What Role Can Energy Play in Bridging the Humanitarian-Development Divide?

January 18, 2018   |   Rome, Italy

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Location: Headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy in the German Room (C269).

This event is now closed, but you can watch the webcast at http://www.fao.org/webcast/home/en/item/4571/icode/ 

The importance of energy access for affected populations in the context of acute emergencies and protracted crises cannot be overstated. Nearly 60 million people are currently displaced due to violence and conflict, and an additional 26.4 million people on average are displaced each year by natural disasters. These refugees and internally displaced people (IDPs) rely overwhelmingly on traditional solid fuels — wood, coal, animal dung, and agricultural waste — to meet their household needs for cooking, lighting and heating. Hosting communities often face similar challenges. Women spend long hours walking each day to collect firewood to cook their families’ meals, often exposing themselves to the risk of physical and sexual assault. Women also frequently cook over open fires, increasing the risk of respiratory illnesses. In the absence of sufficient cooking fuel, families may under-cook food, sell their food rations, skip meals to buy fuel or switch to less nutritious foods that require less fuel to cook, all of which has a negative impact on nutrition. Population displacements and unsustainable use of traditional biomass have major impacts on natural resources (fodder, land, soil, water and wood…). Furthermore, at the global level, consistent energy access is required to irrigate, process, store, and cook food as well as to preserve vaccines for livestock. Hence, energy plays a crucial role in the agricultural sectors beyond the need for cooking fuel.

The importance of energy has been recognized and is enshrined in the Sustainable Energy for All (SE4All) initiative and the seventh Sustainable Development Goal. Despite this recognition and the different initiatives, currently 3.04 billion people live without access to clean cooking and 1.06 billion live without electricity. Yet access to fuel and energy is often left out of development and humanitarian response planning and implementation, with dire consequences for the most vulnerable communities as well as lost opportunities to cut fuel costs over time, enable income-generating activities and develop local and sustainable energy markets.


This inter-agency seminar, co-hosted by COOPI and FAO at the FAO headquarters in Rome, will highlight the implications of this major gap in response and, through pertinent case studies from the field, illustrate how energy needs and related risks and challenges can be better understood, quantified and addressed. Building on these case studies, the seminar will present various fora, working groups and platforms in which information about technologies, approaches, methodologies, good practices and lessons learned can be shared. These segments will lead to an open discussion about how good practices, methodologies and information and knowledge platforms can help to enable energy to bridge the humanitarian-development divide and contribute to sustainable and durable solutions for affected populations as well as the ways in which current approaches can be improved to achieve this goal.

Format and Agenda

The format will be a full day seminar which will enable participants to delve deep into the themes highlighted above as well as to allow for networking. The seminar will include the following:

  • Presentations of case studies, field work, methodologies, guidelines, approaches, technologies and best practices including joint collaboration between organizations in the field;
  • A panel of senior officers and/or experts to discuss ways in which to coordinate and move forward with energy-related interventions in emergencies, protracted crises, natural disasters and for rural development;
  • Breakout sessions in which participants can engage in discussions with staff from other organizations on topics that touch upon the multi-sectoral aspects of energy in humanitarian and development contexts.


FAO will ensure that an improved collaboration, rich discussions and tentative steps forward are captured in a “seminar proceedings” document to which all participants will be invited to provide inputs.

Expected Participants

Senior officers, experts and humanitarian and development practitioners from the following organizations are expected to be invited:

  • FAO
  • ECHO
  • IFAD
  • IOM
  • Politecnico di Milano
  • University of Udine
  • WFP

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