WHY IS THE LAND ISSUE IN UGANDA CONTENTIOUS?

Why is the Land Issue in Uganda Contentious?

Introduction

Land is the most valuable asset for human existence and economic development and it is acquired to provide a livelihood, facilitate production and economic transformation of the country. The Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development is responsible for providing policy direction, national standards and coordination of all matters concerning lands, housing and urban development. The Ministry is financed by development partners and the Government of Uganda.

In Uganda, there are existing policies and legal frameworks that guide human settlement which include: the 1995 Constitution ,Uganda National Land Policy (2013) ,the 1998 Land Act the Land Sector Strategic Plan(2013-2023) These systems protect the ownership of land in Uganda.[1] Currently there is a proposal by government to amend Article 26 of the Land Acquisition Act. However, the proposal has generated a nationwide debate as well as being interpreted as a plot that will fuel land evictions and grabbing in the country. Majority of citizens believe that the proposed amendment will leave Ugandans at the mercy of losing their land to government without being compensated.

Despite all the existing legal frameworks in Uganda, land continues to be contentious. This policy issue highlights the key land issues in Uganda, recommendations and the role of Civil Society Organizations.

Critiques of the current Land Issues

2.1   Multiple Land Tenure Systems

The 1995 Constitution and the land Act provide that land in Uganda maybe held in only four tenure categories namely: customary, freehold, Mailo and leasehold.[2] There are also existing gaps in the land policy such as; it does not provide for sensitization of about the tenure systems of the land people occupy where sometimes their leases expire and they are not aware, does not solve the problem of overlapping land rights on mailo land, conflict resolutions are placed in the hands of customary institutions yet some are biased due to community migration.[3]

Though the customary land issue is recognized by the law and the policy provides that it will have certificate of titles and its own registry, laws and governance, these do not exist. The National Land Policy provides that the customary land will be supported to evolve but it difficult since the land is not registered with titles.[4] These are all challenges that result into tenure insecurity. There is need for increased awareness of the existing laws to enable citizens demand for their rights in regards to land. The land administration system has also been abused by various actors through acts of corruption and unethical practices in land management hence affecting the most vulnerable people in the communities.

2.2   Land grabbing and evictions

Under Article 26, the constitution provides for the right to own property. On the contrary we have witnessed aggressive land grabbing by individuals, high profile people, government officials and multinational companies often in partnership with government. Communities have been intimidated to abandon or have been forcibly removed from their land and it is common in places where land is owned communally especially in the northern parts, areas in the west as well as the central parts of Uganda. For example in Amuru District, Apar Village and Lakang sub-county where land wrangles are evident has caused particular problems for local people who have customary land rights.[5]

The Marriage and divorce bill section 20 also provides for equal access to matrimonial property which includes right to use, to benefit from and to enter the property. Although the legal environment appears to be favorable to women in Uganda, the situation on the ground is still far from satisfactory. Abuse of women’s land rights is widespread in rural areas where widows are chased away from their matrimonial land, divorced and separated women are denied access to land in their maiden homes and for married women to be dispossessed of their land by their husbands. Government should expeditiously enact the Marriage and divorce bill to help protect the rights of women.

2.3   Large Scale land Acquisitions

The Uganda National Land Policy provides that it is the duty of government to provide land to investors based on transparent criteria with due process or due diligence either from public land or government land without displacing public utilities. However, we have witnessed rapid increase of large land acquisitions which take place amidst non transparent procedures and processes. Vast tracts of land have been given away as concessions to private investors and foreign investors with displacing and evicting local communities from their traditional lands without due regard to their rights and safeguards to their well being.

In many cases, the locals that are displaced receive inadequate or low compensation for their land. Although Article 26 of the constitution provides for compulsory acquisition of land, it states that the following conditions must be met; prompt payment of a fair and adequate compensation prior to the taking of possession or acquisition of land and also a right to access to a court of law by any person who has an interest or right over the property. These laws still have existing gaps on who determines the fair/adequate compensation, even when such cases are taken to courts of law there is delayed justice and sometimes the case is ruled in favour of the investors/rich persons.

2.4   Land Governance

Land governance concerns the rules, processes and structures through which decisions are made about land ownership and its utilization. These help to ensure security to tenure which gives way to harmony in society, peace and tranquility in the country. Article 56, 64 and 74 of the Land Act provides for the establishment of land tribunals, district land boards (DLBs) and Area land committees (ALCs). The ALCs determine, verify and make boundaries of customary land in their areas of jurisdiction; advising DLBs in matters relating to land including ascertaining various categories of land rights of individuals, communities and institutions during the processes of transfer of land interests and registration of titles.[6]

However there are still challenges faced by these DLBs and ALCs such as inadequate functionality as a result of lack of funds, lack of technical staff and corruption.[7] These generate a number of irregularities where most land is title without inspection and recommendations, sometimes land titles are given to more than one person and titles maybe give to the illegal owner claiming to be real owner of the land in question.

