The power of Advocacy and Documentation: how far can we go?

Despite investing more than a decade and millions of dollars in capacity building, governments and other humanitarian actors still face significant capacity challenges in order to effectively manage humanitarian response. key among these challenges include the short-term, ad-hoc and disconnected nature of the training agenda, aggravated by lack of a systematic, sector wide, capacity needs assessment and strategic capability strategy and training/education framework. As such; June 2018, the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations in Uganda undertook a Capacity Needs Assessment to establish the core strengths and weaknesses of the local and national organizations to prepare and respond to the humanitarian needs for the affected communities in Uganda. According to the report, only 37% of the CSOs assessed were functioning well on the component of networking, coordination and advocacy in relation to humanitarian emergency response forming the baseline for the capacity development training.


On 3rd December 2018, the Humanitarian Platform opened the 2 days capacity development training at Esella Country Hotel, Kampala; with ‘advocacy’ as one of the areas still weak in the humanitarian sector, most especially in Uganda. This training featured over 30 members of the Humanitarian Platform who initially scored relatively low during the Capacity Needs assessment carried out by the platform.  According to what has been noted over the years, the topic of advocacy has been biased and perceived to be a “fight back” tool especially between civil society organizations and government entities due to the pressure to account. However, it also important to note that projects which involve people affected by policy change in developing, implementing and monitoring advocacy work are more likely to achieve concrete change on the ground due to effective advocacy.

With the support from professional facilitators, members were taken through intense yet participatory hand on exercises which included experience sharing, brainstorming, open forum discussions and references of the real life scenarios in the Uganda context. During the advocacy training, participants were taken through the legal and institutional framework for advocacy and humanitarian and; where they generate the mandate to conduct advocacy. It’s very important to understand the kind of issues one is intending to advocate for. Participants were taught to differentiate between humanitarian concepts like disaster, hazard, emergency and risk, a mistake many have made and continuously make.  In addition, participants were taught to differentiate between advocacy, lobbying and activism to avoid using them interchangeably.


On 4th December 2018, participants were taken through one of the most imperative blocks not only of advocacy but also other project/ programme areas like fundraising, reporting, storytelling among others. It is important to note that how one tells their story is what determines the perception or image from the external environment.   Documentation is broad and to mention but a few, entails reporting on activities and achieving the visual attention from various stakeholders, how to tailor messages for different audiences, video documentation, photography, organizational branding/ profiling and other avenues of documentation that bring about effective change in society such as policy briefs, issues papers, data among others. While local humanitarian actors continuously transform the lives of marginalized populations through their work, telling the story of this invaluable work to the world, remains a big challenge.

As such participants were taken through the winning power of writing for change, understanding the important formats of documenting, tailoring the message for different audiences. Participants had a knowledge café that involves grouping participants and having them rotate around different humanitarian communication products and answering questions on their importance to improving beneficiary livelihoods.

From the documentation session, participants were able to construct success stories which will be featured in the quarterly newsletters. According to the end of training evaluation, participants appreciated the opportunity and recommended that the Humanitarian Platform should extent this support to regional platforms and allocate more time; partner with INGOs to conduct exchange visits intended to enhance capacity among members of the platform; follow up on members trained and continuously hold refresher trainings to be able to realize the impact.  At end of the 2 days capacity development training, participants were able to link advocacy and documentation; and further deeply understand how, where, why and when the two concepts are applied.

Therefore with the recommendations aforementioned considered, the Humanitarian Platform will be able to support all the local and national NGOs to influence the Humanitarian Agenda.

Story by Clare Kyasiimire

Humanitarian Platform to Mark One Year

It is such an important milestone to mark in the humanitarian sector in Uganda, most especially the local and national organisations celebrating the first year of working together as a collective. The Humanitarian Platform was launched on 7th March 2018 by the Minister of Disaster Preparedness Relief and Refugees, Hon. Eng Hilary Onek. The platform has within a relatively short time registered imperative footsteps with the guidance of a passionate and committed steering committee. The Humanitarian Platform Steering Committee includes, CAFOMI, DRT, InterAid Uganda, LIPRO Uganda, Uganda Red Cross Society, TPO Uganda, Legal Aid Clinic, DENIVA, CEFORD, URDMC, AWYAD, OXFAM Uganda and Uganda National NGO Forum.

On 5th December 2018, the platform held the end of year steering committee meeting to reflect, take note of the challenges, consolidate key lessons and look out for opportunities to strengthen the platform. During this meeting, the platform committee was privileged to host Anna Maria Leichtfried, Lezlie Velez and Michael Nabugere, all from the Comprehensive Refugee Response Framework (CRRF) Secretariat, Office of the Prime Minister.  The team presented the CRRF roadmap which was launched in 2017 and adopted in January 2018 during the 2nd CRRF steering committee meeting as one of the opportunities the platform can tap into to influence the humanitarian agenda. Most importantly, this was to begin a fundamental conversation between the CRRF secretariat and the Humanitarian Platform; understanding the role of the local and national organisations in the CRRF roadmap 2018/2020; and ensuring that the efforts of the local and national organisations are strategically intentional to Humanitarian response.

