Thursday, 21 June 2007

A real "One UN" opportunity?

Two of the goals stated early on for SDI-EA were getting the UN better able to deliver better member States by boosting their national SDI efforts, and getting at least bits of the UN working better by boosting interoperability amongst agencies as some sort of practical aspect of the UN reform and delivering as One UN. There now maybe cause for think that some of this might actually happen.

On Tuesday this week I had an unplanned but very illuminating meeting with Mr. Georges Tadonki, the senior regional information management advisor with SAHIMS (, the Southern African Human-development Information Management Network for Coordinated Humanitarian & Development Action - rather a lot to squeeze onto a business card but nonetheless important. SAHIM is in many respects the southern African equivalent of DEPHA (, the Data Exchange Platform for the Horn of Africa, the inter-agency group with whom UNEP is working closely as we try to roll out SDI in East Africa.

Georges has been engaged by the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya to assist with the development of a Kenyan Humanitarian Information Management System (KHIM), reviewing the available information management platforms and assessing their contributions to humanitarian information management. He is also to analyze opportunities and challenges of creating some sort of central information repository, and to conduct a training workshop with IMOs from both humanitarian and development agencies, including the Government of Kenya and key donors, to build consensus on a shared platform and design a way forward for the country team.

A number of resonant chords were struck here: the potential institutional line-ups between this humanitarian sector task and the development of more general Kenyan SDI; the overlap with the OCHA Regional Offices interests in both SDI and humanitarian information development; the fact that SDI-EA has already had some engagement with ICRC and (as of last week) has also been approached by International Rescue; plus of course UNEP's focus on climate change adaptation strategies and its impacts on humanitarian issues. Interestingly enough, after Georges had introduced SAHIM and the KHIM, I gave him standard spiel #27 about UNSDI, engagement with national SDIs, open standards, distributed systems and so on, and explaining the SDI-EA effort while drawing my usual back-of-the-napkin cluster diagram when, lo!, Georges flipped back through his notes and showed us virtually the same diagram he'd sketched in a meeting the previous morning. Ahhh, convergent thinking.

Anyway, at this stage it suggests and important and powerful opportunity to align this ad hoc SDI-EA activity with some real, official UN country team activities targeting a specific community with (presumably - I'm no specialist) well-articulated needs. Now all we have to do is get the Resident Coordinator to start thinking less in terms of "central information repository" and more about distributed and custodial but integrated services. I think that's part of Georges' job.

1 comment:

G said...

Dear Mick,

Many thanks! We do not always find champions like you who are able to hel us move critical agandas in Africa. This is valid for the complex field of information support to sustainable development in the context of high social vulnerability.

Just some clarifications, which I believe are important. The UN RC did not request our support to create "some sort of central information repository". Instead the objective is to maximise the use of existing systems and address gaps in Kenya, which is exactly as you said "more about distributed and custodial but integrated services". This type of thinking at Senior level reflects the way the UN is realigning its support to countries and is in sync with the Government of Kenya's own priorities. Indeed this initiative is a real "One UN" opportunity. We are looking forward your active participation, especially to start with the two coming GSDI workshops.