A SPECIAL MESSAGE:
National capacit development in umanitarian situations – drawing on experience and evidence
The dramatic increase in the number and scale of emergencies over the last decade, combined with a situation in which manycountries are simultaneously hit by various types of emergencies at the same time has challenged the ability of internationalagencies to guarantee speedy humanitarian assistance on multiple fronts. This has caused international humanitarian actors toseriously reconsider the way they work vis-à-vis national systems. There is an honest recognition that international assistance
has in some instances demonstrated a difcult start-up phase and that it has later faced challenges in providing far deep-
reaching assistance to the most vulnerable groups. Hence, not only are humanitarian principles jeopardized but also UNICEF’s
determination to reach the most vulnerable populations ‒ the equity approach ‒ is at stake. Within this shifting landscape, devel
oping national capacities for emergency response, preparedness and recovery is acknowledged ‒ by UN agencies, INGOs andnational actors ‒ as fundamental to effectively address the increasingly complex humanitarian situations we face.
National Capacity Development (CD) in humanitarian situations does not always necessitate a decade-long process, which is
often needed in development contexts. If clear and tangible CD benchmarks are identied from day one, the process can dem
-onstrate concrete results in a relatively short period of time. However, in parallel, international agencies should then accompanythese short and medium term initiatives with long term processes that aim at building or developing wider institutional systems,which requires long term dedication. Capacity Development in support to the 'Core Commitments for Children in HumanitarianAction' (CCCs) aims to strengthen the technical, organizational and institutional capacities of communities, organizations and
national actors to ensure to effectively and quickly address humanitarian situations. For that to happen, evidence shows us thatCD in humanitarian settings must be systemic as summarized in six points below:a) It is important that all capacity development initiatives are nationally owned and led by a national actor in response to thenational humanitarian priorities.b) The CD process must be outcome oriented, which means that the focus is on the number of children and civilians access-ing and using services and facilities (for example for education, health or supply facilities) rather than merely the number of trained or skilled professionals.c) National and international partners must prioritize distinct benchmarks to be met in a relatively short period of time (onemonth to two years) and other benchmarks for long term results. We must start with asking capacity development for whatexactly and by when?
d) National and international partners should conduct a Capacity Assessment for these specic benchmarks, in which existingversus desired capacities are identied (this ensures that we build on existing systems wherever possible and try to avoid
parallel structures).e) National and international partners must develop a Capacity Development Plan that addresses technical capacities at anindividual level and organizational capacities at an institutional level. Developing only the technical capacities such as train-ing teachers, without supporting the organizational capacities – safe school buildings with textbooks, blackboards etc – willresult in a situation where the teachers will not have a venue to apply their capacities, and the investment in teacher trainingis hence lost.f) National and international partners must identify a clearly phased exit strategy that shows how increased knowledge trans-
fer is coupled with increased national takeover and nally the complete transfer of agreed upon humanitarian functions.
Only then have we succeeded in national capacity development.The case study from Uganda (on page 74) illustrates application of these principles in strengthening a supply and logistics sys-tem for children and women in emergency context. The new '
Technical Note-Capacity Development for the Core Commitmentsfor Children in Humanitarian Action
' and its complementary tools can be applied to guide the CD process in other emergencycountries as well.
Louis-Georges ArsenaultDirector, Ofce of Emergency Programmes (EMOPS)
United Nations Children’s Fund