A first (non) UN Humanitarian Coordinator… Uganda

The UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Uganda is to be, well non-UN!For the 99.99% of people working in humanitarian work I should explain. In each country the UN is headed by a Resident Coordinator (RC), this person is always a very senior UN Representative in country (more often than not the head of UNDP). Although they do not have line management responsibility for other agencies they ‘coordinate’ the United Nations Country Team (UNCT) and links with government and play a major role in ensuring joined up support to host countries.In an emergency or humanitarian scenario the RC may not be the most suited or have the time to also humanitarian response, hence a Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) may be appointed by through the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), to-date this person has always been a UN insider. In the case of Uganda due to the localised nature of the humanitarian crisis in the north a separate HC was appointed, however it is a first to put a non UN staff member in this post.HC UgandaThe HC until recently Representative of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Geneva, Ms. Elisabeth Rasmusson, has extensive field experience especially with refugees and intenally displaced persons (IDPs). Though not a complete outsider, she formerly worked for the UN, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) , Ms. Rasmusson is certainly no insider.This is excellent news. The UN is often given unpleasant and unreasonable labels sometimes, but rarely, fairly. Humanitarian reforms have been driven hard and furiously over the last 12 to 18 months, engineered hand-in-hand between senior UN executives and key donors, noteably DfiD.The Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) was beefed up by adding a $450m grant facility to an existing $50m revolving fund. To firstly, promote early action and response to save lives (release funds within 72 hours). Secondly, enhance response to time-crucial requirements based on demonstrable needs, and thirdly strengthen core elements of humanitarian response in under-funded crisis. Launched in March 2006, by and September 2006 it had raised $175m.The Humanitarian Coordinator system, designed to ensure focus and leadership during life saving response periods was initiated and many including Ms Rasmusson trained for the role.The Inter-Agency Steering Committee (IASC) structure was launched in 1992 to ensure that UN and NGO’s worked more effectively. However it has been reinvigorated with the application of technical clusters (initiated in the Pakistan earthquake with mixed success) and the spur of the humanitarian reform process.Thus it is welcome that the UN is now looking to finding the best and most suited people from across the range of humanitarian institutions to coordinate humanitarian response. At the very least it should lead to a great cross fertilisation of ideas and creativity, a greater acceptance of different institutional approaches and improved collaboration. On the downside… well I personally don’t see one!anon Says: April 3, 2007 at 3:01 pm e

I am sad to update this post but:

The Ugandan government would not acknowledge Elisabeth Rasmusson’s appointment nor let her travel through Uganda. OCHA boss (ERC) John Holmes withdrew her appointment in February 2007.

The Ugandan government would not acknowledge her appointment because: 1) her appointment implied that Uganda was a “failed state”; 2) a Human Coordinator (having a direct line with the ERC Holmes) would undermine the current Resident Coordinator. As for the current situation: the ERC is consulting with the IASC on a new HC; IASC country team disappointed; “Deputy HC” not viable. Elisabeth is now in Geneva doing “lessons learned.” 

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3 Responses to “A first (non) UN Humanitarian Coordinator… Uganda”

  1. anon Says:

    I am sad to update this post but:

    The Ugandan government would not acknowledge Elisabeth Rasmusson’s appointment nor let her travel through Uganda. OCHA boss (ERC) John Holmes withdrew her appointment in February 2007.

    The Ugandan government would not acknowledge her appointment because: 1) her appointment implied that Uganda was a “failed state”; 2) a Human Coordinator (having a direct line with the ERC Holmes) would undermine the current Resident Coordinator. As for the current situation: the ERC is consulting with the IASC on a new HC; IASC country team disappointed; “Deputy HC” not viable. Elisabeth is now in Geneva doing “lessons learned.”

    (All the above from my notes taken during last week’s OCHA monthly meeting.)

  2. macdavid Says:

    Anon… many thanks for the update..

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