BY Beata Lisowska | June 14, 2017
Imagine living in a community that faces poverty and vulnerability and has limited resilience to shocks. Your livelihood is dependent on subsistence farming in a region that is vulnerable to climate change and crop disease outbreaks. Only 26.7 percent of households in your region have enough food to last until the next harvest. 50 percent of the population in your district are refugees and you find yourself competing for the little resources that you have at your disposal with people who have fled from prolonged conflict. It is estimated that 935,000 South Sudanese refugees will arrive in Uganda by the end of 2017, entering through West Nile – a region that already faces poverty, vulnerability and food insecurity and has limited resilience to shocks. With so many refugees arriving there is danger of conflict breaking out between communities in need of assistance from the humanitarian and development sectors as they compete for limited resources. How does data help to understand the needs of these communities and drive collective development and humanitarian responses that are beneficial to them both? A clear need for joined-up data As it stands, the socio-economic indicators for a given region and statistics on host populations in Uganda are collected using household surveys or censuses and are usually published by the Uganda Bureau of Statistics. However, data on refugees – where they are and how they are doing in relation to socio-economic indicators – is gathered by the Office of the Prime Minister, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other actors operating within a region that perform refugee needs assessments. Data is published as a bi-weekly update on the Uganda Refugee Response Portal by the UNHCR and the Office of the Prime Minister. The needs assessments carried out by other actors are not usually publicly accessible. In practice, data on different communities within a region cannot easily be joined up. For those seeking to address development or humanitarian issues, to help improve outcomes for those living in complex communities, there is no single data story that gives a complete picture of the issues that people face. This means that decisions on how best to address an issue can only ever be a ‘best guess’, without full knowledge of the potential for knock-on effects – positive or negative – on other communities in the area. It’s not just a question of joining up data – often data for evidence-based decision-making is simply not available. For example, it’s not possible to track how many refugees provided with land choose to settle in a region, move around the country or go back to their country of origin. This is because refugee communities are often missed from household surveys, censuses are few and far between, and if a refugee becomes homeless they may fall off the data radar altogether. Signs of progress in bridging the divide There are, however, signs of progress in the humanitarian–development nexus. The Ugandan government recognises that humanitarian and development assistance are intertwined, and this is reflected in the Ugandan National Development Plan under the Settlement Transformative Agenda, which develops programmes for the benefit of both refugees and refugee-hosting areas. Recent efforts by the Government of Uganda, UN agencies and the World Bank to develop a ‘Refugee and Host Population Empowerment’ strategy is testament to an understanding that the development of both local and refugee communities is linked and that priorities for long-term sustainable outcomes must benefit both. However, such frameworks should be supported by principles of joined-up data, such as FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) to inform new policies and recommendations. In the past, as observed by Oliver Walton in a research report on preventing conflict between refugees and host communities, the barrier to effective initiatives in the humanitarian–development nexus “has been a tendency for donors to keep humanitarian assistance for refugees separate from broader development assistance”. We now seem to be moving towards a common political will to overcome the barriers highlighted by Walton. The missing piece is the joined-up data to make it happen. Photo: @UNHCR
November 9, 2016
National ownership Despite a devastating decade-long civil war (1991–2001), Sierra Leone made significant progress towards achieving the MDGs. However, in 2014–2015 the country was hit hard by the Ebola crisis as well as a coincidental collapse in international iron ore prices — a key source of fiscal revenues and foreign exchange — presenting a considerable challenge for the country’s Vision 2035 of becoming a middle-income country. Today the SDGs are being implemented against a backdrop of multiple recovery strategies, including the third Poverty Reduction Strategy (Agenda for Prosperity 2013–2018) and the National Ebola Recovery Strategy/Presidential Recovery Priorities (2015–2017). Both strategies are informed by the New Deal for Engagement in Fragile States. Progress is being made on implementing the SDGs, despite the circumstances of recent years, due to strong leadership from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development (MOFED) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. In an impressive move, Sierra Leone’s 2016 national budget already reflects all 17 SDGs aligned with the eight pillars of the Agenda for Prosperity. The government also launched a popular version of the SDGs in the parliament during the national Budget Speech and distributed it to a cross-section of other stakeholders, including civil servants, NGOs and CSOs. With financial support from the New Deal facility,9MOFED provided a briefing to the Cabinet and held several radio talk shows to explain the SDGs to the general public. Adapting the SDGs to the national context The Government of Sierra Leone, in collaboration with the UNCT, held a technical retreat in December 2015 to review the SDGs against the landscape of existing strategies and plans, including the Agenda for Prosperity, and to draft an SDG Adaptation Report to be presented at the HLPF in 2016. This retreat included, among others, line ministries, departments and agencies, CSOs and UN agencies. Raising public awareness Public awareness-raising efforts also saw early progress in Sierra Leone. To lay the foundation, the UNCT prepared a novel SDG communications strategy which domesticated and simplified the messages of the SDGs. With the communications strategy in hand, the UNCT held two SDG photo and banner exhibitions in the capital city as well as a nationwide campaign at the Universities of Kenema, Bo, Makeni and Njala by engaging with mayors, university teachers and students. In addition, the government also held a national conference, with support from the UNCT, at the University of Makeni in March 2016, to discuss the ways to transition from the MDGs to the SDGs and the challenges facing the country in the SDG era. Another innovative move was the UN Communications Group’s special training to familiarize journalists with the SDGs and facilitate objective reporting of progress and challenges to implementation in light of the Ebola crisis. Due to these efforts, key stakeholders are well aware of the SDGs. In particular, SDG 16 on governance gained wide recognition as a critical goal for Sierra Leone as a post-conflict country and a founding member of the g7+, a voluntary association of countries that are or have been affected by conflict and are now in transition to the next stage of development. Assessing risks and fostering adaptability Lessons learned from the Ebola crisis and the collapse in international iron ore prices informed the development of the National Ebola Recovery Strategy/Presidential Recovery Priorities (2015–2017). The objective is to ensure that the country maintains zero cases of Ebola while ‘building back better’ national systems for resilience and national development, including preparedness to face future shocks and epidemics. The national strategy comprises seven presidential priority sectors: health, education, social protection, private sector development, water, energy and governance. Implementation of the first phase ended in March 2016, and the second phase started in April 2016. Discussions are under way for the presidential priorities to integrate the SDGs.
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