2.5 Refugees Crisis

Uganda hosts 1.2million refugees including 898,000 South Sudanese who have fled civil war and famine. The refugee settlements are mainly found in areas of Kyaka II, Nakivale, Oruchinga, Kyangwali, Kiryandongo, Paralonya, Rhino Camp, Imvepi, Madi Okollo, the integrated camps of Adjumani, and Maaji settlement. The 2006 Refugee Act Secetion 29:1(e) provides for similar treatment relating to movable and immovable property and other rights pertaining to property and to leases and other contracts relating to property. This allows refugees to obtain land and as a result the host communities have shared their land have benefited from a new schools and health centers etc. [8]

However there are increasing land conflicts between host communities and refugees due to lack of preparation of citizens by government in regards to refugee settlement in Uganda. Communities in Uganda need to be prepared socially and economically so that they are not affected by the effects of refugee resettlement particularly in areas of land ownership

2.6   Proposed land Amendment

Under the proposed amendment, the Land Acquisition Act will allow government to compensate the registered proprietors and other land owners prior and also while the infrastructure development process is ongoing. The proposed amendment provides that;

  • Where parties are unable to agree to a fair price and adequate compensation, the government shall deposit the money in court and government shall take possession of the property pending determination by court of the disputed amount of compensation.
  • The owner of the property shall have a right to claim the disputed compensation amount that may be determined by the court or other competent authority.

However the proposed amendments alter the provisions of article 26 which provide for prior compensation before taking possession of land. The proposed bill has a lot of gaps that need to be improved such as; does not provide the time in which disputes arising out of compensation shall be solved, it also empowers the person or party interested in the right over the property and it does not take into consideration of who determines the fair/adequate compensation. There is need for government to review the bill so that they design policies that uphold the rights of citizens.

Policy Recommendations

Roll out of the Land Information System. There is need for the ministry of Lands and Housing to roll out more Land Information systems across all districts in the country. The system will help provide reliable information on security of tenure, eliminate opportunities of corruption, provide timely access of information and also provide assurance land owners.

Functionality of Area Land Boards and District land Boards. There is need to increase funding for the Area Land Committees and District land boards for easy carrying out of their activities and it will also help fight corruption. Capacity building is also required to ensure that the committees have the skills and knowledge required for their work.

Civic education on land matters. Most citizens are not aware of the policies on land and the tenure systems in regards to land. Ministry of Lands through the District local government should educate citizens about the different land tenure systems as well as their rights to land ownership.

Court laws. The court should handle land matters as expeditiously as provided for under article 137(7) of the constitution that the constitutional court can sit as soon as possible to handle petitions and may suspend any other matter pending before it.

Expedite the passing of marriage bill. This bill should be enacted as soon as possible as it seeks to promote gender equality and also protect the rights of men and women.

Consultations on the proposed amendment. There is need for these consultations as they will help citizens share views and existing gaps in the bill. This will help citizens demand their rights regarding law and also enable government deign policies that protect citizens.

  1. Role of Civil Society

Advocate for laws against forced evictions, adequate compensation and resettlement. CSOs need to advocate for laws that outlaw forced and unlawful evictions in accordance with the international Human Rights law. Most evictions including those based on national legal enforcement orders; ignore the international and constitutional legislation which guarantees the right to housing and other human rights (UN HABITAT Advisory Group on Forced Evictions, 2007, UN Basic Principles and Guidelines on Development-based Evictions and Displacement, 2007).

Land rights Civic education. There is need to hold campaigns to create awareness and sensitize citizens about their land rights and the existing land laws in the country. It is imperative that every land owner is aware of his rights so that land grabbers do not take advantage of their ignorance about the law.

Hold dialogues on Land. National and regional dialogues should be held by CSOs across the country to provide a platform for citizens and government to share their experiences and also raise concerns regarding the land. Interactive dialogues will in help designing policies to uphold the rights of citizens in regard to land ownership.

Monitor the Land policy and related legislations. Organizations especially those dealing in land and human rights should focus on monitoring progress of the implementation of the national land policy and also make periodic reports.

  1. Conclusion

There are existing policies and legal frameworks in place that protect ownership of land in Uganda however citizens still lack knowledge on these policies and their rights in regard to land. Therefore there is need for sensitization on land policies to help citizens understand their rights. More should also be done to ensure that there is effective implementation of the existing laws to improve land tenure security to reduce land conflicts in the country.

By Rachael Damba

[1]Food Security and Land Governance Factsheet Uganda 

http://www.landgovernance.org/assets/20160627-Factsheet-Uganda.pdf

[2] The Uganda National Land Policy (2013)

[3] The challenges and opportunities of Uganda’s land tenure systems by EPRC 10th May 2016.

[4] NLP Implementation in Favour of Women’s Land Rights by Judy Adoko of LEMU October 2017

[5] A study on land grabbing cases in Uganda.

https;//reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/Full_Report_3823.pdf    

[6] CEDO land rights issue brief latest version May 2016

[7] Improving land Administration for good governance by Betty Amongi 2017

[8]Draft Resettlement Policy Framework (RPF). Regional Operation on Development Response to Displacement Impacts Project (DRDIP) in the Horn of Africa DRDIP-Uganda Project.

Value – Harnessing the Power of Your Smart Phone

Telling your Story Vs Sharing your Experiences

Smart phones are things we all want and when we have, we take for granted, using not even a third of their amazing functions and available apps. We must appreciate that this small gadget is increasingly becoming versatile, like, if not more than, the famous swiss army knives – has everything you may need to survive the wilderness that is the online social arena.

It is one thing to be able to use your phone to take pictures and videos and share them to social sites, and another thing altogether to harness all the fantastic features and functions on your smart phone to clearly articulate your thoughts, feelings, ideas, and share your stories.

This is something we all fall victim to, but in my opinion more so for development workers who have to document work while in the field and are often hampered by the traditional bulky media documentation equipment. These days, information is about the fastest and clearest getting to the audience in the most user friendly of formats, and sadly, this requires the correct use of a smart phone.

