It is widely recognised that timely, trusted, and actionable information shared in a crisis response is a tangible form of aid, with the potential to significantly save and improve people’s lives in difficult circumstances. In the past, a traditional aid response might have checked this box by diligently providing regular updates to local communities. Today, innovative national programmes for Communication and Community Engagement (CCE) set far more ambitious goals, seeking to fundamentally transform the nature of the collaboration between communities and those working to serve them in a crisis.
Building effective CCE capabilities is particularly important in Fiji and Vanuatu, Pacific nations vulnerable to a range of natural disasters ranging from tropical cyclones and volcanic eruptions, to disease and agricultural threats. 2020 has been a particularly challenging year for citizens of these two countries, with the landfall of Category 5 Tropical Cyclone Harold in April and the concurrent rise of the COVID-19 pandemic
Over the last two years CDAC, with funding from the Australian Government and in partnership with national disaster management organisations and government ministries and Ground Truth Solutions, has been working to build national Communication and Community Engagement (CCE) platforms in Fiji and Vanuatu. The platforms are designed to embed advanced two-way communication capabilities in national disaster response systems, and are designed to be operational before a disaster hits.
While it is common to think of “platforms” as a technology services, the intent here is much broader. While technology is an important component, today’s best-in-class national CCE “platforms” include a broad network of organisations that collaborate on communications efforts, resources such as guides and training that support efforts, and governance structures that support an integrated communication.
Both platforms were tested earlier this year, when Tropical Cyclone Harold barrelled through both nations causing significant damage. In the past few months, we have been assessing how the platforms have performed.
Image top: CARE/Valerie Fernandez 2020