Currently, there is no global mandate to ensure that humanitarian assistance includes access to fuel and energy for critical needs such as cooking, lighting, heating, cooling, and phone charging. Funding shortages and insufficient policy guidance within humanitarian organizations has resulted in energy practices that are often “inefficient, polluting, unsafe for the users, and harmful to the surrounding environment.”
In an effort to address this energy crisis, 120 delegates from UN agencies, donors, private companies, and civil society gathered from January 15-16 in Berlin, Germany to lay the groundwork for the first-ever global, multi-stakeholder plan to ensure that crisis-affected people gain access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy services by 2030 (Sustainable Development Goal 7).
The need for a global plan of action on energy in humanitarian response first gained traction at a high-level event on the eve of the 2016 UN Summit on Refugees and Migrants and continued on the fringes of the Sustainable Energy for All Forum in New York last year. Later in 2017, UNITAR became engaged and convened a planning team including the Alliance, GIZ, the Moving Energy Initiative (MEI), Practical Action, UNHCR, IOM, and the UN Foundation. With support from the Federal Foreign Office of Germany, the team planned the Berlin event, entitled Energy for Displaced People: A Global Plan of Action for Sustainable Energy Solutions in Situations of Displacement.
Five strategic areas were identified for discussion ahead of the global plan of action – Planning and Coordination; Policy, Advocacy, and Host country resilience; Innovative Finance; Technical Expertise, Capacity Building and Training; and Data, Evidence, Monitoring and Reporting. As co-chair of the Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) Humanitarian Working Group, which seeks to facilitate more coordinated response to the energy needs of crisis-affected people, the Alliance authored the background note and played a key role in the Planning and Coordination workstream, recommended key stakeholders to attend the conference, and contributed to overall agenda development.
Each strategic area was addressed in depth during working sessions at the Berlin conference with the objective to identify challenges, share knowledge, and brainstorm potential solutions. By the end of the two days, delegates agreed to collaborate towards the following goals:
- Improve energy practice and policy in humanitarian settings. This will result in reduced energy and associated environmental pressures in host countries, and improved resilience of communities and host countries.
- Involve displaced people and host communities in the new Global Plan of Action to reflect their priorities and needs. This will require coordinated strategies and effective communication across all stakeholders for long-term sustainable energy access.
- Bolster finance for sustainable infrastructure investments. This will include delivering innovative financing methods for the sector.
- Utilize the skills and capacities of displaced people and ensure they have an active role for future energy interventions. This includes creating jobs where possible.
- Harmonize and standardize high-quality, usable data and evidence across the sector for monitoring, learning and evaluation. (MEI, 2018)
According to a 2015 report from MEI, about 80% of the 8.7 million people living in camp settings rely on solid fuels for cooking, resulting in detrimental impacts to their health, safety, and livelihoods. Overall, more than 135 million people are in need of humanitarian aid worldwide. Addressing the cooking energy needs of these vulnerable populations is a key element of the Alliance’s “100 by ‘20” goal to bring cleaner and more efficient cooking solutions to 100 million households by 2020, and millions more by 2030. Over the next six months, the Alliance, UNITAR, GIZ, MEI, Practical Action, UNHCR, IOM, and the UN Foundation will lead the development of a document that synthesizes the outputs from Berlin into a roadmap for ensuring that every person affected by conflict or natural disaster has access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy services by 2030.
All concept and background notes from the Berlin conference are available on the SAFE website. Join the SAFE mailing list to stay up to date on development of the Global Plan of Action and how you can contribute. You can also join the conversation on ENERGYCoP.