For NGOs that have only recently started embracing intentional communications in delivering their mandate and building new constituencies online, it is important to not only have a smart phone, but also know how to maximize its functions and features and online apps, free or paid, to get the best out of this costly investment. Smart phones are for more than just social media and WhatsApp.

UNNGOF staff recently proved this true – your smart phone can be the difference between you beating a documentation deadline or even just touching the hearts of those you represent and winning support to your cause, and failing to meet your reporting obligations.

With the help of Alzar Media, a fully integrated media production and digital marketing firm based in Kampala, UNNGOF staff took out two days from their busy schedule to learn how to tell our stories audio-visually. What is audio visual story telling? Well, let’s just say we learned amazing video and photography techniques using our smartphone gadgets, and writing skills, focusing on proper story boarding! Call it digital story telling if you like.

The Alzar team – warm…fun…friendly…dedicated…gifted…flexible…professional… Let’s just say it was a pleasure to work with a team that is more interested in delivering value and sharing their craft than with making money.

In our sector, we continually meet firms who only view NGOs as cash cows. In engaging with them, it is clear to us that the bottom line, and not the value addition is the driving factor. Many prey on our supposed ignorance and rumored huge budget lines to offer us services. Pleasantly, this was not the case with Alzar Media. Thanks to them, we as a team are able to not only identify, but also demand for quality service and delivery with competence, in regards to documentation, digital products and more. More importantly, we are better able to tell our stories using just our smart phones and available software. We certainly fulfilled our objectives building the capacity of staff to capture great videos and photos using their mobile phones; enhancing staff capacity to ‘tell our story’ effectively through writing great stories; and improving staff documentation and report writing skills.

This hands-on interaction saw the areas of writing, photography and videography with smart phones simplified. Aspects of photography like lighting, framing, storytelling, angles and such, were simplified and properly understood by staff. In our writing session, we were advised that the best way to write better is to read three times more than you write. We even had a bonus session on branding and how to build our online personas! And so much more.

Oh, and we must mention the amazing yet simple to use software we were introduced to – Snapseed for editing pictures on smart phones that avails you with professional quality photo edits, enabling you to enhance photos and apply digital filters, available for both android and iOS. Snapseed.online rightly brags that “Snapseed without any doubt is one of the very best Photo Editing Application out there…the SNAPSEED app lets you achieve all the features and quality editing you would find and expect in a professional picture editing software. Butwithout the extra complexities…being the perfect easy photo editing app to come out with professional photos and pictures.”

And Wondershare Filmora for our laptops, a simple video editor that empowers your stories. Filmora, as we learned, is an all-in-one video editor with powerful functionality and a fully stacked feature set.

FileHippo.com says it right – “It makes professional video editing easy with an intuitive interface, drag and drop editing, and a great range of advanced video editing features. Filmora provides a bunch of creative features you can use to make your videos stand out. Transform your video with a range of filters add graphic overlays, text and titles. You can also drag and drop moving elements onto your video.” Believe it, we proved it true.

Audio visual story telling by Alzar Media is definitely a training we would confidently recommend to any organisations out there that are passionate about improving their documentation and telling their story.

The plus of it is that the training also fosters a kind of natural team build since staff work in teams different from their usual operational ones. It involves the use of personal mobile phones and therefore you offer your staff skills that they can apply to their everyday lives beyond just their jobs. Photos and pictures are a very important part of our lives and allow us to cherish bits of our past lives and memories. Being able to keep the best quality of these is an obvious bonus, especially if you are equipped with simple skills to be able to ensure this quality easily, by yourself and at no extra cost.

Value – that which makes everything all the more enjoyable!

By Sarah Pacutho

Parliament Applauds Civil Society for a Well Thought-Out Electoral Reform Proposals

In the early hours of 11th September 2019, Civil Society Organizations in Uganda, led by the Uganda National NGO Forum (UNNGOF) and the Citizens’ Coalition for Electoral Democracy (CCEDU) appeared before the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of Parliament to present their proposals and analysis of Election Related Bills tabled by the Attorney General on the 26th July 2019.

This follows a series of activities, including; a Comprehensive Analysis of the Five (5) Bills before parliament, Nationwide Stakeholder Consultations on the Bills and a review of various stakeholder proposals including the Supreme Court Recommendations in Presidential Election Petition No. 1 of 2016; the Domestic and International Election Observers’ Reports; the Citizens’ Compact for Free and Fair Elections; the Citizens’ Electoral Reform Agenda; Private and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.

Before Parliament, CSO Representatives foregrounded the fact that their proposals are related and informed by what civil society have championed for a long time in the crusade for Free and Fair Elections and continue to do so in the quest for a positive democratic path for Uganda.

It is imperative to recall that, since the promulgation of its Constitution on October 8, 1995, Uganda has held five successive national elections (1996, 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016) within the set Constitutional timeframes. However, since 2001, general elections in Uganda have ended in controversy. The 2001, 2006 and 2016 Presidential elections culminated in Court disputes while in 2011, the election ended in public demonstrations (walk-to-work protests). Through the three (3) Presidential petitions of 2001, 2006, and 2016, and numerous Parliamentary petitions, Courts have consistently held that our elections fall short of set out standards in the Constitution. Concerns about Government’s commitment towards a transparent and accountable electoral framework persist, owing to the lukewarm response to calls from election observers, political organizations, civil society organizations, and other independent observers.

