On August 29, 2018, the Director General of the Joint Crisis Coordination Centre (JCC), Mr. Hoshang Mohamed, attended the ‘Stockholm World Water Week’ conference under the title of ‘Opportunities and Challenges of Localizing WASH Humanitarian Assistance’ in Sweden.
In a presentation during the conference, Mr. Hoshang delivered a presentation about the humanitarian situation in the Kurdistan Region and the KRG’s leading role in responding to the humanitarian crisis. He highlighted the Kurdistan Region as an important case study of a complex humanitarian situation involving acute emergencies coupled with the long-term challenges of protracted displacement.
Mr. Hoshang briefed the conference about the KRG’s measures to establish required institutional structures to strengthen government leadership in coordination, information management, planning and response. He highlighted the establishment of the JCC, in the middle of a complex crisis in 2014, as a successful story, stated that two factors that contributed to the success; first a clear government vision, political will and leadership, and second the direct international cooperation and support.
During his presentation, Mr. Hoshang identified the challenges and gaps that have not been dealt with and made several recommendations to find long term solutions that will contribute to the strengthening of local partners such as government institutions and NGOs as well as mobilizing them.
JCC Director General was invited to the conference by the Germany’s Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) as one the JCC’s key partners. Kurdistan was presented as a successful case in managing humanitarian crisis.
The key points of the presentation delivered in the conference:
The Kurdistan Region presents an important case study of a complex humanitarian situation involving acute emergencies coupled with the long-term challenges of protracted displacement. We have faced a war with ISIS, been deprived of our share of the national budget from the federal government, have experienced a financial crisis and hosted large IDP and refugee populations. We currently host 1.35 million IDPs and refugees who live in 39 camps or with local communities. The open and humanitarian policies towards refugees and IDPs has increased the KRI population by 32% over the past five years at an estimated yearly cost of two billion US dollars. Currently, only 25% of these expenses are covered by the international community. We see the way forward through an enhanced Humanitarian-Development Partnership which shall provide sustainable long-term solutions to the existing protracted displacement.
- Humanitarian response: a shift from emergency to long-term sustainable solutions
The protracted displacement is the principal challenge for KRG. Around 300,000 of the 1.35 million IDPs and refugees live in 39 camps while others are hosted by local communities. We are interested in sharing our experience and learning from others.
The realities on the ground prove the need for a shift from an emergency-based humanitarian response towards medium and long-term sustainable solutions. This approach will cut unnecessary expenses, build around the complete set of socio-economic needs of the displaced and local populations and engage a range of stakeholders, not least government institutions, to meet the needs of the millions of people caught in protracted displacement.
- Traditional humanitarian practices are based on short- term readymade policies and fail to offer solutions to a complex and protracted humanitarian crisis. In the context of WASH, the physical infrastructure often has a short lifecycle and sustainable maintenance solutions are not pursued.
- The humanitarian sector lacks adequate practices, tools and policies to meaningfully engage with the government and local authorities as well as other local partners. In the context of WASH this translates into infrastructure and solutions that are not always consistent with local norms and standards and do not fall within district or provincial plans and priorities.
- While development partners engage in building national and local capacities and strengthening, the humanitarian sector often operates through parallel systems and tracks. These two sectors have not been able to reconcile their working methods and policies for the benefit of the local actors and affected populations. In the context of WASH, the humanitarian community applies direct implementation and thus side-lines government authorities and institutions who would gradually have to become the owners and guardians of WASH systems and infrastructure that they have not be involved in introducing.
- Combined, the humanitarian and development sectors have a large number of organisations on the ground. Internal coordination is very poor and there is no harmonized or standardised approach to work, even within one technical sector such as WASH. As a result sector a big portion of available funds are consumed by operation, administration and unnecessary assessments. Moreover, local communities and authorities are left with different solutions from different organisations that are difficult to reconcile and bring in line with government systems and plans.
- Short term funding, poor internal standardisation, harmonization and coordination and inefficient collaboration with local actors means poor value for money and low overall impact.
- In protracted displacement, long-term socio-economic priorities emerge alongside basic needs. No strict line can be drawn between the two and yet this is the common practice on the ground. As a result, many opportunities for creating humanitarian-development synergies are lost.
- There is also the classic competition and reluctance to information which creates many duplications and overlap.
The Establishment of the JCC as a success story:
I listed many challenges linked to the work of the humanitarian and development community but also the KRG has brought problems and challenges to the situation. For the KRG’s part, our principal challenge was to take a leadership role in the face of a sudden, large-scale and multi-faceted crisis. Engaging with a large humanitarian and development community with hundreds of organisations has been particularly difficult. We became acutely aware that we did not have adequate policies and procedures for coordination and collaboration internally and with international partners and decided to address this problem.
It is a success story, that KRG has established JCC in the middle of a complex crisis in 2014. Two factors contributed; first a clear government vision, political will and leadership, and second the international cooperation and support. Within a short period, we created fully operational regional and provincial structures and processes for government led crisis coordination, planning and response.
- Where is possible, to increase the funds and focus on long-term objectives and allow more flexibilities in adjusting the programs [the time of the programs usually is one year, and it is not enough to set long term objectives].
- To enhance the collaboration with the host governments for joint assessment, prioritization, planning, and alignment with the priorities of the local stakeholders, especially projects implemented by NGOs.
- To Increase the support for the host government aiming to enhance the economic and social inclusion of the IDPs and refugees.
- To cooperate towards the building a foundation to prevent new crises where possible and respond effectively when prevention is not possible.
- To take into consideration the political, economic and ethnic complexity of the hosting countries.
- To develop country-specific policies in coordination with the governments in the region hosting the Syrian refugees and impacted by the crisis.
- To create a regional network/ steering committee among the host countries of the Syrian refugees for consultation, and sharing knowledge, experience, expertise, and lesson learned.