Funding energy in displacement settings: virtual donor lunch

The energy agenda needs more attention, concluded guests at a recent virtual lunch on funding green energy in displacement settings. Siloed approaches between humanitarian and development actors are a challenge, but clean and safe energy represents a perfect nexus topic that can connect the dots for partnerships among host countries, donor countries and the private sector.

Following up the ambassador lunch for host countries in February, the Norwegian Mission organized a virtual lunch meeting for donor states on 12 May. The purpose was to raise awareness and share experiences related to funding green energy in displacement settings in general, and UNHCR Clean Energy Challenge in particular.

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“The Clean Energy Challenge is about ensuring clean and safe energy to refugees and displaced people, and host communities”, said Jaime de Bourbon de Parme in his introduction. “Today, 90% of refugees don’t have this. The Clean Energy Challenge focuses on bringing the outside world onboard., he added.


Connecting dots

Lack of clean and safe energy has a number of implications, for health, protection, the environment, and the economy, he said: “No access to electricity means no productivity. On the other hand, if you have access to energy, you have access to connectivity, online jobs, education, water pumps etc.”


“Energy represents opportunities,” agreed German Ambassador Hans-Peter Jugel. Germany is a significant supporter of the greening of humanitarian assistance, the UNHCR strategy for sustainable energy, and the UNHCR Clean Energy Challenge, in addition to operational projects: “Both political and operational levels are important, we have to address it as a whole.”


Ambassador Mørch Smith pointed out that for Norway partnerships are hugely important. Such partnerships need to include host countries, donors, and private sector actors, she highlighted. Several of the invited missions have already developed private sector-focused initiatives, such as the USAID-Mastercard Smart Communities Coalition (SCC) and Power Africa.


“The challenge is often to find ways for private sector engagement,” said Courtney Blake from the US Mission. “The energy issue really speaks to this on how to connect the dots.”


Nexus par excellence

Korean Ambassador Sang-beom Lim mentioned that difficulties in going forward include silo challenges between the humanitarian and development pipelines, and also prioritization challenges, where cross-cutting issues such as energy do not always get the necessary attention. At the same time, he said, clean energy fits so well with the nexus agenda.


Jaime de Bourbon de Parme agreed mentioning that “some remain refugees a whole generation. If the average refugee stays for 16 years, it is not a humanitarian crisis. This is a nexus issue par excellence. Seeing it this way would help in mobilizing support.”


The case is there

Participants pointed out that there is overwhelming evidence that renewable energy is more affordable than other options, and that the case is there from an economic perspective. At the same time, the EU delegation’s Kim Nason said, it may be better to look at mainstreaming energy than earmarking. Clean energy should ideally be a standard aspect, to stimulate access to clean energy and reduce donors’ own environmental footprint, she said.


Ambassador Jugel and Ambassador Smith both emphasized the need to look to New York, in terms of the links between climate, peace and security agendas. Similarly, the links to the human rights arena in Geneva are important, including the right to environment and climate and human rights.


In conclusion, the guests agreed that awareness is important for political support. The dialogue must therefore continue in Geneva, at capital levels and in communities, bringing development and humanitarian actors together and deepening conversations with partners.


This report is prepared by Lena Eskeland, Advisor of the Permanent Mission of Norway in Geneva, Switzerland.

Last updated: 26/05/2021

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