WHD 2013

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Humanitarian Reform transforming knowledge

by Ton van Zutphen, Food Security Facilitator at the OCHA Sahel Team  


Attending workshop on Humanitarian Reform in Burkina Faso on the 20th and 21st of September

  It is always a good start when a workshop 'request' comes from the field. In this case from the Humanitarian Coordinator, the OCHA staff, and various Partners in Burkina Faso. One would think that after some six years plus, the humanitarian world would now 'master' the finesses of the humanitarian reform agenda. Well, apparently not and there are reasons for that. Here are a few clear ones...such as the turnover in staff that work for humanitarian agencies in the field (where the action takes place). It remains very high. This turnover is often caused by short term contracts, at times no funding for project budgets, or simply very challenging situations. Many aid workers do show some of the 'policy acceptance fatigue' since think-tanks and strategy departments of their employers continue to churn out new concepts to be tested in the field.

The humanitarian reform though is really, da vero!, different! It came, stayed...and is likely never to go away...or perhaps phrased better: it is to remain with us aid workers, and seemingly transforms itself as it continues its path of evolution. The flavors of the reform change and these days it is about coordination, leadership and accountability. The Humanitarian Coordinator asked us, the three facilitators (Niels Scott, Gwyn Lewis and myself), to throw in the cluster component as well. The positive suprise was that over 30 particpants from the UN family, government and NGO partners decided it was worthwhile enough to participate in debates on how we can all shape the reform better in Burkina Faso.

We were able to clarify the essential humanitarian coordination structures that are operational, we heard the government's suggestions for more inclusion; we fileted the cluster concept and came to grip with the nuances between cluster and sector...and we managed to have all participants speaking and keeping the time somehow. We were able to navigate through the workshop by changing a few agenda items. I think the three facilitators loved to see that they were still able to change pre-conceived agendas. Just like in a real humanitarian setting: change when it is required.

Perhaps a conclusion...workshops may have a better result when suggested by the particpants themselves and when the faciliators come from various agencies and are able to adjust the agenda and respond to those themes that are of prime interest to the audience.

Next workshop coming soon in Nouakchott, Mauritania...7-8 October 12

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