It is against this background that civil society actors believe that without meaningful reforms, it would be meaningless for Ugandan’s to participate in the 2021 General Elections. As such, while the civil society believes that the five (5) electoral reform Bills are a step in the right direction, deeper analysis reveals that they do not suggest any significant shift from the status quo and cannot guarantee that Uganda will attain free and fair elections in their current form. This calls for parliament to look beyond the Bills and inquire into all stakeholders’ recommendations.

On their part, the Members of Parliament on the committee welcomed civil society recommendations and applauded the team for an excellent analysis of the Bills conducted. “This is by far the most comprehensive and professionally done analysis of the Bills that has been shared with the committee so far and we thank you – Civil Society for this.” Hon. Abdul Kantuntu, Member of the Committee. The chairperson of the committee also applauded the CSOs for presenting very comprehensive and well ‘thought-out’ proposals and promised to debate and consider every single proposal on its merits.

This intervention is part of the continued civil society advocacy campaign for a credible election management system undergirded by an impartial and independent Electoral Commission, a Credible Voters’ Register, reduction of the use of money in elections, prohibition of use of public resources for private political gain, regulating the role of the army and other public officers in partisan political activities, and the entrenchment of the principal of separation of powers, among others. CSO leaders promised to continue these efforts by mobilizing and organizing Ugandans to demand of their representatives to enact meaningful reforms and implored parliament to enact laws that promote constitutional governance in Uganda and guarantee free, fair and credible elections.

For more on this, please visit the links below:

Message to the Public on Electoral Reforms

CSO Analysis on Electoral Reform Bill

Citizen Memorandum to MPs

Story By Chris Nkwatsibwe

From 4 to 14 – New Regional Hubs to Deliver UNNGOF Programmes

Growth is inevitable. It is also a sure sign of the healthiness of any entity.

After a comprehensive organization assessment of UNNGOF in 2018 highlighting the Institutional strengths and gaps for an effective platform, a 3 year partnership was signed with DGF, CSO Resilience, Health, and Healing. Back to the basics and connecting with Citizens. Key among its undertakings was the comprehensive organization assessment for the 35 district networks which took place between 2nd -10th September 2019.

As a key outcome of this process, 14 Regional Advocacy hubs were identified and will work as special purpose vehicles to support and coordinate all sub-national engagements. A feedback meeting for all 35 partners of SPAN was organized on 18th October 2019 at Esella Hotel for a total of 74 participants, each District Network represented by a Coordinator and a Chairperson of the Board. The meeting not only provided an opportunity to share findings of the assessment and announce and orient the 14 new Regional Hubs, but was also an opportunity for capacity building sessions where topics like QuAM, financial systems, communication were covered.

Mr. Richard Ssewakiryanga, Executive Director UNNGOF, announced that the new regional hubs model would enhance UNNGOF’s ability to effectively coordinate CSOs at sub national level but also would facilitate the regional advocacy agenda. The hubs will continue working with other existing district networks.

The 14 new regional Hubs include;

Gulu NGO Forum – Acholi region

Lira NGO Forum – Lango region

Arua District NGO Network – West Nile region

Pallisa CSO Network – Bukedi region

Kanungu NGOs/CBOs Forum – Kigezi region

Kiboga NGO Forum – Buganda region

Namutumba NGO Forum – Busoga region

Kabarole NGO/CBO Association – Toro region

Kitara CSO Network – Bunyoro region

RIAM RIAM CSO Network – Karamoja region

Kapchorwa CSO Alliance – Sebei region

Amuria CSO Network – Teso region

Ankole and Bugisu region identification of hubs was deferred to a later date

Background

Over the years, UNNGOF has invested in building a sub national CSO infrastructure. In 2006-2011, the National District Networks Support Programme (NDNSP) was implemented, giving birth to 25 District Networks across the country. Having built strong district networks over 5 years, the programme rolled over into Support Programme for Advocacy Networks (SPAN) with 35 District Networks (DNs). These 35 DNs, under the leadership of 4 Regional Hubs, were to work as green houses for local democracy and interlocutors between citizens and the local governments and central government.

The networks have remained central in mobilizing and sensitizing citizens on their roles and responsibilities in nation building; social and political accountability have been strengthened through the district networks. However a number of challenges, including the dwindling finances to sub national partners and poor governance have largely affected the operations and relevance of district networks.

The 35 District Networks of SPAN are:

Kiboga NGO Forum, Kalangala District NGO Forum, Luweero District NGO Forum, Namutumba NGO Forum, Kibaale CSO Network, Bugiri NGO Forum, Mukono NGO Forum and Kamuli NGO Forum. Tororo Civil Society Network, Kapchorwa CSO Alliance, Pallisa CSO Network, Bugisu CSO Network, Kumi Network of Development Organizations, Riam Riam CSO Network, Sironko NGO Forum and Kotido NGO Forum. Lira NGO Forum, Kaberamaido District Network, Nebbi District NGO Forum, Pader NGO Forum, Katakwi District Development Actors Network, Kitgum NGO Forum, Moyo District NGO Forum, Kitgum NGO Form, Amuria CSO Network and Arua NGO Forum. Western Ankole Civil society Forum, Kisoro NGO Forum, Kamwenge District Indigenous Voluntary Development Organisation (KADIVDO), Kamwenge District Voluntary Development Organizations Network, Kanungu NGO/CBO Forum, Kabarole NGO/CBO Association, Kyenjojo NGO Forum, Mbarara NGO Forum, Kasese District Development Network.

