This article has been re-posted from the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. The original may be found here.
More than 80 people from 23 countries joined the third annual SAFE Humanitarian Workshop – a global event that brought together key stakeholders to learn best practices, exchange ideas, and outline future plans for how best to improve energy access for refugees, internally displaced persons, and those affected by natural disasters.
Held in Kigali, Rwanda, the event was hosted by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and the Sustainable Energy Technologies for Food Security (SET4Food) Project, in partnership with UNHCR, the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Dr. Amare Gebreselassie, Senior Environmental Coordinator at UNHCR, delivered a keynote address, highlighting energy as “the forgotten sector” in humanitarian response and praising the Alliance’s dedication and leadership on SAFE.
Four key themes surfaced as part of this year’s SAFE workshop:
The humanitarian energy sector is growing – and diversifying.
Attendees represented a broad variety of expertise - from climate change to finance to deep knowledge on specific technologies. Where previous workshops focused on cooking and lighting, this year included deep dives on heating and powering from UNHCR’s Energy & Environment Unit. Representatives from the water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) sector attended for the first time, opening the way for more effective collaboration with the WASH cluster on energy issues. This year also featured the first health-focused session from the World Health Organization, as well as more in-depth discussions on environmental impacts and climate change.
There is a growing need for strategic planning and problem-solving.
The SAFE Workshop is an opportunity for practitioners to receive training on incorporating energy into their humanitarian responses. This year sessions included: Intro to SAFE, program planning and grants writing, energy access and gender, as well as more advanced sessions on technologies and fuels for cooking and lighting. But as the SAFE sector grows, the needs of its members are changing; participants expressed a desire for time to discuss issues in depth. To accommodate, the Alliance created an informal roundtable session, where participants could discuss any topic of their choosing. These included discussions on market-based approaches, carbon finance, the intersections between energy and environment, energy access in urban settings, and a feedback session on the creation of an energy community of practice (ENERGYCoP) under the SET4Food project.
The private sector wants in
An increased level of interest to get involved in humanitarian response among private sector organizations was prevalent at the workshop, particularly from cooking and lighting companies. Reflecting the “Transcending the Humanitarian Development Divide” theme highlighted at this year’s World Humanitarian Summit, the Alliance facilitated a session on market-based approaches in humanitarian settings. The session featured case studies from Little Sun, Practical Action, Inyenyeri, and the Moving Energy Initiative where market-based approaches have been applied in humanitarian contexts, and the resulting benefits and challenges. It was the most highly attended session at the workshop, and both humanitarian and private sector participants expressed a desire for further discussion.
The message is spreading – but more work is needed
The workshop marked the end of a landmark year in humanitarian response, with over 125 million people currently in need of humanitarian aid and the growing refugee crisis in Syria. Given the previous lack of recognition of energy access in humanitarian settings as a key issue, the broadening of the SAFE sector is a uniformly positive development.
As the community expands, the Alliance and other members of the SAFE Working Group will need continued support from agencies, donors, and individuals to accommodate growing needs and build momentum.
The UK Department of International Development (DfID) has been a longtime sponsor of the Alliance’s humanitarian work, and once again supported this year’s workshop. Thanks to the SET4Project, which is funded by the European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO), EU funds supported the SAFE workshop for the first time in 2016. Meanwhile, the Governments of Norway and the Netherlands have both pledged to support energy access for humanitarian settings over the next few years. These pledges will go towards further capacity building, pilot projects, and improved collaboration in the SAFE sector.
In 2017, the Alliance and the SAFE Humanitarian Working Group will continue to advocate for the formalization of the sector at all levels and encourage all members of the SAFE community – private, public, and non-profit – to join the effort.
Presentations and materials from the 2016 SAFE Humanitarian Workshop are available here.