During the steering committee meeting, members also agreed that the platform further describes its structure more strategically and where it’s heading not forgetting the exit strategy by putting into place a proper strategic plan. The platform to step up and engage in policy development and advocacy, but most importantly to prove intentional relevancy and point of reference in the humanitarian sector and as a point of reference

Story by Clare Kyasiimire

Contingency or Disaster Preparedness Fund; What strategy should Uganda Adopt?

“We cannot resurrect people with money; financing should be before and not after the disaster…” Hon. Martin Owor, Commissioner Department of Relief, Disaster Preparedness and Management Office of the Prime Minister during the dialogue

Defining the word contingency will direct you to a common understanding as a future event or circumstance which is possible but cannot be predicted with certainty. The topic of having a contingency fund to respond to emergencies, most especially disasters, has been the same talk year in year, out landing on seemingly deaf ears.

The 2016 World Disasters Report indicates that a total of 1,244 people were killed by disasters between the period 2006 and 2015 in Uganda. Over the same period, 4,345,797 people were affected by disasters, representing an 11% increase from the number of those affected in the preceding reference period of 1993 – 2005.

Supported by OXFAM, on 24th October 2018, the Civil Society Budget Advocacy Group (CSBAG) in partnership with the Humanitarian platform for Local and National Organizations in Uganda held a dialogue that sought to create space to have an in-depth discussion on the issue of Disaster Preparedness, Mitigation and Prevention in Uganda. Who is not playing their role and what is the way forward, is it lack of political will or coordination issue amongst government Ministries, Agencies and Departments, Should the government empower the Uganda Red Cross Society to coordinate disaster related interventions. This dialogue attracted over 50 participants who included Members of Parliament, OPM, Local Government officials, Civil Society Organizations, Academia and Media

“If we agree and are on the same page at level of identifying the problem, we will get to the solution and implement it on the same page, George Francis Iwa, Chairperson Humanitarian Platform in his remarks during the dialogue”

The Commissioner, Hon. Martin Owor, informed participants that much as the government is mandated to finance these disasters, citizens at the individual level should take precautionary measures, report any unusual signs or risks in their areas. He however decried the manner in which the government responds to disaster issues. He said that the Office of the Prime Minister has done their part, the team has carried out hazard mapping and profiling and completed the resettlement plan together with experts, however the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development is not releasing funds to implement this plan,

this year we have had 66 landslides in Uganda and next year in June, we will have more landslides in Bududa according to the meteorologists, so the government should be working out this financing issue today, Deputy CAO Bududa district, at the dialogue”.

Is it absence of frameworks or lack of harmonization which has created a gap in the implementation?

The National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management designates the Department of disaster Preparedness and Management under the Office of Prime Minister as the lead agency responsible for disaster preparedness and management. However, while the department coordinates all the MDAs in the DRR sector, mitigation and prevention is primarily undertaken by other MDAs in the DRR sector which has implications on the financing of disaster preparedness, prevention and mitigation.

The limited funding or lack thereof at Local Government level directed towards disaster management, preparedness and prevention renders the implementation of the District Contingency Plans highly improbable.

The Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) establishes a Contingencies Fund in section 26. The Contingencies Fund make provision for the allocation of funds where urgent and unforeseen needs have arisen and it is in the public interest that funds should be provided to meet the need. From the above it can thus be argued that the PFMA, through the Contingencies Fund makes ample provision for funds in the event of a disaster occurring. Section 26, however, is silent on the use of the Fund for disaster risk reduction purposes. This is one area which might need more attention in a new disaster risk reduction and management bill.

What are the recommendations participants raised

“The government must be at the centre of this process, then other stakeholders complement. Hon. Lyandro Komakech, Parliamentary Forum on Disaster Risk Reduction, in his closing remarks”

As the discussions heated up raising emotions, a number of suggestions were brought to table for all stakeholders as mentioned in the Sendai Framework to which the government of Uganda is signatory, to rise and walk the talk. The government to ensure that the contingency fund is visible, tangible and accessible to mitigate disaster risks; the private sector to get involved because at the end of the day these disasters affect the economic performance of the country, Civil Society Organisations to contribute to the knowledge base, support public awareness and lead on advocacy, put pressure on decision makers to play their role , the government to domesticate the Kampala Convention formerly the African Union Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa and lastly citizens to respect the laws that govern nature.

“If you don’t belong to the river then don’t be in the river; if you don’t belong to the swamp then don’t live in the swamp”.