By Robert Ninyesiga

Uganda launches the Refugee Response Plan 2019/2020

 “Every NGO implementing humanitarian work in the settlements must factor environmental protection in your interventions”,

Hon Musa Ecweru delivering a presidential directive

On 28th May 2019, over 200 humanitarian actors including government officials, development partners, UN agencies, various Diplomats, non-government organization, refugees gathered at the Office of the Prime Minister Conference Hall to witness the first ever formal launch of the Refugee Response Plan 2019/20 under the auspices of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) together with OPM.

“I want to thank the commendable efforts by donors in supporting the Humanitarian Development nexus in Uganda and issue a call to all Member States of the United Nations, to the leaders of Industry and other Private Sector leaders to invest in both the Comprehensive Refugee Response as well as the local development plans. It is unacceptable that the CRRF in Uganda is still severely underfunded” Ms. Rosa Malango UN Resident Coordinator

The Refugee Response Plan 2019/20 comes at a time when Uganda is constrained by the refugee influx with limited resources to handle the situation. In 2018, only 57% of the RRP budget was funded, leaving most of the needs unmet. The contributions in 2019 have been particularly slow in coming, with less than 20% of the needed funds received. “Humanitarian funding needs to increase and must be sustained, as long as refugees continue to flee to Uganda and require special protection” Joel Boutroué, UNHCR Representative in Uganda.

The launch of the RRP as a coordination and fundraising tool attracted a reflection on how resources meant for humanitarian aid have been mishandled by different actors; as such various development partners emphasized putting accountability and transparency systems in place to be able to regain the trust.

The U.S. approach is two-fold.  On one hand, we will continue to demand transparency and accountability from the Government of Uganda and institutions receiving funds on the part of United States taxpayers.  At the same time, it is our duty to find ways to continue financing life-saving, emergency assistance for refugees.  Our demand for accountability is unwavering” Deputy Chief of Mission Colette Marcellin, US Embassy 

During the launch, Hon. Musa Ecweru reiterated on the relevance of all humanitarian actors placing more emphasis on the misuse of funds through administrative costs most especially by expatriates who are extra ordinarily facilitated due to the nature of their jobs. He added that as the solution to that, the government is headed for a process of reviewing all expatriates’ profession documents to ensure that those who don’t qualify are repatriated and replaced with cost effective local labour.

I am yet to commission a process of reviewing all expatriates’ CVs  to ensure that some of the jobs in these international organizations are open for Ugandans who are competent; rather than having expatriates doing ordinary jobs” Hon Musa Ecweru.

He further passed the presidential directive to all humanitarian actors operating in settlements to mainstream the component of environment protection in their interventions due to the overwhelmingly absurd environmental degradation in and around the settlements; and hosting communities.

The Minister for Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Hon. Eng. Hilary Onek further added that refugee problems are international problems and not Uganda’s problems hence calling upon all actors and development partners to be mindful of that; and donate as much as they can. “We have some donors who continue putting more resources towards the humanitarian response and little towards resilience and activities urgently needed to restore the environment and promote self-reliance when we know that the average time of displacement goes beyond years” Ms. Rosa Malango UN Resident Coordinator

In a nutshell, the launch of the Refugee Response Plan 2019/20 revolves around resource mobilization/fundraising as one of the constraints faced by the government of Uganda that is hosting over 1.3 million refugees amidst its own economic mishaps. It also focused on raising awareness on the joint plan priorities and emphasizing coordination as a tool that would bring an end to duplication of work and minimize resource wastage.

Story by Clare Kyasiimire

Consolidated Efforts Need “the will” – African Regional Conference on Localisation of Aid

In the recent past, there has been growing recognition for the need to empower local communities and organizations to effectively respond to humanitarian needs. Nevertheless, significant portions of humanitarian financing remains channeled to International NGOs leaving local communities and organizations inadequately funded. Despite commitments to reinforce local and national capacities, data reported to UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial   Tracking Service shows that only 2% of international humanitarian assistance in 2016 went directly to local and national responders, and national and local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) received just 0.3% directly (Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2017 Page 9). 

At the World Humanitarian Summit, held in May 2016 UN Secretary General laid out his vision in his report One Humanity: Shared Responsibility and its annex, the Agenda for Humanity and called upon the international community to put local response at the heart of humanitarian efforts. The summit also triggered Charter for Change that sets a specific target of 20% of humanitarian funding to be passed to southern-based NGOs by May 2018. The Grand Bargain (GB), another major outcome of the summit, seeks to make emergency aid finance more efficient and effective, committing to “a global, aggregated target of at Least 25% of humanitarian funding to local and national responders as directly as possible” and principled humanitarian action as local as possible and as international as necessary.

Since 2016, significant efforts have been undertaken at the international, national and local level by the Grand Bargain signatories to achieve the goal of providing more support and funding tools for local and national responders (Workstream 2) to realise the Grand Bargain commitments, however this seems to have fallen on unprepared ground hence taking long to germinate most especially by local actors. 

As such; as co-conveners of the localization workstream (a network of major donors, UN agencies, international non-governmental organizations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement), on 15-16 July 2019, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Government of Switzerland convened over 100 delegates from all over Africa to discuss on how the already existing efforts can be harmonized to bring about more significant changes at system, strategic and operational levels.

