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Acting in Transition Situations: From Crisis Intervention to Long-term Development

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23 November 2011

Transitioning from an emergency intervention to establishing a long-term development programme is problematic for any donor, so the European Commission staged a recent event in Brussels to bring together some of its humanitarian and development experts to discuss how transition situations could be better managed.

The event gave participants training on how to draft a Joint Humanitarian Development Framework that clearly identifies the sometimes competing interests at play when operating in a transition situations, so that activity can be better harmonised.

“The aim of this event is to start giving people the possibility to see things from a different angle,” said event organiser, Laura Gualdi from EuropeAid. “The whole objective is to bring together - in the phase of the analysis in particular and in the design phase of the intervention – the two main actors, which are the humanitarian and the development experts.”



The need for a Joint Humanitarian development Framework was first identified in 2005, when the Commission’s humanitarian department ECHO became involved in a food crisis in Niger where the population struggled with high malnutrition rates.

“After the humanitarian response to this crisis, we were able to have a look at all the Sahel countries and discovered that this problem was a long-term structural problem and we needed to address it,” said Eric Pitois from ECHO.

ECHO started by looking at ways to link actors from the humanitarian world with those in the development world to work together and address the problem jointly.

“[From this] we have been able to draft a ‘problem tree’,” said Mr Pitois, “and thanks to this analysis we were able to know who is able to do what and where.”

The resulting tool, the Joint Humanitarian Development Framework, has already been used in other situations, including to ensure emergency interventions to tackle flooding in Burkina Faso simultaneously addressed long-term development needs.

You can download a Rough Guide on how to draft a Joint Humanitarian Development Framework, here. A powerpoint presentation explaining the framework further is also available. And an official summary of the key points from this EC training event, is also available for download.

Communication between ECHO, and their long-term development cooperation arm, EuropeAid, has long been a vital mode of operating in transition environments. But participants to the workshop welcomed the Joint Humanitarian Development Framework as providing a useful tool to formalise this dialogue into a common approach.

 “In order to make that link between humanitarian assistance and development assistance, the biggest challenge is on the spot,” said Will Vandenberghe from the EU delegation to Sri Lanka. “It is key that the ECHO office and the development cooperation office, which is part of the EU delegation, are communicating very, very intensively [and]are informing each other about what is going to happen.”

“What was missing,” said Mr Vandenberghe, “was a method a framework of how to work in a maximum-efficient way.”



ECHO is preparing to wind up its operations in Sri Lanka next year after the ending of a long-running civil war, and the EU delegation in Colombo is looking at how it can build on ECHO’s inputs to provide long-term development assistance over the years to come.

“There are clear differences in the objectives between the humanitarian intervention, which first and foremost wants to save lives and the development assistance which aims at eradicating poverty in the long-term,” said Mr Vandenberghe.

Similarly in Haiti, which suffered a devastating earthquake in 2010, discussion and close cooperation with ECHO is fundamental to the effective transition from emergency response to long-term development.

“We do of course continue to have regular discussions, I would say every ten days or something we have a meeting, where we try and foresee how we can try and take over the development of activities that ECHO have been financing from a humanitarian point of view,” said workshop attendee Paul Webber from the EU delegation to Haiti.

There, too, the Joint Humanitarian Development Framework is expected to provide a formal structure to this transition process.

“We’re coming to the point now in the second half of 2011 that we will be sitting down more concretely to try and develop programmes to move from the relief towards the redevelopment of Haiti,” Mr Webber said.



This pilot workshop is expected to be the first of a series of such events, including regional workshops to bring together colleagues with similar experiences and challenges for knowledge sharing and support.

“This is only the first of these events,” said Ms Gualdi. “The objective is to have a first test and also on the basis of this to design more of these events, maybe even locating these events closer to the ground.”


DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission, or any other organisation.

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