Tribute to Ms. Ritah Nansereko

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to dieThomas Campbell

Please join us to mourn the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Ms Ritah Nansereko, who was a dedicated and passionate member of Uganda’s Civil Society fraternity.

An accomplished Human Rights advocate, Ritah was the Executive Director of African Women and Youth Action for Development (AWYAD) and Co-chair for Charter for Change. She served diligently as a proactive member of our Steering Committee at the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Humanitarian Actors in Uganda. Ritah was a strong policy advocate in the Humanitarian Sector who championed the Localisation agenda and the rights of refugees.

More than a simple risk-taker, Ritah was generous, compassionate and always ready to share a light moment. She never missed an opportunity to inspire everyone around her.

Our hearts and prayers are always with her family.

Rest in Peace, Ritah. Your life was a blessing, your memory is a treasure.

Local Humanitarian Actors urge Government to prioritize the Rights of Refugees

Local Humanitarian Actors urge Government to prioritize the Rights of Refugees

Today, Uganda is hosting more than 1.4 million refugees in various parts of the country, and the majority being hosted in the country’s poorest region. Uganda has been a haven for the refugees fleeing from DRC and South Sudan, even in the midst of a global crisis like COVID-19, the country has found ways to manage border restrictions in a manner which respects international human rights and refugee protection standards. The country has been praised for having one of the most progressive and generous refugee laws and policy regimes in the world. However, the impact of COVID 19 has had devastating impact on the lives of very many people especially vulnerable groups like the refugees and their hosts. Refugees and their hosts are experiencing a drastic reduction in accessing the most essential services like health, education and provision of food, amid reduced aid for humanitarian work. This has immeasurably impacted on their ability to enjoy the fundamental rights like the right to adequate food, the right to education and the right to health among others.

While humanitarian needs in Uganda are escalating, resources are increasingly over stretched, leaving the most vulnerable individuals (women and children) without the support that they so desperately need. In the previously conducted inter-ministerial dialogue on Uganda’s humanitarian crisis and the role of local actors, it was pointed out clearly that refugee response in Uganda need more consorted efforts by local, national and International actors.

It’s against this background that AWYAD and OXFAM, in collaboration with the Office of the Prime Minister, have organized a national dialogue, geared towards forging ways of enhancing the rights of refugees and their hosts during and after the pandemic. The dialogue galvanized support from donors, and other stakeholders to increase resources for refugees work in Uganda. The meeting was graced by over 50 humanitarian actors drawn from the Office of the Prime minister, Members of Parliament, District LCV Chairpersons, CSOs, Refugee representatives and media.

The dialogue commenced with presentations on 1). Refugees food security Implications and analysis in the COVID 10 era. 2). The right to education for refugees. Speaking on behalf of the education consortium, Ms. Clare Wanula from AYWAD emphasized the devastating impact COVID 19 had had on the right to quality education, especially among vulnerable refugees and host children. “It’s a double tragedy as the effects have further exacerbated the pre-existing gender inequalities and vulnerabilities especially among refugee girls and children with disabilities, due to unprecedented disruptions to learning.” While education remains the source of hope among the refugees and host children, the learning crisis could kill the current generation if not given the due attention as the current pandemic had broadened the divide between the right to quality education and access especially in areas with limited access to internet, no electricity, low access to radios, and online learning.

The commissioner highlighted some of the Many global conferences that have been held on the plight of refugees in many places such as- Accra, Rome, Istanbul etc. Specifically, the grand bargain presents opportunities through country commitments that Uganda should fast track so as to deepen the localization agenda.

The Ass. Commissioner further noted the selective application of standards for refugees in Uganda i.e. besides food provision, no resource is given to aid preparation in terms of gas or clean energy sources of fire. The end result is deforestation and a risk for global warming effects to prevail. In a nutshell, called for aggressive lobby and advocacy to ensure global commitments are met.

Hon. Jennifer Namuyangu, State Minister for local government co-chair CRRF in her remarks appreciated the establishment of a more predictable and comprehensive refugee response framework and Uganda’s openness to host refugees as they come. She noted the drastic reduction in humanitarian funding and called on the international community to live up to its global commitments as enshrined in the Grand Bargain, the only way to deepen the localization agenda.

World Humanitarian Day 2020 in Uganda

In Uganda, in a move to promote localization, the Charter for Change working group conducted a series of interrelated activities in what is popularly known as the “Humanitarian Week. This was to majorly amplify the discussion on localization into the public domain and bring to the attention of INGOs, UN Agencies and Donors in Uganda as to why localization is important for all those involved in Humanitarian Action. The climax of these weeklong activities was localization dialogues by different members of the Charter 4 Change Working Group Word Humanitarian Day.   As part of the C4C Uganda, the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations in Uganda supported other platforms to hold the same discussion at the subnational level while the National Humanitarian Platform also participated in a radio talk-show that explained what localization is and what the reality is in the case of Uganda.