Addressing the participants, the Head of the AU’s Division on Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees and Displaced Persons, in the department of Political Affairs, Amb. Olabisi Dare highlighted that, localization of aid should aim at increasing the quantum of funding that reaches national actors including Community actors; and more importantly enhance the capacity development of the national and Community actors to effectively govern overall humanitarian assistance.

Eve Amez-Droz, Deputy Head of International Cooperation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Ethiopia, said: “A localised approach to aid has many benefits. It improves local ownership and awareness of aid, promotes its relevance, and allows for a more inclusive response, integrating the participation of affected people.”

Among the agreed on key priorities to accelerate the localization agenda in Africa included greater and meaningful representation of local actors in humanitarian decision making bodies, more investment in local institutional capacities to ensure systems, mechanisms and necessary policies are in place to harness accountability and transparency; and more targeted humanitarian support for women-led organizations to address issues pertaining women holistically such as women leadership, economic empowerment and norm changes due to changes in contexts. They also highlighted the need for governments to support the development of their own civil society responders; to develop domestic laws and policies to facilitate and regulate international response; and to seize the opportunity of the African Union’s new Humanitarian Agency, which will soon be established.

By Clare Kyasiimire

THE HUMANITARIAN PLATFORM STRATEGIC PLANNING RETREAT

THE HUMANITARIAN PLATFORM STRATEGIC PLANNING RETREAT

Botanical Beach Hotel, Entebbe

4th -7th March 2019

Draft report

Background

Fifty National, Local and International Organizations in Uganda representing various civil society institutions, met at Bomah Hotel in Gulu District on 7th – 8th June 2017, to discuss issues and concerns relating to the role of Local and National CSOs in the refugee response. It is in this meeting that that the Humanitarian Platform was established.

 On 7th march 2018 the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organizations was launched with a vision to see strong local and national organizations that are well coordinated, informed and have the ability to influence the humanitarian agenda. However, this vision cannot be realized until local and national organizations have the requisite capacities to effectively prepare, respond and engage in the humanitarian system.

One year down the road, it is very pertinent to highlight what the journey has been and reflect on what led to successes but also the failures so that clear key lessons are carried forward. In that light, the Humanitarian Platform organized the strategic planning retreat 4th-7th March 2019, to stimulate discussions, debate and agree on the strategic focus of the Humanitarian Platform. This brought together 16 members representing carious humanitarian organizations and Office of the Prime Minister.

Taking stock and Reflecting

The context

Since the inception of the Platform, what has been the change in the external environment; and what has been the relevance of the Platform in the changing context.

1. The refugee population has reduced. Towards end of 2017, the total population of refugees and asylum-seekers in Uganda was 1,395,000 people, with 986,600 people from South Sudan, some 236,400 from the DRC, and some 39,700 from Burundi. Currently according to the 2019 January UNHCR report the number stands at 1,205,913.

2. Coordination has been strengthened. Since the inception of the Humanitarian Platform, there has been an effort to bring together humanitarian actors together and to influence the humanitarian agenda collectively. Maximizing on the comparative advantage of members to engage meaningfully.

3. Partnership and Engagement spaces availed to local actors. Since 2016, UNHCR has actively made an effort to meet the 25% Grand Bargain commitment and piloted approaches to achieving this  for example, they initiated Partner-Equip-Coach Approach (PECA) – twinning INGOs with Local NGOs as a requirement for funding, the Humanitarian Platform was embraced by the INGO Directors Coordination Group , the Platform has presence at CRRF Steering Group and several other entities like the Office of the Prime Minister, Local Government,  continue to express interest to partner and support local humanitarian actors.

4. The funding has shrunk; Uganda is known to have one of the most progressive refugee policy yet again Uganda is one of the worst funded refugee hosting countries despite being third in ranking as a country hosting refugees globally. The country’s funding gap was at 85% and by November 2018 it was at 41% (Refugee Response Plan requirements 869,671,414(US $) – Funding received 352,307,881 (US $)) according to UNHCR.

5. The capacity among local and national actors has improved. Some local organizations have gained the trust from donors and can be entrusted with relatively bigger funds for example some local organizations from West Nile are receiving funds directly after putting in place systems with required and recognized  standards.

6. Shift in focus from refugee response to addressing humanitarian issues holistically. Currently the humanitarian system covers Internally Displaced Persons and disasters. In addition, there has been an effort to shift from humanitarian response exclusively to focus on recovery and development too.

Internal Reflection

Looking back at the one year the Humanitarian Platform has existed, what hasn’t worked, why hasn’t it worked and what should be done to address the existing gaps.

1. Identity. There has been an issue of identity of the Platform; who are the members, what are their specialties, what sectors do they belong to, what is the Platform agenda, where does it draw the mandate from. These kinds of questions came as a result of lack of clarity among members and other actors engaging with the Platform. As a result even members were hesitant to identify themselves with the Platform in different spaces.

  • As the way forward, members suggested the need to review the registration criteria. To introduce certificates with a reasonably minimum price to ensure members have something to show as members of the Platform but also to have a clear Platform agenda by the end of the retreat an outcome.
  • The Platform to be proactive and work on their visibility through involving media in their engagements and taking advantage of big events to make presence and participate meaningfully

2. High expectations. From the inception of the Platform, members realized that this was long overdue and recognized that INGOs and other humanitarian agencies were thriving because of their coordinated and organized systems. This created the thirst to see local actors doing the same without considering the process. Secondly, other members expected grants extended to them through the Platform which has not happened unfortunately; and as result many have pulled out

  • One of the reasons why this keeps happening is the fact as a loose coalition, members are free to enter and exit at no cost. Members suggested a token membership by subscribing a fee to become a registered member. As such members will attach value to the Platform and also develop ownership and will to see it grow

3. Representation. The concern around the representation on the Steering Committee was among the issues discussed.  Representation in terms of the committee composition and in terms of reflecting the Platform agenda in the individual organizational engagements in various spaces.

