Taking stock of what 2019 meant for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (ROLAC) requires looking back at previous years and looking ahead to what the future may hold for our region.
Our presence and our work are a function of the region’s realities. Latin America and the Caribbean is the world’s second most disaster-prone region - recurring climate-related phenomena such floods, droughts and hurricanes have long shaped regional preparedness, advocacy, policy and partnership priorities and efforts with Member States and international and national partners.
Latin America and the Caribbean is also home to more than eight million displaced people, people on the move within and across borders for different reasons and in different contexts.
Some of these scenarios, such as the displacement in Central America, have their roots in the longstanding deterioration of social and economic conditions and increasing chronic violence. Others, like the current flight of millions of Venezuelans to host countries in the region, are unfolding at an unprecedented scale.
Other situations are more protracted and require engaging in both collaborative response and prevention measures, such as food insecurity in the north of Central America exacerbated by inequality and chronic non-conventional violence.
The growing humanitarian challenges posed by these wide-ranging issues have prompted OCHA ROLAC to take on a more active role in multi-stakeholder processes that seek to address both the root causes and the consequences of humanitarian crises in our region.
Looking forward, we must recognize that the evolution of the humanitarian landscape is creating profound changes for humanitarian organizations, changes that are spurring critical reassessments of regional priorities, approaches, relationships and financing. Our ability to successfully meet these challenges goes only as far as our ability to adapt will take us.
Whether the situation is old, new, sudden or protracted, OCHA ROLAC can count on 16 years of hard-won experience and relationships to meet the coordination needs required to effectively take a response from planning into the field.
As one decade closes, we must draw on our ability to adapt and position ourselves to become even more agile and better prepared to provide core readiness and response support wherever and whenever it is needed in the decade to come. We are undertaking significant changes to our structure and footprint in the region to ensure this.
At the centre of these changes is OCHA ROLAC’s everlasting commitment to people in need of humanitarian assistance. Like us, the people of Latin America and the Caribbean also experienced rapidly shifting circumstances and conditions in 2019 - several countries saw people making their voices heard in pursuit of improved conditions, giving way to significant social changes and shifts in regional dynamics.
No matter what changes may take place, OCHA ROLAC will always work to provide timely and effective humanitarian coordination in response to crises in Latin America and the Caribbean. Working with national and international partners to strengthen operational readiness and response coordination is at the heart of what OCHA ROLAC does and what OCHA ROLAC is.
OCHA ROLAC’s continued work is made possible thanks to the support of our partners. Our appreciation for their ongoing commitment to help us improve through generous financial and material support, engaging in joint deployments and providing us with constructive feedback cannot be overstated.
As ever, we thank you for your continued support.
Rein A. Paulsen
Head of Office Regional Office for Latin America & the Caribbean