Building resilience to save the future UN agencies to scale-up their “development response” to the Syria crisis
At the end of UN Agencies meetings over two days, Regional Directors and Representatives of 22 agencies of the United Nations agreed to launch a collective “development response” to the Syria crisis to complement ongoing humanitarian efforts centered around providing life-saving relief to displaced Syrians, inside Syria and in neighboring countries.
Sima Bahous, Assistant Secretary-General, Chair of the Regional United Nations Development Group (UNDG) and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), who convened the meeting, argued not only for expanding the scope of the collective UN response, but for making a conceptual shift in its focus as well.
“While we continue to provide essential humanitarian support, we must as well attend to development needs in a manner that is complementary, simultaneous and urgent,” stressed Bahous. “We must safeguard present gains in development and arrest potential roll-back, and at the same time, strengthen recovery and nurture innate capacities for development planning and delivery, so that people –supported by their local institutions— can cope with the ongoing crisis and build back their lives, better.”
Resilience: rethinking post-conflict development responses
Underscoring that the cost of stabilizing downward economic trends and sustaining the rapid growth of settlements is beyond State capacity in all affected countries, participating agencies agreed upon the need to mobilize what is describe as a “resilience-based development response.”
This fast-track resilience-based development response will support affected countries to:
o cope with increasing demands on basic services (including the stress on housing and land markets),
o recover from downward economic trends (e.g., degradation of infrastructure, and social tensions), and
o sustain institutions and capacities to anticipate, prevent and effectively manage future shocks, thus reducing vulnerability
In countries within the immediate sub-region of influence of the Syria crisis: Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Turkey, the resilience-based development approach will support governmental efforts at national and sub-national levels to ensure the provision of quality housing and related services for sustainable habitat (water, sanitation, energy and waste removal) and the rehabilitation and reconstruction of social economic infrastructure.
It will also strengthen technical and managerial capacities of municipal governments, as well as build the capacity of citizens to engage with local governments through participatory decision-making processes and accountability mechanisms to ensure sustainable delivery of quality social services and to promote peaceful coexistence within conflict-affected communities.
The approach will prioritize generating livelihood opportunities and sustainable employment through improving access to markets and financial services, stimulating productive investments, and formulating pro-poor policies to promote private sector engagement
Inside Syria, the anticipated continuation of the protracted crisis requires that all measures be taken to complement the humanitarian effort with sustainable interventions and durable solutions aimed at mitigating internal displacement, addressing root causes of the conflict and restoring basic services (where possible) in areas of relative peace, and provide support to livelihood activities.
Resilience applied: road map to implementation
Embracing the conceptual framework of resilience, UN agencies in the meeting agreed on a set of parameters and guidelines for the preparation of action-plans for the proposed resilience-based development response, for each country affected by the Syria crisis, and defined common areas of programming, and financing within and across countries to facilitate coordination of humanitarian and development response.
The UN agencies also explored means to optimize partnerships and funding mechanisms between national and local authorities and amongst donors, international cooperation agencies and the United Nations in order to support the proposed resilience-based development response.
“Today, we have made an excellent start on a long journey,” said Gustavo Gonzalez, Sub-regional Coordinator of the Development Response. “As of today, we are rolling our sleeves up to detail all the operational requirements to make this resilience-base development response as comprehensive and robust as it must be to meet the needs of the populations affected by this major crisis in Syria and its neighbours.”
Content with the agreement reached over his proposed implementation road-map of the resilience-based development response, Gonzalez now focuses on the task of setting-up in Amman a support facility that will coordinate and technically reinforce planning and implementation exercises led at the country level by the UN Resident Coordinators, who also serve as Humanitarian Coordinators. “We are wasting no time,” he said. “Every hour of delay in implementing the development response has a cost, paid for from the future of people in this afflicted sub-region.”