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Humanitarian Diplomacy

29 February 2016

Over the past several years, South Africa has shown an increase in its international humanitarian assistance efforts, and has developed various internal systems in this regard. Efforts are underway to streamline and standardise these systems according to existing international mechanisms at global, continental and regional level. This will allow the country to respond promptly and in an international coordinated manner to emergencies, which will benefit recipients as well as to further the foreign policy objectives of Government.  

In light of the above, the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) jointly facilitated a Workshop entitled, South Africa and the International Humanitarian System.

The workshop took place from 28-30 September 2015, included the Departments of Home Affairs, Water and Sanitation, Social Development, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries as well as the National Treasury and the National Disaster Management Centre (NDMC). Representatives from the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) made presentations on the progress of their organisations in developing humanitarian policy frameworks. Humanitarian Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO’s) which have working relationship with the Government also participated and they included amongst others, South African Red Cross Society, Rescue South Africa, Gift of the Givers, Islamic Relief and Al-Imdaad Foundation.

Ambassador Seleka in his opening remarks said that one of the cardinal reasons for convening this long overdue workshop is to do some audit on the capacities and expertise within Government as well as local humanitarian NGO’s pertaining to humanitarian diplomacy. He further said that, this auditing exercise is critical and imperative to conduct, as DIRCO will in a long run be able to ascertain which relevant government departments to go to for any specific request.

The workshop provided an introduction to international humanitarian system, including available tools and services with a focus on how the Government can optimise its strategic value as a critical stakeholder of international humanitarian operations. Global best practices were also discussed, linking national systems with international processes and opportunities.

Key conclusions of the workshop centred on the need to strengthen coordination within Government for increased strategic impact. Following, the workshop is seen as a first step in the development of a national Humanitarian Policy Framework, through continued collaboration between Government and its local and international partners. The workshop participants also called for the creation of a DIRCO led unified coordination mechanism for South Africa, composed of relevant departments and inclusive local humanitarian NGO’s.

Ambassador NKM Seleka
Director: Humanitarian Affairs
Department of International Relations and Cooperation

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