UN Agency Leaders and the Alliance Launch Website on Safe Access to Fuel & Energy (SAFE) in Humanitarian Settings
The opening of the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly brought hundreds of world leaders to New York this past week. Energy access issues were a major topic of discussion at the People’s Climate March, the UN Climate Summit, Sustainable Energy for All panels, and many of the other high-level events over the week.
While much of the discussion focused on development settings, the challenges around energy access for cooking, heating, lighting, and powering are particularly acute among the most vulnerable populations: refugees, internally displaced people, and other crisis-affected communities. Most of the food provided by humanitarian agencies must be cooked before it can be eaten, but cookstoves and fuel are rarely provided. As a result, women and children must risk their safety, health, and sometimes their lives, to search for and collect firewood in order to cook food over smoky, polluting open fires. At night, lack of access to lighting further increases women’s vulnerability when navigating camps to use latrines and other services.
Despite the life-threatening consequences of lack of access to fuel and energy, the humanitarian community often fails to adequately address energy needs during immediate and protracted response.
To call attention to this challenging issue, the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves co-hosted a high-level panel discussion on energy access in humanitarian settings alongside the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC) and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Speakers included UNHCR Deputy High Commissioner T. Alexander Aleinikoff, UNICEF Associate Programme Division Director and Chief of the Global Child Protection Section Susan Bissell, World Food Programme Chief of the Climate Resilience for Food Security Unit Richard Choularton, WRC Executive Director Sarah Costa, and International Lifeline Fund Executive Director Daniel Wolf. Radha Muthiah, Executive Director of the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, moderated the event..
During his remarks, Mr. Aleinikoff highlighted UNHCR’s growing commitment to addressing Safe Access to Fuel and Energy (SAFE) needs through their recently launched SAFE strategy. They are currently developing national SAFE strategies in Chad, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda. Mr. Aleinikoff quoted Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon in saying, “Energy is the golden thread that connects economic growth, social equity, and environmental sustainability.”
Mr. Choularton of WFP emphasized the agency’s commitment to help people cook the food rations it provides. In 2010 WFP committed to provide 6 million people with SAFE solutions for cooking, and Mr. Choularton stated that WFP is well on the way to meet its goal.
The panel event also served as a launch for the new interagency SAFE website, www.safefuelandenergy.org, which is a comprehensive resource for humanitarian implementers, academics, donors, private sector players, and the public to understand SAFE issues, current and past projects. The website includes a searchable GPS mapping database of SAFE projects, as well as a comprehensive resource library on SAFE and updated news and events. Check it out and provide your feedback to email@example.com.