The seventh annual AIDF Global Disaster Relief Summit was held in Washington D.C. on the 10th and 11th of September at the Ronal Reagan Building and International Trade Center. The two day summit had more than 350 participants representing NGOs, UN agencies, Donors, Governments, Military Personnel, Academia and the Private Sector. The topics discussed this year were Security and Logistics, Health and WASH, ICT and Data, and Field Operations for Disaster Response and Management.
The event started with a keynote speech from Dmitri Dovgopoly, the director of the UN Procurement division addressing Updates on UN Procurement. The procurement volume of the entire UN has doubled in the last 5 years; the UN is to buy more goods and services than ever before. His entertaining presentation gave insight into the UN’s procurement practices; he humorously commented ‘Avoid giving me catalogues please, because people stopped reading paper 10 years ago’.
The first expert panel of the conference focused on Common Compliance Pitfalls During Disaster Response. Moderated by Carlos Carrazana, Executive Vice President & Chief Operations Officer at Save the Children USA, the diverse panel of expert speakers brought a wealth of practical experience and in-depth understanding of laws, rules, contracting terms, procurement procedures, and accounting and audit procedures. Hilary Cairnie, Partner at BakerHostetler, commented on the legal perspective of compliance; and Andrea Espinola Wilson, Managing Director of Government Contracting and Grants Advisory Services at BDO, addressed accounting and audit challenges for disaster response. On the funding and donor side, we had Bryan Cook, Chief of Corporate Procurement at World Bank Group, and for the recipient perspective Ray Justice, Director of Grants, Contracts and Compliance at Plan International USA, sharing their experiences.
The conference was then split into two parallel streams, with Security and Logistics in one room and Health and WASH in another. The first panel in the Security and Logistics stream concentrated on Security and Stability in the Middle East & Africa. This panel was moderated by Andrii Nebrat, Director at Ukrainian Helicopters, and the panellists Karen Sumser-Lupson, Chair & Commissioner of the African Maritime Safety & Security Agency and CEO of the International Shadow Peace Force, and Matt Pelak, International Operations Manager at first responder organization Team Rubicon, shared their unique insights into the precarious situation in the Middle East, with the rise in terrorist groups such as ISIS and Boko Haram, and in general discussed the great concerns over aid delivery to countries with ISIS affiliates.
The second panel continued to delve into the topic of logistics. Best Practice for Getting Supplies into Areas of Reduced Infrastructure presented by Becky Turner, Consultant at the Humanitarian Logistics Association, Colon Miller, Director of Government & Defense Programs at Volga Dnepr Airlines, Igor Samac, Senior Program Officer, Acquisition and Logistics at International Relief and Development and again Andrii Nebrat from Ukrainian Helicopters. The speakers highlighted the change in access in certain areas such as the Middle East due to difficulties mentioned from the previous panel and highlighted solutions and services available for last mile logistics in difficult terrain.
The first Health and WASH panel on Reducing Health Consequences during Emergency Situations was discussed by Elisabeth Scheffer, Managing Director at Elisabeth Scheffer & Associates, Anne Peterson, Senior Vice President of Global Programs at AmeriCares, Dr Andrew Lustig, Founder of Global Outreach Doctors, and Dr Martina Fuchs, CEO at the Real Medicine Foundation. The speakers shared with the audience current health threats during and after emergencies and the best practice to overcome them, whilst also providing an integrated and holistic approach to emergency health response. Especially contributions around the importance of mental health inclusion in disaster response programs, both for disaster victims as well as aid workers, were very well received by the audience, who even gave a standing ovation to the speaker panel.
The second panel focused the discussion to the specific challenges of emergency water security and sanitation. The panel Best Practice and Innovations for Emergency WASH was facilitated by Emily Christensen Rand, Water and Sanitation Specialist at the World Bank’s Water and Sanitation Program, and featured contributions by Elaine O’Donovan, Business Development in Humanitarian Aid and Remote Camp Infrastructure at BUTYL Products, and Jesse Schubert, Program Officer of WASH Product Development at PATH. The panel introduced new innovative solutions and discussed how emergency water supply, sanitation and waste water management can be improved in camps and emergency settlements.
Following a networking lunch with the opportunity to explore the exhibition stands further, the Health and WASH stream continued with a session on Lessons Learned from the Ebola Outbreak, moderated by Dr Pranav Shetty, Global Emergency Health Coordinator, International Medical Corps. He remarked ‘Disease can cross boarders, government not’, highlighting the need for strong emergency medical coordination between governments and NGOs. The diverse speaker panel included Brett Sedgewick, Technical Advisor at Global Communities, Brigitte Dacosta, Director of the Public Health Department at bioMérieux, Sonia Walia, Public Health and Nutrition Advisor at the U.S. Agency for International Development and Athalia Christie, Deputy of Global Health at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. All speakers had plenty of first hand field experience and were able to give the latest information about the Ebola outbreak as well as discussing the difficulties in coordination of medical emergency aid, the need for medical innovations and the future outlook for better global disease control.
