Gearing up to avoid a deeper crisis in Burundi
11 Jan 2016 by Bruno Lemarquis, Deputy Director, Crisis Response Unit, UNDP
The situation in Burundi is extremely worrying. The political crisis comes on top of structural development problems, with repercussions in terms of humanitarian needs, social cohesion and the human rights situation, all against a familiar historical backdrop.
For the most visible humanitarian manifestation of these issues, look no further than the displaced persons who have left Burundi. Internally displaced people are a lot less conspicuous because they stay in communities where they feel safe.
I was in Burundi on mission at the beginning of 2015. Our delegation met with representatives of the government, civil society and development partners. We made a field visit to the south of the country where we inspected a site for displaced people, a clinic, and a food distribution centre. The mission will put the spotlight on Burundi and raise its visibility on the list of humanitarian assistance priorities in the event that the situation deteriorates even further.
The second part of my mission was to assess the situation with the UNDP office in order to study the need to refocus certain activities and programmes and provide additional capacity building for the field team.
We need to shift into higher gear to be ready to address the most immediate needs should a gloomier scenario materialize. Depending on how the crisis and its possible scenarios unfold, UNDP will have to move quickly to adapt its programmes and negotiate with donors in order to reallocate existing funding or mobilize additional resources. UNDP will certainly be in a position to provide support in the areas of social cohesion, institution-building and local capacity building designed to facilitate conflict resolution, and in recovery and reintegration.
In fact our office in Burundi has significant experience in terms of reintegrating former combatants, as well as internally displaced and repatriated people. This record of achievement will help to lay the groundwork for returning people. Emergency employment should be created in collaboration with local authorities. Ensuring that the delivery of basic social services can continue despite the constraints of the current situation is also a priority.
In the areas of the rule of law and justice, we must see to it that our actions are well-suited to the current context. Our work in the area of legal aid at the local level should absolutely be strengthened because it affects people directly.
We will harness synergies between UNDP and other humanitarian stakeholders, first and foremost by coordinating with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This partnership could then be complemented with interventions by various other agencies.
To overcome the crisis once and for all, we must avoid short-term solutions and focus on youth and the employment of young people. Burundi is a very young country, and opportunities for employment and training are quite limited. Creating long-term sustainable employment should be one of the absolute priorities for the country as well as a collective responsibility. Crises feed off apathy.