Why Technical Expertise, Capacity Building and Training is Important for Energy for Displaced People?
Well-trained and coordinated staff who provide programmatic and technical support to energy projects is crucial in humanitarian assistance. Energy access is often overlooked in the strategies and budgets of organizations engaged in humanitarian assistance for health, protection, food security, shelter, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), and other issues. A number of organizations have progressed in incorporating fuel and energy into their humanitarian work over the past decade, but often these activities are extra-budgetary or dependent on short term grants. Consequently, there is a severe shortage of well-trained technical and programmatic experts who can facilitate coordinated responses to energy needs in the field. This gap in expertise is exacerbated by high turnover rates of deployed staff among humanitarian agencies and NGOs. While many staff are often eager and willing to learn about energy, ease of access to and awareness of the right tools are often barriers that inhibit learning.
Affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy is a critical enabler for sustainable development, yet the fundamental energy needs of displaced people are majorly unattended due to this lack of institutional capacity. Narrowing this gap in humanitarian response through relevant technical expertise, capacity building and training is imperative for a transition away from an unsustainable procure and provide mind set to a more resilient, equitable and sustainable response. Equipping humanitarian organizations with technical expertise and incorporating local expertise to provide sustainable energy services improves safety and security, health and livelihoods for displaced people. Delivering capacity building and trainings around the productive use of energy, solution specific services and sustainable resource management empowers end users and camp managers with increased ecological, safe and effective energy practices. On top of the human centered benefits presented, the capacity to equip displacement situations with clean energy from the start presents a clear economic case resulting in long term cost savings for humanitarian organizations. Without the sufficient institutional capacity to address this need, energy provision in situations of displacement will remain dependent on unsustainable and unsafe practices, intensifying the common humanitarian issues faced in low access regions.
Delivering universal energy access by 2030 remains a challenge, but institutionally addressing this need will be an accelerator for sustainable development to meet global goals and effectively enhance the quality of life of people living in displacement settings. In response to the strong political will of global leaders in the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants and subsequent action being taken to improve humanitarian assistance for displaced people, there is a significant opportunity to rethink current energy provision methods and collaboratively equip all stakeholders with the necessary capacity and energy expertise for long term benefits.
Analysis: What Challenges are we Facing?
The design and implementation of energy solutions is technical, complex and depends on legal and governance frameworks. As the genesis of responses for displaced people are often fragile in nature and initial humanitarian response to crisis generally lacks capacity to serve continuous needs upon high volumes of arrival, energy is understandably not the first priority in emergency situations. This being said, a bulk of the challenges faced in sustainable energy adoption after initial emergency response could be mitigated through institutional capacity and awareness for the important role energy plays in quality response. Energy for displacement situations is still a niche area that affects many cross cutting themes but is not normally focused on as its own category. These challenges are important to understand so technical expertise can be acquired, capacity can be built institutionally, and appropriate trainings can be administered to relevant beneficiaries.
Some challenges that serve as barriers to providing adequate technical expertise, capacity building and training are as follows:
- Lack of institutional technical expertise in or reference point in field.
- Lack of standardized energy trainings and limited access to tools when they are available.
- Little awareness of the importance, benefits, potential and cross cutting nature of clean energy.
- Energy roles assigned to people who are unequipped with appropriate technical expertise or who have very limited time to provide attention to this issue.
- Lack of financing for humanitarian organizations to hire technical energy experts.
- ‘Procure and provide’ mind set, rather than tools and processes designed to enable an environment for private companies to enter.
- Reluctance of staff to receive energy training ‘on top of everything else’.
- Lack of entrance point for private sector to implement solution specific trainings.
- End users training needs or capacity are misunderstood.
- Disabling policies that hinder displaced people from capacity building.
Among other activities, experienced staff with a background on energy in humanitarian settings is needed to conduct solid assessments of energy needs and recommend context-appropriate solutions; provide training on the proper installation, use, maintenance, and benefits of energy products; develop energy strategies that incorporate considerations for the health, safety, livelihoods, and well-being of crisis-affected people – especially women and children – and their surrounding environment; and identify opportunities to transform short term solutions into long term income-generating activities, such as locally producing improved cook stoves or firewood alternatives. These activities build the capacity of crisis-affected communities to cope with future disasters and encourage humanitarian actors to consider longer-term strategies. Despite these many challenges, many tools and resources do exist for humanitarian practitioners, and with some adaptation and training these could be used to facilitate energy programming in humanitarian settings.
