In early 2011, substantial changes occurred in the relationship between the UN and the Government of the State of Eritrea, with important implications for future UN-Government cooperation.
In January 2011, the Government informed the UN that it would discontinue the UN Development and Assistance Framework (UNDAF) 2007-2011 by the end of June 2011, and that it would not be renewed. The reason was the Government’s desire to curb dependence on foreign grant-in-aid/financial assistance in line with its self-reliance policy. Effective from 1 July 2011 to the end of 2012, UN assistance would be limited to health, water supply and sanitation, for which an interim cooperation framework was signed in July 2011. The Government planned to review the framework by the end of April 2012, with a view to expand it, allow it to continue in its present form or cancel it. However, this is yet to be accomplished.
Over 75 per cent of activities in the UNDAF 2007-2011 were humanitarian. Therefore, despite the Government’s discontinuation of the CAP in 2006, the UN Country Team (UNCT), with OCHA’s support, was able to address critical humanitarian concerns within the UNDAF.
OCHA found creative ways to fulfil its mandate. It kept a strong focus on advocacy, contingency planning, information management and CERF funding. Between 2006 and 2010, Eritrea benefited from more than $20 million in CERF funding.
In the face of dwindling funding opportunities, CERF has become a key resource for addressing critical humanitarian needs in Eritrea, especially in health and nutrition. Due to the uncertainty surrounding UN programming in early 2011, the UN Country Team in Eritrea opted out of the CERF Underfunded Emergency process. With this decision, and the Government’s announcement to discontinue the UNDAF beyond 2011, OCHA and the UNCT lost two key coordination tools essential in addressing critical humanitarian needs. Following the agreement of an interim cooperation framework with the UN, the UNCT regained its confidence and ability to implement programmes using CERF funding in 2012.
Given the restrictive environment within which the UN was allowed to operate, it was difficult for OCHA to register any major achievements against priorities set for 2011. However, a modest contribution was made in supporting the HC’s advocacy agenda and assisting visiting missions, including that of the Director of OCHA’s Coordination and Response Division in September 2011.
Regarding local development, the GIS/Database Officer and the Senior Admin/Finance Associate attended training workshops outside Eritrea. The office in Eritrea supported the Horn of Africa crisis, organizing a three-month surge mission of its Senior Administration and Financing Associate to the OCHA Somalia office in the last quarter of 2011. OCHA Eritrea ensured that the RC/HC CERF report for 2010 was submitted to the CERF secretariat on time. Although under-resourced, OCHA has proved itself an invaluable part of the UNCT, leading to calls for a strengthened OCHA presence in Eritrea from all partners.
In light of the policy changes, a major unresolved issue is the future of UN operations in Eritrea beyond 2012. The Government is determined to implement its self-reliance policy that discourages dependency on external assistance, whether from the UN or other donors. A review is expected before the end of April 2012. OCHA and the UN’s ability to operate effectively in Eritrea will depend on the review’s outcome.