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close this bookMeeting the Humanitarian Challenge - UNV's Work Between Conflict and Development (United Nations Volunteers, 44 p.)
close this folderCurrent concerns and future perspectives
View the documentDrawing from experience in the field
View the documentReducing scope for conflict: demobilisation
View the documentParticipatory peace-building dynamics
View the documentPromoting human rights and education for peace
View the documentDisaster prevention and preparedness at community level
View the documentPutting human development back on the agenda
View the documentAdministrative support to UNVs in humanitarian assignments
View the documentH... for Humanity: serving a purpose... for millions in need

Putting human development back on the agenda

As already mentioned, UNV specialists working in humanitarian assistance programmes are by and large working in complex emergency situations. The relief-to-rehabilitation-to-development "continuum" is especially intricate in these cases, with no clear dividing line between one phase and another, but rather many situations of parallel or overlapping dimensions.

The recent rise in the incidence of such complex emergencies, along with other factors relating to the end of the Cold War and the emergence of vast areas of Eurasia in economic and political transition, as well as global recession, have sapped resources that hitherto underpinned many development efforts in low-income countries. This fact adds urgency to the need to aggressively ensure that humanitarian assistance rapidly achieves its goals at minimum cost, and that the method and nature of aid delivery neither aggravates an emergency situation nor perpetuates dependency,

Insofar as UNV specialists most often work in an outreach mode, in direct contact with beneficiary populations and working with them if not also living amongst them, they offer the UN system a unique network of antennae that can listen to local needs and observe local capacities. UNV specialists very frequently go "beyond the call of duty", as recently attested to by the development impact of the after-hours activities of over 400 UNV district electoral supervisors in Cambodia (they helped in village reconstruction, community education, etc.). They can therefore play an important role in generating project ideas and stimulating new initiatives for the reintegration of uprooted populations into the social and economic development of the community and of the country.

Tracking the resources for resettlement of refugees in Guatemala

A multi-dimensional approach to the programming of UNV support to humanitarian relief and rehabilitation activities could induce a triple impact on local aspects of complex emergencies: UNV relief specialists could be teamed-up with two other kinds of UNV partners: participatory development (UNV/'DDS") specialists/field workers, and national UNVs. The twinning with UNV/DDS field workers would serve to ensure that even as early as during the delivery of emergency relief assistance, opportunities for restoring communities' coping mechanisms, and for igniting participatory development initiatives, would be identified and promoted. If participatory methods training (e.g. for rapid appraisal techniques) can be shared with UNV humanitarian relief specialists, they too can endeavour to integrate nationals (i.e. those who are members of assisted beneficiary communities) in leading the design, implementation and management of relief programmes.

There is no substitute for national leadership of the rehabilitation and development process. By proactively co-opting national partners (individuals for example as National UNVs, community-based organisations, and national NGOs) into the work undertaken by UNV specialists for UN system agencies' humanitarian programmes, one is also laying the foundations for national capacity and leadership to (re-) emerge in these fields. This kind of approach would also help better attune the currently rather interventionist nature of some international emergency programmes, and ensure greater acceptability and accountability to the local beneficiary communities. It would also concretely facilitate the forward drive towards sustainable development.

Guatemalan refugee women tend seedlings in a project run by refugees in Chiapas, Mexico.