Africa: Where Aid Work and the Private Sector Meet
29 August 2013
Nairobi - The private sector has long been a participant in global humanitarian work, providing cash and material donations. But private enterprises are increasingly becoming directly involved in relief work, partnering with governments, the UN and NGOs to improve aid delivery.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the guiding principles for public-private humanitarian collaboration include "do n o harm", coordination with humanitarian actors, conformity with humanitarian principles and standards, and respect for beneficiary communities.
IRIN has put together some examples of projects in which public-private collaborations have been used to improve aid work. (For more, see IRIN's analysis on the role of the private sector in humanitarian work.)
IKEA and UNHCR: The IKEA Foundation, the charitable arm of Swedish furniture giant, and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are partnering to pilot a new flat-packed refugee shelter that requires no tools to assemble, is better able to withstand harsh weather conditions and is more durable than the traditional canvas tents that have accommodated millions of refugees around the world. The new shelters are being tested in Ethiopia's Dollo Ado re fugee camp and in Iraq's Domiz camp for Syrian refugees.
Mastercard and WFP: As part of its efforts to feed the world's hungry, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) provides beneficiaries with food vouchers that are redeemable at local shops; these vouchers also help to boost the local economy. WFP has partnered with Mastercard on a "digital food" project" that will help improve the electronic food voucher system by, among other things, enabling voucher delivery through mobile phones or bank cards.
The Medicines Patent Pool: Formed in 2010 by health financing mechanism UNITAID, the Medicines Patent Pool describes itself as "a United Nations-backed organization that offers a public-health driven business model that aims to lower the prices of HIV medicines and facilitate the development of better-adapted HI V medicines in developing countries".
The pool depends on private pharmaceutical companies willing to negotiate with generic drug manufacturers for voluntary licences on medicine patents, enabling generic competition and facilitating the development of new drug formulations.
Since the organization's formation, major pharmaceutical firms, including Gilead, Roche and ViiV, have collaborated with the pool to make their drug formulations available to people who would otherwise be unable to afford them.
Microsoft and OCHA: OCHA and IT giant Microsoft have been collaborating since 2006, with the latter developing and supporting an inter-agency website to boost humanitarian coordination through the cluster system, which since 2005 has brought UN and non-UN humanitaria n organizations together to coordinate emergency response.
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