The CDAC Network was once again at the Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Week (HNPW) organised by OCHA in Geneva in February 2020. Alongside participating in the Inter-Network Day, advocating for the prioritisation of engaging and communicating with communities before, during and after a response during the interactive exhibition and at the Communication and Community Engagement Initiative (CCEI) event, we were thrilled to see so many of our members and partners during the week.
CDAC’s main session, held on Thursday February 6, was an event on systematising communication and engagement with communities which looked at government-led preparedness platforms in countries where the majority of disasters are caused by natural hazards. It was noted that while communicating and engaging with communities in situations of armed conflict or violence is incredibly complex, the sector continues to struggle with how best to communicate with communities in situations of natural disasters.
Moderated by the UK Mission in Geneva and with speakers including the Heads of the Australia and Fiji Missions in Geneva and a senior representative from IFRC’s Americas programme, panellists had an open and frank discussion on successes and challenges in coordinated, collective models. There was broad agreement on two overarching areas:
1. A fusion between ongoing development and resilience processes and emergency response is critical, building on existing disaster management communication models and structure.
2. Multi-year funding is a must. It is not possible to engage communities in a meaningful way without the knowledge that it will be sustainable.
Reflecting on innovative approaches in Bangladesh, Fiji, Indonesia, Vanuatu and the Americas, the following key ingredients for success were put forward:
3. Identify ‘ground-up’ entry points at different levels;
- make the connection with National Disaster Management authorities and related government Ministries so that government leadership is reinforced and two-way communication is part of the national and sub-national disaster management architecture;
- link with National and International Disaster Law
- bring communities into the preparedness and response process in more dynamic, innovative ways.
4. Put in place pluralistic approach to communications and engagement considering the diversity of contexts and people within each country.
5. The more local the communication-related actions, the more effective it is and the more likely it is to reach the most vulnerable. Enabling those capabilities is vital. A national message may have little relevance at the sub-national level.
6. A willingness to listen to the good and not so good feedback about how we did.
7. Accompaniment should be long-term; trust-building and investment in local leadership takes time.
8. Learn from the private sector and especially their work on disaster risk reduction; reflecting on user design and global communications platforms and business models and tools to amplifying work in preparedness and response
9. Radio and social media are valuable tools for emergency messaging and community focus group engagement, with artificial intelligence tool potential in some areas.
You can watch the event as it happened on CDAC’s YouTube channel.