UNICEF has been tasked with leading the response coordination in the areas of water, sanitation, nutrition, education and child protection. Why?
Our programmatic presence in over 120 countries requires us to be there for the long term, before, during and after the emergency. This presence on behalf of the most destitute populations is our strength. It allows us to act in the areas of both prevention and reconstruction. We also take care to ensure the longevity of the solutions implemented through a resilience approach.
This is an ambitious aim. How do you hope to achieve it?
By creating extremely long-term partnerships that are devised at a very early stage. Because you don’t set up an emergency partnership right in the middle of an emergency. For over ten years, the Veolia foundation has been fostering a special cooperative relationship with our organization as a stand-by partner. This type of large-scale partnership with a private company remains rare at UNICEF, as only Ericsson in telecommunications enjoys this status. We reserve it for organizations capable of intervening in humanitarian emergency situations. In this respect, the Foundation is committed to mobilizing its network of volunteer staff from Veoliaforce at any time, as soon as a crisis arises. Veoliaforce was sent to the Philippines and Haiti to provide the necessary skills to supply drinking water to the impacted populations.
The private sector is a relatively recent arrival to UNICEF’s ecosystem. Is this shaking up your intergovernmental agency culture?
It is true that governments and local and international humanitarian NGOs have historically been our natural partners, through our system of logistics clusters (telecoms, etc.). Nonetheless, through UNICEF’s national committees such as the French committee, the private sector already represents a third of our financial resources. At the beginning, this wasn’t a given as our cultures are very different. Many companies hesitate to get involved in crisis situations. But we felt a real commitment on the part of the Veolia foundation, a desire to invest and bring added value to the humanitarian sector and, more lastingly, to the development sector, relying primarily on its professional expertise and the skills of its staff. To such an extent that it has become a fully-fledged humanitarian player!