“A step forward as NNGOs in Ethiopia launch the first National Humanitarian Forum” – Ethiopia

by Zelalem

Over the past year, the drought emergency has shown how climate change and natural hazards are
increasing humanitarian needs in Ethiopia. As communities cope with shocks in agricultural and
livestock production and access to food, national humanitarian organisations working with these
communities find themselves apart from the decision-making spaces.

An assessment on the humanitarian architecture in Ethiopia found that Local and National NGOs
have so far lacked a platform to advocate on and influence humanitarian decisions. On 7 September
2017, the first Ethiopian national humanitarian forum was launched within the Consortium of
Christian Relief and Development Association (CCRDA), the country’s biggest and oldest national
NGO umbrella association.

At the launch Dr Meshesha Shewarega, executive director of CCRDA, said: “Decision-making at a
high level in the humanitarian system is not so open for local NGOs and even NNGOs don’t have the
power to influence. But the forum, as a collective voice, will make much difference. This forum will
work to create friendly national platform to operate and contribute for international advocacy on
localisation of aid, in line with the Grand Bargain and Charter for Change.”

In Ethiopia, the government leads humanitarian coordination, however the official mechanisms
include just donors, UN agencies and INGOs, and exclude local and national NGOs at the federal
level. The Shifting the Power project, an ambitious initiative funded by the UK’s Department for
International Development through the Disaster Emergency and Preparedness Programme (DEPP),
has worked together with 10 local and national NGOs to create a new space for these organisations
to operate and contribute with their expertise in disaster preparedness and response.

One of the project’s early successes was to fully integrate national organisations in networks and
official coordination mechanisms at the local level. In some districts, local organisations became
proactive members of the humanitarian task force, alongside government and INGOs. Shifting the
Power signed a Memorandum of Understanding with CCRDA to facilitate the launch of the forum,
and provide financial and technical support for its functioning.

At the inauguration, CCRDA members discussed how the challenges in access to funding and the
decision-making platforms have hindered them. The country’s largest humanitarian donors
(including USAID, ECHO and the OCHA Country Pool Fund) demand complex eligibility criteria, such
as a foreign currency bank account, which is currently restricted to L/NNGOs by law.

The Forum has therefore agreed to engage with the government and the donor community to create
an enabling environment in which L/NNGOs can thrive. Moreover, it will contribute to stronger and
better relationship between INGOs and NNGOs on humanitarian partnerships and coordination,
evidencing the comparative advantage of collaboration and of a balanced humanitarian system
where local and international organisations reinforce and do not replace each other.

As the forum will act as a single, collective voice for front line humanitarian responders in the
country, it is expected to become a reference point for discussions on localisation of aid and the
implementation of the Grand Bargain commitments in Ethiopia. The platform is also fully integrated
in the CCRDA structure, which ensures its sustainability for years to come.

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