  • As the way forward there is need to revamp the regional Platforms and have them represented on the Steering Committee.
  • The need to develop a joint activity calendar on the aspects to be delivered on jointly, for example the big events at national and international levels such as the UN General Assembly, the World Refugee Day, International Day for Disaster Reduction among others.

4. Funding. Humanitarian action is a costly venture that calls for concerted efforts that draw on national and global resources. As such, local and national organizations face difficulties in finding appropriate and sustainable funding for humanitarian interventions. It was also noted that the 25% funding Grand bargain commitment is coming to an end in 2020. Therefore there is need for the local humanitarian actors to think beyond and sustainably.

  • One of the solutions is for the Local and National Organisations to raise the issue of commitment to donors in Uganda to take action through advocacy
  • Secondly is for Local and National Organisations to start figuring out how to survive with the available funds and consider the aspect of sustainability in various contexts

5. Transparency. There is been an issue of transparency and loss of trust amongst the humanitarian local NGOs as a result of unhealthy competition due to  shrinking funds ; but also the rise in corruption cases in the sector

  • According to members this calls for proper and recognized systems in place that match up to the donor requirements; the need for self regulation through the Quality Assurance Mechanism (QuAM) and ensuring.

6. Capacity. The question of capacity will keep coming up if there is no definition of what exactly we mean by capacity as local humanitarian actors ; capacity compared to what. As such we would still considered to have low capacity by the international community.

  • There is need for the local and national humanitarian actors to build consensus on what capacity we mean and as such it is easier to address it uniformly.

7. Legal Framework. Part of the unanswered questions is the issue about where the Platform draws its mandate and its sustainability plan in the operation environment; when does it stop being a loose coalition.

  • It was noted that this concern be taken forward by the Steering Committee; have a discussion with the Uganda NGO Bureau on the way forward

8. Membership criteria. The issue of membership still lacks clarity to many; what does it take to become a member of the Platform, who are the humanitarian actors, what is humanitarian action, how and where do other sectors like the Private Sector, Academia, INGOs, Government entities see themselves in the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations . As such other organizations would understand whether they can be part of the Platform.

  • Needs redefining the linkages

9. Relationship with the Government. It is known that the Government through the Office of the Prime Minister coordinates humanitarian response at national level; therefore a conversation about humanitarian interventions or localization agenda without the arm and full support of the Government is likely hit the dead end. The Humanitarian Platform has been embraced by the Government and established working relations which justifies the Platform’s presence on the CRRF Steering Group. However, the link between the two is not clearly defined most especially on the contribution of the Platform into Government humanitarian response structures.

  • Need to be redefined by the Platform Steering Committee

10. Refugee programming still driven by donors. This has been noted as a result of lack of confidence in the local actors capacity, both technical and operational capacity. In terms of having proper and recognized systems in place.

  • This is a call for Local and national humanitarian actors to work on our leadership and governance structures to ensure that we have clear systems and policies that guide our operations and programming. This might entail reflecting on the national and international requirements and standards within our institutions, so that we become more legitimate and credible

African Regional Conference on Localisation Aid: Concerted Consolidated efforts needed

African Regional Conference on Localisation Aid: Concerted Consolidated efforts needed 

“The will”

Photo 5.jpeg

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 15&16 July 2019

In the recent past, there has been growing recognition for the need to empower local communities and organizations to effectively respond to humanitarian needs. Nevertheless, significant portions of humanitarian financing remains channeled to International NGOs leaving local communities and organizations inadequately funded. Despite commitments to reinforce local and national capacities, data reported to UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Financial   Tracking Service shows that only 2% of international humanitarian assistance in 2016 went directly to local 

Is more money being channelled directly to local actors or is localisation a new convenient funding window benefiting mainly INGOs? Participant

50% of the 25% channelled to local actors should go to women led organisations. Women are requesting for 50/50 participation and benefit. Conference Participant

and national responders, and national and local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) received just 0.3% directly.

At the World Humanitarian Summit, held in May 2016 UN Secretary General laid out his vision in his report One Humanity: Shared Responsibility and its annex, the Agenda for Humanity and called upon the international community to put local response at the heart of humanitarian efforts. The summit also triggered Charter for Change that sets a specific target of 20% of humanitarian funding to be passed to southern-based NGOs by May 2018. The Grand Bargain (GB), another major outcome of the summit, seeks to make emergency aid finance more efficient and effective, committing to “a global, aggregated target of at Least 25% of humanitarian funding to local and national responders as directly as possible” and principled humanitarian action as local as possible and as international as necessary. 

How do we manage the challenge of perceived competition, political huddles or scramble for resources at national level? These are realities on the ground. Participant

 Since 2016, significant efforts have been undertaken at the international, national and local level by the Grand Bargain signatories to achieve the goal of providing more support and funding tools for local and national responders (Workstream 2) to realise the Grand Bargain commitments, however this seems to have fallen on unprepared ground hence taking long to germinate most especially by local actors.

