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Inter agency regional humanitarian strategic framework for Southern Africa

United Nations


SARPN acknowledges permission from the OCHA office in Johannesburg for permission to post this report.
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The strong development gains evident in many countries in southern Africa during the eighties and nineties are rapidly being reversed. The reason for this is largely due to the impact of HIV/AIDS. Indeed, the goals of sustainable development, the Millennium Development Goals, shared by national governments, United Nations, NGOs, civil society, communities and individuals, are under threat. Every effort is needed to help stop and reverse the current downward trend in human development indicators. This paper provides a strategic framework for humanitarian interventions geared to support these efforts. It is an extension, or operational observation, of the UN's 'Next Steps' and 'Triple Threat' papers of April and October 2003 respectively. The 'Next Steps' paper introduced the concept of immediate actions to address both short- and long-term needs. The 'Triple Threat' paper (which identified food insecurity, HIV/AIDS and reduced capacity for governance as critical issues in southern Africa) asserts that given the combination of short-term shocks and long-term challenges associated with the crisis, the dichotomy of 'humanitarian' and 'development' assistance must be overcome; instead an approach should be composed of 'developmental relief' and 'emergency development'.

Whereas the 'Next Steps' and 'Triple Threat' papers address UN operations only, this paper places the discussion back in to the realms of both UN and NGOs. It focuses on the need for urgent activities, typically classified as 'humanitarian'. Two types of humanitarian interventions are being proposed. The first one is addressing the 'classic' emergency situation, where a trigger event, often a climatic extreme such as flood or drought, stresses local communities to the point where external assistance is needed. This may be from national government or civil society, or, if beyond their resources, the international community. The second one addresses the immediate impacts of the 'new' type of emergency caused by the HIV/AIDS crisis, interwoven with deepening poverty levels.

The difference between the two types of humanitarian interventions is largely geographic and with regards to timeframes for action. Whereas in a 'classical' emergency scenario the geographically contained 'emergency-development continuum' holds, in the 'new' scenario, the complementarity between developmental and humanitarian interventions lies in the scaling up of community and household level interventions to the national level. The problem in addressing the 'new' emergency scenario is that it does not fit the existing operational mould of delineation between emergency and development, a mould that carries through to institutional operations and funding mechanisms. Therefore, this humanitarian strategic framework must be considered in the context of the larger picture of sustainable development and should be understood as a component of an overall approach needed to reverse development declines in southern Africa through enhanced support to its most valuable asset, its people.


Between 2002 and 2004, southern Africa was very much on the radar screen of those monitoring and responding to humanitarian needs. The needs of the region were captured and made visible through the UN's Consolidated Appeal Process. Today, as the world's attention drifts between Tsunami affected Southeast Asia and other more visible crises in Africa, such as Sudan's Darfur region, the needs in southern Africa are seemingly disappearing off the humanitarian radar. This is in part because of the limited attention span of the world's media and body politic and also due to the changed drivers of the emergency in the region. Humanitarian needs that are understood as having been caused by a single event or by a visible causal factor, such as a drought, are easily depicted. Multiple and deep-seated causations are much harder to understand, define and respond to. The emergency in southern Africa falls into the latter category. The humanitarian needs remain, as does the need to respond.

The UN humanitarian agencies and their NGO partners (operating under the umbrella of the IASC designated regional coordination mechanism) developed this Inter-Agency Regional Humanitarian Strategic Framework in recognition of the importance to draw attention to the remaining humanitarian needs in the region. The purpose of the framework is a) to provide a clear rationale and orientation for ongoing humanitarian support, b) to demonstrate the solidarity among the assistance community to address the immediate needs of the region in a complementary and mutually supportive way, and c) to serve as an advocacy tool for specific humanitarian programming and resource mobilisation at the country level. The strategic framework has been developed from a regional perspective but has been guided by operations and views from countries across the region. As such, the framework is intended to be in support of the ongoing national efforts.

The framework has been developed under the auspices of work initiated by the SG's Special Envoy for Humanitarian Needs in Southern Africa. A major aspect of the work of the Special Envoy over the coming months will be to continue advocacy with Governments, regional bodies, donors and others to ensure that the unfinished humanitarian work is carried out in a timely manner and at scale. Indeed, unfavourable climatic conditions in the later part of the 2004/2005 crop-growing season and its potential effect on food security in the region later in 2005/2006 have made this more urgent. It is intended that this framework will help to provide for and support this work.

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