UN Agencies Join Forces

By Maya Plentz  

Twitter @MayaPlentz

United Nations, November 12, 2018 —  Three UN agencies have launched a digital platform to streamline the application process and evaluation of partner NGOs.

The United Nations Partnership Portal (UNPP), draws on the expertise of its multiple stakeholders, the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Agency for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and their decades of work delivering services on the ground during humanitarian emergencies.

UNHCR, WFP, and UNICEF are usually first responders when there is an earthquake, a tsunami, or civil conflict.  They achieve their goals on the field through partnerships with large international aid organisations, and local NGOs.

In fact, for WFP, of the 1,000 non-governmental organisations that they have worked with, in the past few years, 850 are local organisations. They know the culture, the region, and the languages. Once the worse of a humanitarian crisis has passed these partners are the one’s ensuring that the services will continue, and will produce results, be it in the integration of the refugee population in the host country, or their safe return home.

For Giammichele De Maio, WFP’s Chief of NGO Partnerships, the benefits of interagency cooperation are clear, a win-win for the agencies as well as the NGOs, as they will have a standardized way of inputting their information, and need now to upload information only once, to respond to various calls of expression of interest simultaneously.

Peacekeeping - MINUSTAH
The World Food Programme (WFP) distributes bags of rice in Port-au-Prince, in 2010.  Haitians were without food in the aftermath of the earthquake that devastated Haiti, in January of 2010. Photo credit: UN

The UN Partnership Portal (UNPP) was developed with the input of the three agencies, integrating their in-depth knowledge of rapid assessment and emergency response, the contribution of regional offices, and local and international NGOs.

The consultation process lasted several years, and the platform required another two years to be built. It will be live tomorrow at www.unpartnerportal.org. Driving this lengthy and collaborative process was Dr. Ashok Gladston Xavier, Head of the Department of Social Work, at Loyola College, in Chennai, India, and chair of an organisation that represents 300 Indian NGOs.

Building from his experience working with the refugee crisis in Sri Lanka, Dr. Ashok wrote several books on the subject of optimizing international and local aid, addressing  integration aspects, the return of refugees to their homeland. He also wrote about the use of theatre as an educational tool to have refugees reflect, and work through the emotional loss and vulnerability that being stateless, homeless, and suffering and witnessing the horrors of war, engenders.

A number of regional officers and NGO representatives from Lebanon, India, Congo, and other UN agencies’ offices throughout the world, will be attending the three-day training program at the UN Office in Geneva, to learn how to teach other officers back home to use the platform, and to support the transition, data migration, of NGOs already in the system.

Gail Stewardson, Development Manager for UK’s Children in Crisis, is looking forward to take full advantage of the efficiencies that the platform will bring, as they work in Sub-Saharan Africa, where they identified the educational needs of 12,023 homeless Ebola orphans in Sierra Leone to date, and estimate that another 3,500 have not yet been registered by any organisation.

Children in Crisis has been also working in Afghanistan for the last 20 years, with home-schooling of young girls, through their Community Based Education program, and programs for social and economic insertion of juvenile offenders.

Under the Taliban regime secret schools were needed as high numbers of children, mostly girls, were out of the formal education system. Children in Crisis was founded in 1993, by H.R.H. Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, and merged recently with another charity, Street Child.  H.R.H. Princess Beatrice of York, is presently its global ambassador.

The data gathered by the agencies will certainly be a selling point when they approach donors, as they can monitor the impact of programs by partner NGOs, and it will increase transparency in the evaluation process.  The added bonus will be to see how well-matched the NGOs are for the services requested on the ground, by the UN agencies.

According to the Robert Berenyi, UNHCR Partnership Officer, the online application process will help with capacity building for new NGOs wanting to partner with UN humanitarian agencies too.

NGOs representatives were keen to engage with the new platform, as it simplifies enormously their application process, said Rayan El Fawal, Programme Director of Leb Relief, in Lebanon. Before they had to apply to each separate regional office of the respective agencies, and had to create multiple applications in response to calls of expression of interest, starting from scratch each time.

By Maya Plentz

Follow me on Twitter @MayaPlentz