Regional Policy Workshop - Southern and Eastern Africa

Regional Policy Workshop for Humanitarian Partnership - Southern and Eastern Africa
Stellenbosch, South Africa, 14-15 June 2012

In June 2012, OCHA convened a two-day workshop in Stellenbosch, South Africa, which brought together over 40 individuals from various institutions across the region.   Delegates included academic institutions, governments, regional organisations, national and religious NGOs and Red Cross Societies, as well as regional representatives of IFRC, WFP, UNICEF, IOM and USAID. The participants brought a diverse range of experience and expertise in the fields of disaster risk reduction and humanitarian response.  OCHA’s objective was to identify key trends affecting humanitarian needs and to better understand the priorities and concerns of different groups in the region. The workshop also served to identify new opportunities for collaboration across sectors. A wide-ranging discussion focused on improving the effectiveness of humanitarian partnerships in light of the current and changing nature of humanitarian emergencies highlighted the following themes:

Investing in local knowledge and capacities

Participants stressed that there were numerous lessons that regions, countries and communities in Africa could learn from each other. There was therefore a need for international engagement and support for regional knowledge-sharing platforms to allow this.  Given the key role of local communities as primary responders, the flow of information to and from the community level was a crucial element of early warning, needs assessment and accountability.  Understanding local contexts was also seen as a pre-requisite for international actors: “If you don’t know, don’t go”.

Working better with Governments

Although the community level was seen as key, it was also emphasised that recognising the critical role of government at all levels remained an essential aspect of effective response. As Governments' role was critical in terms of developing policies to avert future risks and vulnerability, and in developing the legal framework to support humanitarian space, participants underlined that humanitarians needed to find better ways to engage authorities before a crisis occurs.

Strengthening engagement with the private sector

Participants identified the relationship between humanitarian actors and the private sector as an increasingly important one. There were challenges for both sides to recognise that the role of businesses goes beyond a simple source of finance.  The private sector was better seen as a source of ideas, answers and as a critical stakeholder that can benefit from faster recovery and improved mitigation measures.  This necessitates more proactive engagement on the part of humanitarian actors.

More support for resilience and DRR

The need for better analysis of the root causes of humanitarian emergencies was cited as a way to reduce the ‘humanitarian trap’ of cycles of crises and dependencies.  Existing patterns of resilience at the community level could provide lessons for regional partners. It was the responsibility of humanitarians to work to identify mechanisms already in place.

Next steps

Serving as an innovative forum for sharing best practice and engaging non-traditional actors, the conference provided an opportunity for OCHA to learn from experiences in the region and to support the development of new dynamic partnerships.  Participants developed a mission statement for partnerships and proposed to review their commitments to action at a follow-up workshop next year.


Executive summary
Full Report and transcript
Participants list



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