- July 20, 2013
- From the Team
In June 2012, to great fanfare, the UN Secretary General released a UN regional strategy on the LRA. The strategy was designed to help coordinate and improve the counter-LRA efforts of the alphabet soup of UN agencies, peacekeeping missions, and senior officials working on the crisis. For donors and civil society groups, one particular hope was that the UN would create a list of “priority projects” whose implementation could help fill critical gaps in the field.
Unfortunately, that hope has been stuck in a bureacratic purgatory ever sense. UN officials circulated the first drafts of the priority projects in mid-2012, but disappointed many with their lack of detail. Progress in developing the list was so slow that in December 2012 the UN Security Council formally requested the Secretary General to submit a list of priority projects as part of a broader implementation plan for the strategy.
Unfortunately, the list of 17 priority projects submitted to the Council by the Secretary General in April 2013 was little better than the initial drafts. The project descriptions lacked detailed cost estimates, analysis of how they’d add value to existing initatives, and are extremely vague about specific activities and timelines. Donor countries interested in funding quality projects are extremely frustrated by poor quality of the UN effort, and at the moment any hope of enticing new non-traditional donors is far-fetched.
Why has the UN done such a terrible job at a seemingly simple task? It’s not for lack of ideas: everyone working LRA issues can identify key gaps that need to be filled, and there’s a broad consensus on a few key projects, such as rehabiliting the key road connecting South Sudan and CAR. The biggest problem may be that the SG tasked the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) with compiling the list. UNOCA lacks the programmatic expertise that UN agencies working in the field have, and is so understaffed it doesn’t even have one dedicated person to help SRSG Abou Moussa coordinate the UN LRA strategy.
So at least for now, UNOCA clearly lacks the ability to get the myraid UN agencies and missions operational in LRA-affected areas to cooperate in identifying realistic projects and putting together solid proposals that can reassure donors they won’t be wasting their money. Unfortunately, the SG’s office has simply ignored the fact that the list of projects they’re submitting to the Council and donors have little hope of being funded or implemented in the near future, in the process making a mockery of the Council’s request for “priority projects.”
When the Council takes up the issue of the LRA at the end of the month, they’ll face the unpleasant choice of either finding a way to pressure the Secretary General to take implementation of the UN LRA strategy seriously, or simply acquiesing to its slow march towards irrelevancy.