In response to these challenges, the humanitarian sector has been taking action in recent years to narrow the capacity gap. Current initiatives such as the Safe Access to Energy (SAFE) Humanitarian Working Group and the Moving Energy Initiative (MEI) have focused on specifically building institutional capacity through trainings, targeted reporting and building institutional awareness. Recognizing the technical expertise gap, multiple organizations such as UNHCR, WFP and the SAFE working group have published open calls for experts in the form of Energy Expert Rosters. Different innovative online platforms such as ENERGYCoP and Sustainable Energy Technology for Food (SET4Food) use open tendering and transparent data to connect private sector expertise to field energy need.
Highlighting best practice cases can provide examples on innovative ways training and expertise have been used in light of longer term sustainable energy practices.
Best Practice Examples
- ICRC has deployed a sustainability expert who can recommend appropriate sustainable energy infrastructure from the beginning of site planning in Cox’s Bazar.
- UNHCR, in collaboration with the IKEA foundation and Engineers Without Borders USA, introduced mini-grids for cost effective community lighting in Nepal. The mini grids were designed, installed and maintained with support from the community. (UNHCR, 2016)
- The Moving Energy Initiative has created the toolkits focused on private sector engagement and cooking systems for humanitarian actors to gain and streamline technical expertise. (Vianello, 2016; Van Landeghem, 2016)
- IOM has established an institutional framework for Flash reporting of emergency response that includes energy needs
- Existing tools, such as Practical Actions’ “Emergency Market Mapping and Analysis” tool, which contains training and e-learning components, can be adapted to meet energy demands and used to build capacity institutionally and simultaneously understand local markets. (EMMA, 2017)
- GIZ commissioned a regional project in Egypt to create a Regional Centre for Renewable Energies and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE) to build institutional capacity in the Middle East and North Africa. This platform offers on-demand capacity development programs and has carried out assessments such as solar PV status in Yemen and capacity needs for regional green energy financing.
- A solar farm was constructed for Azraq, a Jordanian refugee camp, where local capacity was built through the contracting of a local Jordanian company to provide the solar solution and 50+ refugees were taught valuable skills through technical energy training (UNHCR, 2017)
- The Chamber of Commerce of Djibouti supported by a German corporation partnered with the University of Djibouti to train local community members and refugees on the installation and maintenance of solar and wind technologies. (CCD, 2016)
- The Sustainable Energy Technologies for Food project (SET4Food) offers e-learning courses and thematic webinars that serve as trainings for appropriate energy technologies for food utilization in refugee/IDP settings.
Key Stakeholders: Who is Involved in this Working Area and Who Can Support Solving the Problems?
Holistic evaluation when it comes to assessing current technical expertise and capacity needs in terms of energy is essential. Partnership and recognizing priority stakeholders is key to building capacity and delivering trainings that are comprehensive and end-used focused. For example in camp settings, the people who design, operate and use the energy systems are not the same and so is the level of responsibility.
From leadership level to field personnel to displaced people themselves, it is imperative for each party to understand the significant role energy plays in humanitarian response and how they can contribute appropriately. Recognizing that more resilient, sustainable energy practices lead to vast environmental and economic benefits, leadership can prioritize finance for technical expertise and organization wide capacity building. Including a technical expert in initial site planning as well as protracted situations can equip operations with the necessary capacity needed to effectively design, implement and sustainably maintain the energy systems. Training displaced people - in light of their capacity and socio-cultural contexts - in system building/maintenance and in safe fuel use can result in economic value and improved health conditions. Ensuring technology transfer is coupled with necessary training is important for effective use of distributed products such as solar lanterns. These examples further illustrate how capacity building and training are essential for all links of the value chain to accelerate sustainable development. Ensuring response in a more sustainable way with less economic impact will depend on how stakeholders can effectively work together towards quality technology transfer/adoption through appropriate training and if primary institutions can prioritize energy awareness, technical expertise and wide scale capacity building.
This working group will include actions related to equip governments, companies and organizations with the relevant skills and knowledge to efficiently plan, manage and monitor energy interventions in humanitarian response. The following stakeholders will join to understand the landscape of technical expertise, share best practices, identify relevant energy trainings for appropriate beneficiaries, and create methods for institutional awareness and capacity building:
- International, national and local NGOs: technical energy expertise in emergency planning and protracted to be incorporated into their priorities; capacity built institutionally to understand and implement energy needs
- Private sector technology providers: technical energy expertise could be outsourced to the providers who have the specific technical expertise to build, operate and maintain their market-based solutions
- Governments: creating enabling policies that encourage the capacity building and training of energy beneficiaries; creating enabling policies that encourage localized capacity to be utilized effectively
- Training and research institutions or academia: could create and facilitate standardized energy trainings that are adapted to field and end user needs for humanitarian staff and beneficiaries
- Displaced people and their host communities: local capacity to implement energy solutions is evaluated for a sustainable and economic approach; displaced people and their host communities can participate in vocational trainings enabled by improved energy services or energy technician trainings
By including members of the private sector with technical experience and market based solutions, government actors who can influence policy and create awareness and organisations who run camp operations, the goal is to more equitably engage each party and come up with solutions to advance the energy agenda from all sides. To leverage the capabilities, deep cultural understanding and economies of host communities, a strong emphasis on local capacity building will be prevalent throughout the discussion.
