Bridging humanitarian, development nexus 'central theme' at Lake Chad Basin conference

Opening session of the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region. Photo by: Utenriksdepartementet UD / CC BY-NC-ND

Humanitarian aid and development actors “have an opportunity to do what we are all talking about — bridging the humanitarian and development divide," said World Food Program Executive Director Ertharin Cousin at Friday’s Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin.

During the conference, 14 donors pledged $458 million for relief efforts in 2017 and an additional $214 million for 2018 and beyond. Pledges have been announced by the European Commission, Norway, Germany, Japan, Sweden, Switzerland, France, Italy, Ireland, Finland, Denmark, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Republic of Korea.

“We are expecting pledges from major donor countries to keep coming,” Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, tweeted at the conclusion of the conference.

More than 170 representatives from 40 countries and several high-level U.N. representatives gathered in Oslo Friday to discuss the humanitarian response to the Lake Chad Basin, where $1.5 billion is needed in 2017 to assist more than 8 million people, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Cousin lent her voice to address the concern many development actors expressed to Devex prior to the conference — that a protracted crisis plaguing the Lake Chad region countries of Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon can no longer be addressed with emergency funding alone.

The concern echoes issues raised at last year’s World Humanitarian Summit, that there needs to be a different way of thinking about programming and response for situations in which people are displaced for years. A similar theme emerged at the United Nations earlier this week, when U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres announced humanitarian and development groups would work closely together to alleviate short-term suffering while looking for long-term stability in Nigeria, South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen as he made a $4.4 billion funding appeal.

What isn’t yet clear is how much of the now 45 percent-funded Lake Chad Basin appeal will go toward long-term development, peace building or livelihood efforts.

Stakeholders did address the need for longer-term support and durable solutions for displaced populations. But aid groups ahead of the conference expressed hope to Devex that the gathering would both renew attention for this little reported emergency and also spark a shift among some of the institutional donors that usually fund humanitarian aid, to start seeing — and funding — the crisis as a protracted issue.

This appears to be happening somewhat, with Germany’s 120 million euro ($127 million) contribution over three years described as “100 million euros for humanitarian assistance and 20 million euros for stabilization efforts in the region.”

This, along with Norway’s three-year commitment, is promising, said Yves Habumugisha, emergency director for World Vision's West Africa region, but not all donors have committed multi-year funding and “we are still waiting to see whether the U.S. government will actually announce a substantial amount.”

Only “integrated and quick impact implementation” of these funds can promote social cohesion as well as recovery and violence prevention, which will enable people to resettle and also reduce further overuse of scarce natural resources, Habumugisha added.

Overall, discussion at the conference revolved around the central theme of bridging the humanitarian and development nexus, working toward collective outcomes and localizing the response, said Edward Kallon, the Nigeria humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations Development Program.

During discussions, “it became clear that the fundamental root causes of the crisis are development deficit, climate change, human rights and governance deficit, income and structural inequalities,” he told Devex.

This isn’t to say emergency funds aren’t still direly needed. An estimated 7 million people are food insecure and 515,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition in the region eight years after conflict related to the violent Islamist group Boko Haram broke out in northeast Nigeria, according to OCHA.

The conference paid special attention to the protection needs of women, children and youth — which Egeland pointed out is where the humanitarian sector has so far failed vulnerable populations.

“It’s not just money for assistance, it is a commitment for us being present among people and demanding an end to impunity, demanding an end to attacks against civilians,” he said during a conference panel Friday.

The breakdown of emergency versus long-term funding within pledges “is difficult to say now,” UNDP’s Kallon told Devex, though the humanitarian coordinator plans to spend the next few days studying the pledges and engaging with respective donors.

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About the author

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    Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is an Associate Editor for Devex. Based on the U.S. West Coast, she works with Devex's team of correspondents and editors around the world, with a particular focus on gender. She previously worked as Devex’s Southeast Asia correspondent based in Bangkok, covering disaster and crisis response, resilience, women’s rights, and climate change throughout the region. Prior to that, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.

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