A new paradigm in coordination of humanitarian response
At the root of poverty and injustices is an unequal power relation! This sounds like a buzz statement for Action Aiders and their associates. It alludes that someone or institution is holding power and therefore causing violations of rights through actions of omission and commission by default or design.
In the humanitarian context ,women are more adversely affected than men, primarily due to residual inequalities that are further exacerbated by emergencies. Social customs that keep female mobility to minimum, sanctions that inhibit their decisions and their exclusions from decisions have perpetually made women and children the human face of emergencies.
Shifting The Power is a political project that at its heart aims to shift power (resources and decisions) from the institutions that have traditionally led in humanitarian response to women and communities affected by emergencies. In deed if incidences of suffering were to be reduced and real time response to emergencies realized, first disaster risk preparedness and response capacity must be scaled into communities and secondly women living in poverty and exclusion must have resources and connections to enable them mount in a faster manner effective responses. This thinking is well supported by research that shows partnerships with national and local organisations help to enhance the relevance, appropriateness, and accountability of humanitarian responses.
As such the shift of power away from the current humanitarian architecture heavily led by the UN clusters and international NGOs is timely in the era of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 and devolution. The Contingencies Fund and County Emergencies Funds Act, 2011 and the National Drought Contingency Fund managed by the National Drought Management Authority provides a useful decentralization framework for humanitarian response, but this needs to be cascaded further to strengthen women leadership.
Proper mobilization of women at the county level to lead in humanitarian action will render statistics like recently released by Global Humanitarian Assistance Report 2014, showing less than 0.2% of international humanitarian funding was channelled directly to local organisations irrelevant.
Shifting Power as a philosophy and design will continue to be extremely important in AAK work. The root and under laying causes that make communities suffer humanitarian crisis require resolution. Realization of rights and ability of world system to redistribute power and resources is much hinged on engagement of excluded women and states responsiveness to their demands. ActionAid staff and partners are in the phase of internalizing this framework to amplify its application.
In furtherance of this, ActionAid in partnership with Pokot Women Empowerment Organisation (POWEO) held the World Humanitarian day on August 19th in West Pokot under the theme ‘Women providing Leadership to Community-led and Accountable Disaster Preparedness and Planning’. Key among the demands was inclusion of women in County Steering Groups for effective prioritization of development agenda for women.
As AAK engages in this political project, three key factors will remain crucial to its success: i. Increasing power and capacity among women and excluded groups to mount effective response ii. Government recognition of women leadership in emergency response and iii. Increasing spaces for influence at all levels