessed gross human rights abuses and massive displacement.

Anita Ghimire

Nepal is emerging from conflict and discussing the timetable for elections. Maoist rebels have laid down their arms and joined a coalition government. But will the elections have any credibility if large numbers of displaced people are unable to vote? Can Nepal learn from experience elsewhere?

Vera den Otter

The difficulties faced by urban refugees are often different from those faced by refugees in camps but are no less serious. The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) in Bangkok is struggling to support growing numbers of urban refugees in Thailand.

Esther Sample

As African and Northern states increasingly prioritise immigration control and economic and security considerations, families are being pulled apart. In the UK detention and deportation prevent reunification and actively disrupt family unity.

David Holdcroft

In April Australian Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews announced that, in a deal brokered with the US, Australia would ‘swap’ up to 200 refugees every year.

Jean du Plessis

The Olympic Games have displaced more than two million people in the last 20 years, disproportionately affecting particular groups such as the homeless, the poor, Roma and African-Americans. Mega-events such as the Olympic Games often leave a negative housing legacy for local populations.

Lina Abirafeh

The City of Hope is an organisation offering refuge for abused women in Dubai, the largest city of the United Arab Emirates. Dubai has started to acknowledge the social problems accompanying its phenomenal economic growth but is it doing enough to tackle the scourge of human trafficking?

Andrew Lawday

A new certification scheme could help to make humanitarian agencies more accountable to refugees and displaced people. Since the critical evaluation of the response to the Rwanda emergency in the 1990s, agencies have recognised weaknesses in both the accountability and quality of humanitarian programmes. But an ‘accountability deficit’ still plagues international aid responses to emergencies.

UNHCR Bureau for Europe
Greta Zeender

Despite successful elections in late 2006 and an overall increase in the level of stability, over a million people remain displaced in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The situation is particularly worrying in North Kivu where over hundred thousand people have been displaced in recent months.

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