Since the 2006 signing of a cease-fire agreement between the Government of Uganda and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) there has been significant return of those displaced by conflict in northern Uganda. The overwhelming majority of the 1.8 million internally displaced people (IDPs) who lived in camps have returned to their areas of origin or resettled in new locations. The majority of the 30,000 still confined to camps lack financial resources to move home, are aged, disabled or unwell or have no land to return to. Returnees have faced continuing difficulties due to inadequate basic services, limited support to rebuild their livelihoods, and land conflicts, sometimes leading to violence. Uganda has forged policies to respond to internal displacement and foster durable solutions. Now that international humanitarian agencies have scaled down their activities (OCHA closed its country office at the end of 2011), development actors will focus efforts on ensuring that remaining IDPs and returnees are helped to pursue durable solutions. Ongoing insecurity in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has led to an increase of Congolese refugees to Uganda. Instability in South Sudan and movement of South Sudanese into Uganda is also an issue of concern. The discovery and development of oil reserves in western Uganda could increase political tensions with local communities in that region. Local opposition has already arisen over land rights and forced displacement; oil companies’ employment of foreigners rather than nationals; and concerns over how wealth will be distributed. Nodding disease in the north, political tensions and susceptibility to outbreaks of hemorrhagic fevers are other areas of concern.

Humanitarian coordination

In addition to the development and operational aspects of responsibilities, the UN Resident Coordinator for Uganda serves as the UN Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) for the country, overseeing and managing the response to emerging humanitarian situations in Uganda. Appointed by the Emergency Relief Coordinator, the HC is the senior UN humanitarian official on the ground in a designated emergency, and as such is responsible for ensuring rapid, effective and well-coordinated humanitarian assistance. The HC chairs the Inter Agency Standing Committee (IASC) Country Team, which serves as the primary inter-agency forum for coordination, policy development and decision-making on humanitarian issues. In Uganda, membership of the IASC includes representatives of UN agencies and NGOs, as well as representatives of the donor community. The approval of the National Policy for Disaster Preparedness and Management in May 2011 was a major achievement of the Government of Uganda in its efforts to enhance disaster management in the country. The policy reflects a shift of focus from disaster response to disaster reduction, with the objective of providing a comprehensive disaster management framework to guide programming and actions of key stakeholders in this sector. It is hoped that the policy will go a long way in increasing coordination of programming by actors in disaster management. The overall policy goal is to promote national vulnerability assessment, risk mitigation, disaster prevention, preparedness, effective response and recovery in a manner that integrates disaster risk management with development planning and programming.

The UN in Uganda

UNDP acts as the host agency for the Resident Coordinator system, funded through resources raised by UNDP, the UN Development Group and with contributions from UN agencies. The UN system is headed by a Resident Coordinator (RC), who is the designated representative of the UN Secretary-General for the coordination of development operations at the country level. In Uganda, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative also acts as the Humanitarian Coordinator. The UN coordination brings together the following UN agencies residing in Uganda (also known as the UN Country Team): UNICEF, WFP, UNFPA, UNHCR, WHO, FAO, OHCHR, UNAIDS, UNDSS, and UNDP as well as non-resident agencies (HABITAT, IFAD, ILO, OCHA, UNCDF, UNESCO, UNIDO and UNIFEM). The Bretton Woods institutions (World Bank, IMF and IOM) are also part of the Country Team group. The Resident Coordinator chairs the monthly Country Team forum, which forms the ultimate framework for coordinated UN operational activities in Uganda. UN activities in Uganda are determined by the ‘United Nations Development Assistance Framework’ (UNDAF). Revised every five years in close collaboration with the Government of Uganda and its development partners, the UNDAF is the overarching framework which sets the priorities for the UN system in the country. The current UNDAF identifies the following as its primary areas of intervention in Uganda:

  • reducing poverty and improving human development
  • good governance and protection and promotion of human rights
  • supporting the national AIDS response
  • accelerating the transition from relief to recovery in conflict affected areas

The structure of the RC system includes a coordination unit based in the UNDP Uganda Office. The team is the interface between the RC’s office and other agencies and provides operational support to the implementation of the Country Team annual work plans.