As such; as co-conveners of the localization workstream (a network of major donors, UN agencies, international non-governmental organizations and the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement), on 15-16 July 2019, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and the Government of Switzerland convened over 100 delegates from all over Africa to discuss on how the already existing efforts can be harmonized to bring about more significant changes at system, strategic and operational levels. 

Addressing the participants, the Head of the AU’s Division on Humanitarian Affairs, Refugees and Displaced Persons, in the department of Political Affairs, Amb. Olabisi Dare highlighted that, localization of aid should aim at increasing the quantum of funding that reaches national actors including Community actors; and more importantly enhance the capacity development of the national and Community actors to effectively govern overall humanitarian assistance. 

How do we ensure accountability of donors to commitments? How do we hold them accountable? Conference participant

Eve Amez-Droz, Deputy Head of International Cooperation, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation in Ethiopia, said: “A localised approach to aid has many benefits. It improves local ownership and awareness of aid, promotes its relevance, and allows for a more inclusive response, integrating the participation of affected people.” 

What are the implications on the Humanitarian Principles of achieving a spirited localisation agenda? Participant

Photo 2.jpeg

Among the agreed on key priorities to accelerate the localization agenda in Africa included greater and meaningful representation of local actors in humanitarian decision making bodies, more investment in local institutional capacities to ensure systems, mechanisms and necessary policies are in place to harness accountability and transparency; and more targeted humanitarian support for women-led organizations to address issues pertaining women holistically such as women leadership, economic empowerment and norm changes due to changes in contexts. They also highlighted the need for governments to support the development of their own civil society responders; to develop domestic laws and policies to facilitate and regulate international response; and to seize the opportunity of the African Union’s new Humanitarian Agency which will soon be established.

By Clare Kyasiimire

Focal Person, Humanitarian Platform

The Humanitarian Platform participates in the Livingstone Formula on “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020” Forum:

The Humanitarian Platform participates in the Livingstone Formula on “Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020” Forum: Tracking Progress on the Implementation of Lusaka 2016 Master Roadmap

“All African states must sign, ratify and fully domesticate all AU instruments relating to the promotion of peace, justice, governance and development”

The Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the African Union (ECOSOCC) through its Peace and Security Cluster organized a Civil Society Forum from 11-13 September 2019 at the Mombasa Continental Resort in Mombasa, Kenya to track progress on the implementation of the Lusaka 2016 roadmap for silencing the guns in Africa by 2020. This brought together fifty-five (55) Participants from twenty-one (21) different countries made up of: -ECOSOCC CSOs, Peace and Security Cluster members, Experts from the Diaspora and the Wider Civil Society, Representatives of Regional Economic Communities (RECS) and Representative from Peace and Security Department (PSD). 

The main purpose of the 2019 Livingstone Formula Consultative Meeting was to assess progress and identify challenges to the implementation of the 2016 Master Roadmap on Practical Steps and Modalities for Mobilizing Actions for Silencing the Guns in Africa by 2020. The meeting particularly focused on tracking progress and challenges to the implementation of peace, security and stability related tasks which were assigned to ECOSOCC/CSO in the roadmap.

Among the things that were line up for discussion was the adoption of the 2019/20 Work plan of the ECOSOCC Peace and Security Cluster, Perspectives on the effectiveness of the Livingstone Formula- PSC-CSOS dialogue and engagement in the promotion of peace and security in the continent and it emerged that the AU definition and use of the concept of Peace and Security is very state centric, and justice is ignored;  but also the role and contribution of Civil Society to Peace and Security in Africa is not systematically documented or highlighted.

Members suggested that ECOSOCC Peace and Security (P/S) clusters should (in addition to the submissions by the Presiding officer) prepare a briefing to the PSC on the normative framing of peace – as peace, JUSTICE and security – to better capture the accountability aspects and push out the “impunity” concept that is inherent in the current “Peace & Security” normative framework of the African Union.   ECOSOCC to commission a study to document the Role/Contribution of CSOs to peace and security which would also be a landmark contribution to showcase the contributions made by youth, women, and religious communities towards standard treatment guidelines (STGs) on the continent. A similar study is being done on Youth Contribution to peace on the continent which will go a long way to be presented to the Peace and Security Cluster in November, 2019. 

Other issues that emerged were that Conversations are only focusing on the demand side of weapons and not on the supply side realizing the need to bring a balance in this conversation and discuss it on both the demand and supply angles. That the Disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) and security sector reform (SSR) processes are overly militarized, and fixated on the role of formal, security forces at the expense of other actors in the Security sector for example Women and youth have a very important role to play in conflict situations so their roles should not be underestimated. Members therefore suggested that the ECOSOCC Peace & Security Cluster should also emphasize the importance of the non-military aspects of DDR and SSR (justice, police and prison workers) and Civil Society (youth, women, academia, religious leaders, etc.) and legislators who are then at the end of the day should rehabilitate former combatants, as well as provide oversight roles to military spending. The Justice and police sectors cannot be left aside.

At the end of the 3-day consultative meeting, participants adopted the ECOSOCC Peace and Security Cluster Work plan for 2019/20 and agreed on relevant inputs and suggestions from CSOs for the consideration of the AU PSC Secretariat in the process of drafting and finalization of the Annual report of the Peace & Security Cluster on the state of peace and security in Africa to be presented to the Assembly of Heads of States during the 2020 Summit.

By Clare Kyasiimire

Focal Person, Humanitarian Platform Secretariat