UNDP launches flagship to address capacity challenges in southern Africa

Can volunteerism address capacity erosion?

SACI is using advocacy, mainstreaming instruments, mobilisation of partners, and mobilisation of governments to achieve its goals. Eventually SACI intends using volunteerism as one of the development instruments that is mainstreamed into governments’ development plans to ensure that volunteerism is well-resourced, well-managed and well-coordinated.

SACI is poised to reach the upstream and secure governments’ support, interest, participation and recognition for volunteerism as a platform to deal with the human capacity crises. An important step was the convening of a roundtable meeting of volunteer organisations working in the southern African region that took place at the UNDP Regional Service Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa in December 2004. The meeting was hosted jointly by the UNDP Regional Service Centre for Southern and Eastern Africa and the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).  The overall purpose of the meeting was to explore opportunities for collaboration in establishing and/or strengthening volunteer schemes to complement current international volunteer efforts in effectively addressing the human capacity crises in southern Africa. Key development challenges facing the southern Africa region were identified as poverty, HIV and AIDS, the brain drain, poor governance, lack of co-ordination, poor access to education, and lack of a shared understanding of volunteerism.

The meeting argued that volunteering can make a huge contribution to alleviate this human capacity crisis. However, it depends on the productive use of the resources available in each country and on the strategies used to achieve that goal. Strategies to establish national volunteerism should be customised to the country’s specific needs and demands. Some conditions mentioned included:

  • a regulatory mechanism;
  • partnerships with governments;
  • policy support/legislative framework to create an enabling environment for volunteering;
  • media support;
  • training and resource support;
  • creating databases; and
  • co-operation and collaboration of stakeholders including private sector, academia, civil society, local communities, donors and international volunteer organisations.

At the end of the two-day roundtable meeting, a number of actions emerged as the next steps in pursuing the SACI goals on volunteerism. These included national consultation processes, advocacy and lobbying, regional actions, and future co-ordination and facilitation.

Visit the SACI website at www.undp-saci.co.za for more information on the SACI framework.

By Joy Oba

Can the use of volunteering help address capacity challenges in southern Africa?

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has recently launched an initiative known as the Southern Africa Capacity Initiative (SACI) to address the erosion of productive capacity (caused primarily by HIV and AIDS), as well as brain drain and recurring disasters in the region. It aims to provide schemes and a framework that will promote the use of volunteering, inter alia, as a tool for governments to mobilise and tap into the talent of professionals both at home and in the Diaspora to enable the sub-continent to deal with the crisis.

Since the initial global, regional and country-level responses to HIV and AIDS about 20 years ago, countries in southern Africa have been most affected by the impact of the epidemic. The dramatic increase of AIDS-related illnesses and deaths is profoundly altering the supply-side of human resources by reducing the number of professionals across all sectors – a trend that is further compounded by an increasing brain drain. Furthermore, it is changing the patterns and demands for services across all sectors and undermining the capacity of the public sector as well as households to cope with the consequences of the epidemic.

SACI is a framework to promote responses to critical human capacity issues in southern Africa by designing and implementing a set of strategies and actions that address the complex human capacity challenges in a systemic and integrated manner. The framework calls for a new sense of urgency for meeting capacity needs in key areas that will facilitate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), national development plans and poverty reduction programmes in nine SADC countries: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

SACI complements other initiatives and responses

Building on the lessons from the past and looking to the future, UNDP has deliberately taken a systems perspective to evolve the SACI framework for responding to these interlinked challenges. The SACI framework complements the ongoing national initiatives by governments and other partners in the region. It builds upon previous responses in acknowledging the interconnectedness of HIV and AIDS, poverty and disasters. The initiative focuses on four interlinked and complementary components:

  • enhancing the policy environment to address the human capacity challenge;
  • developing new approaches and reorganising service delivery;
  • innovative and urgent training for meeting new demands for skills; and
  • promoting capacity stabilisation, maintenance and utilisation.

Since 2004, SACI has been working with UNDP country offices in the target countries to undertake a number of collaborative activities that respond systemically to the capacity needs for effective service delivery. Areas of action include:

  • reviewing and designing an implementation framework for sector policies in key strategic sectors such as health, education and agriculture;
  • introducing a leadership programme that deals with issues of mindset change;
  • stabilising the loss of capacity in critical sectors through deployment of UN volunteers (national and international) in the strategic sectors;
  • exploring information and communication technology for enhanced service delivery;
  • developing service delivery models;
  • working with the management development institutes (MDIs) in the targeted countries to examine the policy, organisational arrangements and legislative environment for meeting new skill demands so as to facilitate the generation of new models of MDIs;
  • transforming the public sector; and
  • harnessing partnerships for SACI rollout.

By 2008, SACI intends to create an enabling policy environment that will offset the capacity erosion and create the foundation for the improved management of human resources and the provision of social services.