The Transition Gap

Humanitarian responses are designed to save lives and alleviate suffering during and in the immediate aftermath of emergencies, whereas development responses addresses ongoing structural issues, particularly poverty, that may hinder economic, institutional and social development, and assists in building capacity to ensure resilient communities and sustainable livelihoods. Too often projects reflect an outmoded dichotomy between “emergency” and “development” programming. As such, effective coordination and handover between the two is often discussed but rarely executed. This is often referred to as the “transition gap”.

The traditional way donors are set up does not help. Emergency programming has short funding cycles that do not facilitate medium- to long-term strategic planning. This complicates efforts to build programme ownership and capacity among the affected populations, and prolongs the use of expensive emergency-oriented program strategies. Similarly “resilience” programming – linking emergency and development responses under the framework of supporting programs that will enable communities to withstand future shocks – are too often not build into donor strategies, whether they be “emergency” or “development” donors.

Even though we recognize the need to maintain a degree of separation between the two – each offering its own expertise and comparative advantage – humanitarian and development responses are related, and our responses often have both humanitarian and development components. Development responses can exist without humanitarian responses (in developing countries that do not have humanitarian crises), but also often exist in addition to humanitarian responses during and after crises.

Addressing displacement issues and meeting the needs of our beneficiaries is a non-linear process. It is a continuous cycle where populations are constantly moving from needing humanitarian to development assistance or from development to humanitarian assistance in unanticipated progressions.

In DRC we strive to ensure a smooth transition from life-saving activities to programs that build sustainable, resilient communities in the aftermath of disasters. Even in the midst of an acute emergency, it is essential to respond in ways that will enable crisis-affected people to withstand future shocks. Post-emergency transition and recovery efforts can then lay the foundation for longer-term development.

In DRC we begin planning for the transition from emergency to development programming even as the emergency response unfolds. These efforts are particularly important when emergencies threaten to become protracted: when a crisis-affected population begins to recover, but longer term solutions (e.g. lack of jobs, shelter, basic services and protection) remains elusive.