Outlining Options: What are the Necessary Actions to Solve these Problems?
As momentum gains and agencies interests’ in sustainable energy increases, various pilot projects and new initiatives addressing the need for energy expertise provide insight on what action is to be taken for comprehensive organizational capacity building. To ensure quality delivery models, it is imperative to understand how to effectively gauge current capacity. A starting point would be to develop a thorough understanding of organizational capacity in HQ and the field and engage in transparent discussion to identify what gaps need to be filled and where. Gaining an in depth understanding through detailed stock taking of current capacity can provide the foundation necessary to plan for forward action and eliminate reinventing the wheel. Next steps could include creating a framework to implement end-user adapted trainings for field staff and displaced people. Creating positions for regional or national energy experts and leveraging local capacity wherever possible could better equip organizations. Engaging in partnerships with a diverse range of stakeholders including the private sector who could own and operate energy systems and sell electricity as a service could ease the burden of technical expertise necessity in humanitarian operations. As 51% of refugees are children, an acute focus on training the young generations can be incorporated in these frameworks. In the long term, institutional capacity will need to be built to normalize the implementation of sustainable solutions.
What are Key Questions as a Basis for the Discussion in Berlin?
These questions will focus on how to create awareness for the vital role that technical expertise, capacity building and training play in sustainable development, how stakeholders with technical expertise can be innovatively incorporated into the energy transition, how finance can be prioritized for smarter energy planning, what potential training opportunities can create jobs for and transfer skills to displaced people and how the end user needs are understood.
- How much in-house technical expertise is necessary vs. outsourcing of technical capacity?
- How can field needs be well understood so technical expertise and capacity building can be provided effectively?
- How can end users be engaged in a way to understand their energy training needs?
- What are the greatest challenges to institutionalized capacity building around energy for international organizations and how can awareness be raised internally?
- What is the standardized energy knowledge necessary for field personnel to be trained in?
- What sources of funding is there for technical energy specialists or are there organizations with relevant technical expertise that would be interested in partnering?
- How can private sector, solution specific expertise be transferred to end users and camp managers alike?
- How can the private sector’s role increase in system ownership, operation and maintenance to lessen the necessity of energy expertise staff in humanitarian response?
- How can relevant stakeholders create institutional awareness around sustainable solutions and the importance of sustainable development rather than give and go in settings of crisis affected people?
How can the various organizations collectively learn from best practices?
Further Information on the Global Plan of Action
For more information or if you would like to be involved in the working groups, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. If you would like to be notified about major developments relating to the Global Plan of Action, please sign up for the SAFE mailing list. For community discussions, we have set up a discussion forum on ENERGYCoP – a dedicated community of practice for stakeholders engaged in humanitarian energy.
This background paper was written by Aimee Jenks and Thomas Fohgrub: UNITAR; with input from Kathleen Callaghy: Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, for Berlin Conference on “Energy for Displaced People: A Global Plan of Action for sustainable energy solutions in situations of displacement". January 2018.
- Bellanca, R. (2014) Sustainable Energy Provision Among Displaced Populations: Policy and Practice. Chatham House. Online.
- Chambre de Commerce de Djibouti (CCD), (2016). PERD Project, Launch of Renewable Energy Training at CCD. Online.
- Lahn, G. and Grafham, O. (2015). Heat, Light and Power for Refugees Saving Lives, Reducing Costs. Online.
- Practical Action, EMMA toolkit (2017). Emergency market mapping and analysis toolkit. Online.
- Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE). Online.
- UNHCR (2016). Global Report 2016. p.171. Online.
- UNHCR (2017). Jordan’s Azraq becomes World’s First Clean Energy Refugee Camp. Online.
- Van Landeghem, Lindsay (2017). Private-Sector Engagement: The Key to Efficient, Effective Energy Access for Refugees. Online.
- Vianello, Mattia (2016). A Review of Cooking Systems for Humanitarian Settings. Online.