Last month the CDAC Network hosted a panel at the Geneva conference Preparing for Shock: Is Preparedness the New Frontier? attended by 120 people from 25 countries, with a further 250 following online. The conference, on 14 and 15 May 2018, was organised by the Learning Project / Action Against Hunger UK with the Start and CDAC Networks as part of the UKaid-funded Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme.
In the panel, we stated that communities are by nature resilient and asked how we step back from supporting external leadership to enabling community leadership and involvement in preparedness and subsequent response.
Moderator Nick Van Praag of Ground Truth Solutions set the scene for CDAC’s panel by sharing some recent data his organisation had collected in six countries in 2017 as part of Grand Bargain monitoring. One of the indicators examines the level of participation of disaster-affected people in decision that affect their lives and compares the perceptions of disaster-affected people to those of aid workers. It showed a significant disconnect whereby aid workers largely feel that people are sufficiently involved, and disaster-affected people feel that are insufficiently involved, except in Somalia where perceptions were better aligned.
The survey also looked at the relationship between INGOs and NNGOs, with NNGOs keen on capacity building from INGOs, with help from them on leadership, financial management and m&e, amongst other things. This theme was picked up in other sessions across the conference.
Nick then challenged his panellists – Regina Nanette Salvador-Antequisa (EcoWEB), Ahmed Ibrahim Abdi (ALDEF) and Michael Mosselmans (Christian Aid) – on a series of questions about communities’ resilience and when international actors should to step back. You can watch the full panel or read on for our highlights.
Ahmed argued that whilst communities are resilient, INGOs can’t just step back as they have decades of humanitarian and technical experience that needs to be transferred to national levels. He cited the positive example of Kenya, where a decentralised approach draws together humanitarian and development actors and communities. Legislation ensures that government puts in place contingency plans and provides funding, which gives opportunity to communities to so preparedness and response: e.g. in one county in northern Kenya 2% of the development budget goes to devolved climate change funding where projects are proposed by communities themselves and they sign off on jobs being completed to satisfaction. However, for disaster contingency funds are limited to meet the growing humanitarian needs. A gap in this approach is that the community isn’t part of the funding allocation decisions and it does not directly fund the community managed disaster risk reduction plans. “If we want a community-led model we need to arrange ourselves for that.”
Michael pointed out that we need to rethink the business model whereby donors give out large pots of funds which remain inaccessible to local community groups or NNGOs (“too important to fail, too small to fund”), and pleaded for donors to be more demanding of those they fund in terms of meeting things they have committed to, like the Grand Bargain. He argued that donors are persuadable on new models, but inspiration, evidence and honesty is needed in the relationship with them. It will also take the recruitment of staff with the attitudes and skills to develop and implement new models.
Nannette placed her emphasis in the discussion on trust. We need trust from the start that communities have capacity to mobilise resources, implement, scale up and monitor. If we had this, we would design differently. We also need to believe in the capacity of local organisations. “A lack of systems is not a lack of capacity. EcoWEB works with organisations of volunteers with a good track record – that is a capacity”, she explained. It worked in this way in the Marawi crisis, first with one donor, then growing to ten as trust grew. “Funding is a tool to enable us to each contribute to the result. It’s not about funding the organisations, it’s about the community and their resilience. We need to look at this interplay between humanitarian-development, international-local, and check our own paradigm.” Nanette also reinforced Ahmed’s point, that capacity building of national organisations, which want to deliver on the ground and collaborate to do more to save lives, was needed.
Finally, Ahmed put forward some of the ingredients for how he envisages a community-led response: local leaders need to be part of the planning processes and emergency response / preparedness plans. Disaster management frameworks need to talk about structures in place and management, and accountability mechanisms need to be put in place so that leaders can be held to account. Local organisations and the Red Cross and volunteers also need to be involved. Locally-led response also means local funds, so local fundraising is needed.
Snippets from other sessions
“We need to have the humility to accept that we’re part of an ecosystem, and diversity in that ecosystem is a strength”. Sean Lowrie, Director, Start Network, UK
“Working together on preparedness is an opportunity to glue people together – the UN, NGOs, Red Cross, etc.” Dylan Winder, Counsellor at the UK Mission to the UN in Geneva, FCO
“There is still an accountability deficit. There is no localisation of accountability or of decision-making. […] What has changed is that there are frameworks and evidence for preparedness, but there are also incentive and investment challenges.” Dr Meshesha Shewarega, Executive Director, Consortium of Christian Relief and Development Association, Ethiopia
“If we want to be accountable to communities we need to work far harder to make sure communities understand better what their rights are, what our duties and commitments are and what accountability is.” Augustin Gang Karhume, Rebuilding Hope for Africa / CCONUT, DRC
“An underwhelming 0.1% of global ODA goes to DRR and less than that to emergency preparedness.” Matthew Serventy, UNDP, Switzerland
“What we have learned is to focus on the most relevant technical competencies related to disaster according to the context and encouraged collaboration with CSOs on disaster risk reduction.” Dr Milton Amazon, CHIC Consortium, Philippines