Over 140 people from 20 countries joined the fourth annual Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) Humanitarian Workshop – a global event bringing together key stakeholders from the humanitarian, private, and public sector to learn best practices, exchange ideas, and outline plans to improve energy access for refugees, internally displaced persons, and those affected by natural disasters.
Held in Kenya, the workshop was a unique opportunity for energy and humanitarian stakeholders to connect in-person and build capacity to implement effective energy solutions in humanitarian contexts. The workshop, which featured three days of classroom learning, panel discussions, and interactive sessions on topics including financing and the emerging role of the private sector, was hosted by the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves (the Alliance) in partnership with the United Nations Foundation (UNF), United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Kenya, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the World Food Programme (WFP) with support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).
On Day 4, the UN Foundation hosted a side event on the role of mini and micro grids in refugee camps.
Framing the Issue
The first day of the workshop focused on conceptualizing the cross-cutting nature of SAFE, and the many ways that energy access – and a lack thereof – impacts crisis-affected people. The Alliance and Chatham House provided a “State of the Sector” overview identifying challenges and gaps currently facing SAFE practitioners, as well as opportunities for increased engagement thanks to the advent of Sustainable Development Goal 7 and the Agenda for Humanity.
Refugee Testimonials on Energy Access
Four refugee representatives from Kenya’s Dadaab refugee camp complex, the second largest in the world, shared personal stories, giving attendees the opportunity to learn first hand about energy-related challenges faced by crisis-affected people.
"If refugees stay in Dadaab 10 more years, the surrounding environment will be destroyed, and the host community itself will be displaced,” said Abdullahi Ali Aden, highlighting the urgency of addressing rapid environmental degradation caused by firewood collection for cooking.
Day 1 continued with sessions on the impact of energy on health, water provision, the environment, and the protection and empowerment of women in humanitarian settings. It closed with a panel session highlighting the needs and challenges surrounding sustainable livelihoods in humanitarian settings, which are often inextricably linked to energy access. Panelists from WFP, Energy for Impact, and the Gaia Association presented examples of opportunities for crisis-affected people to earn income through energy projects.
“It is important to change the ways we look at refugees,” said Anna Ingwe from GIZ during the following group discussion. “They are not helpless. They are doctors, professors, teachers. They have skills.”
Designing, Delivering, and Assessing Solutions
Day 2 of the workshop delved into specific energy interventions to address the challenges discussed on Day 1. Speakers and participants discussed the design, delivery, and assessment of those solutions with a focus on best practices.
Morning sessions covered the range of stoves and fuels available in humanitarian settings, and the benefits and drawbacks of each type as they relate to safety, fuel efficiency, durability, emissions, and other key characteristics.
Stove and fuel expert Christa Roth asserted, "Stove design starts with the fuel, and the user sits at the center of the decision-making process.”
“If you are selling your food to get fuel, you will sell your stoves as well” commented Daphné Carliez of WFP when discussing the risk of providing inappropriate stoves in humanitarian settings.
In the afternoon, representatives from CLASP and GOGLA provided an overview of the wide range of “stand-alone” lighting and powering products available in humanitarian settings and helped participants identify context appropriate technologies. The final two sessions of day 2 focused on alternative models to free distribution of products, and on monitoring and evaluation of energy programing.
Looking Forward, Planning Action
Day 3 of the workshop called on participants to look ahead and propose solutions to common challenges facing all actors in the SAFE sector, such as planning, financing, and coordination.
“Humanitarian agencies need to make energy a priority within their own organizations before we can fund it...we need to prioritize on both sides,” said Hans Olav Ibrekk, providing the donor perspective from Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“It's not simply a case of attracting money…but also about attracting expertise,” added Ben Good of Energy4Impact, addressing the increasing role of the private sector in providing energy solutions for crisis-affected people.
In the afternoon, participants met in small groups divided by country, where they shared an overview of their respective energy-related efforts including success stories and challenges. In these small groups, several country groups committed to launching SAFE working groups in their respective locations (Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda).
The day concluded with thematic breakout sessions covering topics chosen by participants, including the new Energy Community of Practice (EnergyCoP); energy use by humanitarian organizations; protection, gender-based violence, and women’s empowerment; and alternative cooking fuels, among others.
Response to the 2017 SAFE Workshop has been overwhelmingly positive, and this year’s participants expressed that they are more eager than ever to implement their learning, stay connected to one another, and formalize their coordination efforts at the field level.