Story by Clare Kyasiimire

The Plight of Female Urban Refugees – Outcome document

As part of the Annual National Youth Festival that took place on 11th August 2018 at Makerere University, the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations held a session dubbed the Plight of Female Urban Refugees.  This was to contribute to the ongoing discussions about the fate of urban refugees in Uganda, with more focus on female refugees. The outcome document highlights the issues that affect the female urban refugees and what works to address the issues in their particular setting.

To download the outcome document please click here

Urgent Action Needed – District Level Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Still Low

‘Uganda is spending the bulk of its budget managing and responding to disasters instead of managing and reducing risks’ Sophie Nampewo, CSBAG, Learning Event Mbale 2018.

Globally, disasters are on the increase as a result of natural hazards, political unrest and economic hardships. Subsequently, this has greatly contributed to increased poverty, food insecurity, and social disintegration especially in drought and flood prone areas. In the recent past, a number of global frameworks have been developed for disaster risk reduction. The Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, adopted in Japan in March 2015, provides general guidance for reducing risks from natural hazards.

The Agenda 2030 further recognizes and reaffirms   the urgent need to reduce the risk of disasters. At national level, The Government of Uganda has demonstrated a commitment towards disaster risk reduction as indicated in its various legal, policy and planning and institutional frameworks like the Second National Development Plan, the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Policy. There are bills in the pipeline for approval such as the Disaster Management Bill Climate Change Policy, Wetland Bill for sustainable Ecosystem. However, amidst all these policies, how have the victims or communities in disaster prone areas been involved? Is their need for a 50 page wordy document with the language they can hardly articulate?

“With the inevitable continued population growth rate, Uganda and the entire world will continuously be prone to disasters…” Johnson Kagugube, DRT, Learning Event, Mbale 2018.

On 25th September 2018, the Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations in Uganda held a Learning Event focusing on Strengthening Disaster Risk Reduction and Management at district level, in Mbale District. The event was timely and located strategically – Eastern Uganda is recognised as the most disaster prone region. The Learning Event attracted humanitarian actors in the region such as the Uganda Red Cross Society, the District Disaster Management Technical Committee heads & other Local Government leaders, Community Based Organisations, media and Civil Society Organisations who hailed from the districts of Manafwa, Bududa, Sironko, Bulambuli, Butalleja and Mbale.

There are no funds to facilitate and capacitate the District Disaster Management Technical Committees to integrate DRR into the district plans, as a result they event don’t meet, they are dormant…” Local Government respondent, Learning Event, Mbale 2018.

From the discussions, it was found out that actually the government is financing relief for victims way more than prevention or preparedness, according to the study carried out by CSBAG. The Outturns overshot the budgeted allocations in FY2016/17 with a supplementary budget of UGX 25bn directed to the provision of relief to disaster victims. This raised concern among participants most especially the Local Government leadership who just hear but never get hold of any funds to facilitate contingency planning at the district level. Issues around political sabotage kept rising as the reason improper practices persist affecting several interventions from progressing.

However, this does not mean that the Government is not doing a great job. The problem is failure to diversify different target groups for different interventions. As Uganda realigns it’s spending towards risk management and reduction, Local Governments are best placed to spearhead this under the auspices of the OPM. Funding should therefore be directed to them to fulfil this mandate through a Forecast Based Financing Mechanism of disaster risk management and reduction. This therefore calls out for coordination between the state and other non-state actors to collectively focus on addressing these underlying issues together for benefit of the citizens.

Story by Clare Kyasiimire

The Humanitarian Platform to maximize opportunities at national, regional and global levels

The Humanitarian Platform for Local and National Organisations is mandated to hold monthly meetings to strengthen the coordination, review progress on various platform undertakings, identify areas of synergy and plan on participating in different spaces at national, regional and international level.  On 16th August 2018, the platform held a steering committee meeting at NGO Forum Offices and in attendance was TPO Uganda, CAFOMI, DENIVA, LIPRO Uganda, DRT, Uganda National NGO Forum and OXFAM.

Some of the issues discussed hinged around platform membership composition to match the ongoing UNHCR Inter-agency coordination mechanism, issues around participating in the Grand Bargain (GB) work stream platforms with other networks; and mobilization of resources to support the Humanitarian Platform. The platform secretariat intends to organize members into sectors according to the Refugee Response Plan 2019/2020 to be able to widen the scope of participation of the local and national actors in the humanitarian response. From the discussion, the platform will establish ways of acquiring and sustaining funding through a self-assessment process by identifying issues affecting the platform, strengths and gaps where capacity is needed and have an issues paper that can be presented on various influential platforms. This is to ensure the local actors build the muscle to be front bearers of the localization agenda rather than the international community. There was a question on how the platform can participate or link with the discussions at the global level; and the Chair, Mr George Francis Iwa was tasked to map out those different upcoming global events where the platform can either send participants or organize side events to feed into the same. On that note, the platform plans to organise a side event alongside the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 73) in September 2018.

By Clare Kyasiimire

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

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