ISS, NUPI and TfP Secretariat attended a workshop on Modalities for the Operationalisation of the AU Policy Guideline on the Role of African Standby Force (ASF) in Humanitarian Action and Natural Disaster Support (HANDS). The HANDS Guideline was initiated in 2012 by the African Union Commission (AUC), the AU Department of Peace and Security, and the Department of Political Affairs.
The rationale behind the Guideline is the need to develop appropriate measures to facilitate humanitarian action in complex humanitarian crises or emergencies, such as those created by armed conflicts, natural and human induced disasters, and to determine to what extent the ASF can be employed in supporting efforts to address those situations and their effects. The Guideline provides a solid starting point as it outlines activities the ASF should engage in, as well as coordination/implementation mechanisms between the AU and Regional Economic Commissions and Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs). As such, much remains to be done in developing implementation modalities through which ASF can respond to humanitarian crises more effectively.
The workshop was organised by AU Peace and Security Department (AU PSOD and DPA) in collaboration with Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and UN OCHA. The objective of the workshop was to create a common understanding amongst relevant stakeholders on the HANDS Guideline and promote an avenue for dialogue on the modalities for the operationalisation of the HANDS Guideline; to engage with RECs/RMs in the domestication and alignment of the HANDS Guideline with existing regional frameworks for better coordination and effective provision of assistance; promote greater synergy with the HANDS Guideline and the African Humanitarian Policy Frameworks (AHPF); and agree on the time-lines for the implementation modalities.
After the two days deliberations, the workshop concluded with the following Action Points. (1) Coordination and increased interaction between RECs/RMs and AU including current PSO through existing mechanisms and peer learning exercises, (2) establishing HANDS Focal Points at the AU, RECs/RMs and relevant humanitarian organisations, (3) a call on the AUC, in particular DPA to work closely with RECs in implementing the HANDS, (4) developing a Code of Conduct for responders in line with cultural sensitivity and build in mutual respect, (5) command force exercise between AU and RECs/RMs, (6) support in sensitization and harmonisation of the AHPF, (7) coordination and appropriate investment to be made in developing an emergency response capacity by the AU, and (8) developing and harmonizing training.