COVID-19 Response in Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement

Uganda is currently home to more than 1,310,000 refugees, of whom approximately 835,000 come from South Sudan, 365,000 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the remainder from other countries. The Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement divided into six zones between of  Ocea, Siripi, Eden, Tika, Odubu, and Ofua hosts an estimated population of 86,975 as of June 2017 statistics representing 22,983 households with 17% of this population representing the host community. 80.6% South Sudanese, 17.7% Ugandan citizens, and 1.7% other nationalities

With the prevalence of Covid-19 pandemic around the world, it is no doubt that such areas as refugee camps and settlements are high risk areas. In response to the situation refugee led organisations have come together to ensure that the community takes full preventive measures in accordance to the Ministry of Health guidelines. This has been done through the 3 months Refugee Emergency Response on COVID-19 Project by the Youth Social Advocacy Team (YSAT).

The 3 months’ project is aimed at enhancing Risk Communication, Community Engagement & Infection prevention and control in combating COVID-19 by addressing KNOWLEDGE, ATTITUDE and PRACTICE of refugees and host communities as they respond to the pandemic. Some of the activities so far done is conducting road drive public system communication to sensitise communities about Covid-19, Installation of 90 Handwashing stations in communal centers in Rhino Camp, Provision of Airtime credit to refugees leaders to be able to communicate any emergencies, Distribution of soap through door to door using Village Health Teams and disseminating translated IEC materials languages used in the Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement.

John Jal Dak

Youth Social Advocacy Team (YSAT) 

COVID-19 Response in Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement

Uganda is currently home to more than 1,310,000 refugees, of whom approximately 835,000 come from South Sudan, 365,000 from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and the remainder from other countries. The Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement divided into six zones between of  Ocea, Siripi, Eden, Tika, Odubu, and Ofua hosts an estimated population of 86,975 as of June 2017 statistics representing 22,983 households with 17% of this population representing the host community. 80.6% South Sudanese, 17.7% Ugandan citizens, and 1.7% other nationalities

With the prevalence of Covid-19 pandemic around the world, it is no doubt that such areas as refugee camps and settlements are high risk areas. In response to the situation refugee led organisations have come together to ensure that the community takes full preventive measures in accordance to the Ministry of Health guidelines. This has been done through the 3 months Refugee Emergency Response on COVID-19 Project by the Youth Social Advocacy Team (YSAT).

The 3 months’ project is aimed at enhancing Risk Communication, Community Engagement & Infection prevention and control in combating COVID-19 by addressing KNOWLEDGE, ATTITUDE and PRACTICE of refugees and host communities as they respond to the pandemic. Some of the activities so far done is conducting road drive public system communication to sensitise communities about Covid-19, Installation of 90 Handwashing stations in communal centers in Rhino Camp, Provision of Airtime credit to refugees leaders to be able to communicate any emergencies, Distribution of soap through door to door using Village Health Teams and disseminating translated IEC materials languages used in the Rhino Camp Refugee Settlement.

John Jal Dak

Youth Social Advocacy Team (YSAT) 

Civil Society Organisations in Uganda to partner with the Government to respond to COVID 19

Hosting the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations in Uganda, Uganda National NGO Forum represents civil society on the National Covid 19 Technical taskforce spearheaded by the Office of the prime Minister. In this regard, civil society led by the Uganda National NGO Forum has been holding a series of virtual meetings in an effort to contribute to the government cause to respond to Corona Virus Pandemic in Uganda. In the first engagement, civil Society pledged to support the government by offering expertise in the areas of emergency response, return to normality and impact mitigation and the post Covid 19 development phase. As a result, the Office of the Prime Minister requested CSOs to have a comprehensive CSO response plan.

In response to the formation of a comprehensive CSO response plan, actions so far taken include a matrix sent to all civil society organisations detailing the mode of response as an institution at all levels, Development of the CSO Thematic Response notes to guide the operation of thematic groups (Emergency Response Team, Advocacy and Policy Engagement Team, Citizen Engagement Team; and Coordination and Representation Team),  a call to volunteer to be part of these thematic groups is out; and apart from being represented on the National Technical Taskforce,- efforts to have civil society represented on other taskforces such as Health are underway; lastly, a call to establish a CSO Covid fund is also out with bank details and mobile money contacts for all well-wishers to make a contribution to ensure that the Covid 19 situation in the country is managed.

Don’t forget to fill in the Matrix shared here.  

#StandwithUganda: The details of the account and mobile money for the CSO Fund are: 

Bank Account Details

Account Name: Uganda National NGO Forum

Account Number: 0108212045101

Bank: Standard Chartered Bank Uganda Limited

Branch: Forest Mall

Mobile Number Details

Number: 0782 – 142551

Registered Name: Rashidah Namatovu

#StaySafe

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

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

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