At the same time the other group discussed Operational Efficiency & Supply Chain Management. This panel was led by Juanita Rilling, Director of the Center for International Disaster Information, U.S. Agency for International Development. The private sector representative Kevin Peach, Business Development Manager at NRS International, kicked of the discussion with a short presentation on his experience and advice on how to improve supplier relationship management and long-term partnerships. This was then commented and discussed by NGO representatives Chris Honsberger, Chief Global Supply Chain Officer at the International Rescue Committee, and Adam Riddell, Emergency Funding Officer for Humanitarian and Emergency Affairs at World Vision USA. Another key theme of the discussion focused on how to ensure value for money in procurement decision, looking particularly at the themes of sustainability and quality. Furthermore the speakers shared their thoughts on how to ensure agile operations and reduce program waste and delays.
After the panels the audience had an opportunity to engage in informal roundtable discussions and share their experiences with the group and ask more specific questions around procurement, logistics, community engagement and partnerships, WASH solutions, Ebola feedback and emergency health response. An additional roundtable looked at road safety and fleet management which was hosted by Toyota brought a new topic to the program and an engaging debate among participants.
The final panel of the first summit day discussed Strategic Partnerships & CSR Models. Moderated by William Holbrook, Managing Director of LiftPoint Group, and a varied speaker panel featuring Gianluca Bruni, Chief of IT Emergency Coordination Branch at the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster of the UN World Food Program, Richard Walden, Founder and CEO of Operation USA, and Lars Kroijer, Director of Allied Crowds, offered assuring insight into the best practice in building effective and sustainable partnerships as well as discussing common challenges, particularly around crowdfunding and multi-sector partnerships. The open Q&A session for the expert speaker panel also led to discuss the role of celebrities for awareness and fundraising for humanitarian aid.
The second day kicked off with a keynote speech by former Ambassador William J. Garvelink, who now serves as Senior Advisor on Global Strategy at International Medical Corps and at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Ambassador Garvelink commemorated the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. He set the scene for the day’s streams on ICT & data and field operations 7 camp management, remarking ‘a displaced person will be displaced for 17 years on average.’ He also highlighted the need for partnerships within the disaster relief community ‘None of us, donor governments, United Nations agencies, International Organizations, NGOs or the private sector can respond to all these emergencies and meet all of the needs. But together, if we coordinate our emergency programs and improve our interagency communications before, during, after our emergency responses, we may be able to meet the most urgent needs of this population and lay the groundwork for recovery and resilience’.
This was further discussed by the first panel of the day: Innovations in Emergency Coordination & Social Networks, moderated by Keith Robertory, Director of Disaster Logistics Support at the American Red Cross. By 2020 there will be 2.9 billion smartphones in the developing world; use of digital aid will become an ever more increasing strategy for aid response. Innovation of new social platforms is necessary to best reach people most affected by disaster. The panel started with a definition of innovation by Kidus Fisaha Asfaw, Global Product Manager of UNICEF’s Innovation Center, as ’how you can do something new and different in a way that adds concrete value. Not just tech’ before sharing their new app and open-source platform Rapid-Pro. This was further discussed by Dwayne Myal, Medical Planning Specialist at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency, who stated 'We have to continue that culture of collaboration, even with non-conventional partners', and Nada El Marji, Director of Aid & Development, Enterprise Channel & Portfolio Development at Inmarsat, who addressed the role satellite communication does and can play for disaster response. UNICEF’s Kidus Asfaw stressed ‘Do no harm. We often think about solutions but not how they affect the people and their environments’.
Further looking at new innovations to improve and accelerate disaster response, Josh Miner, Director of Product Management, and his colleague Joel Thompson, Vice President & General Manager of the Terrestrial Business Unit of Iridium Satellite presented a case study called about their Push-to-Talk innovation and its global applications for humanitarian and disaster relief scenarios. With only 30% of the population have no access to 3G cellular coverage; this case study highlighted the benefit of satellite communication during a disaster response due to limited 3G coverage.
The conference was again split into parallel sessions: ICT & Data and then Field operations. The first ICT & Data panel focused on Better Communication with Communities. The moderator Gianluca Bruni, Chief of IT Emergency Coordination Branch, Emergency Telecommunications Cluster of the UN World Food Programme noted the importance of communicating in a disaster ‘Before looking for food and water after a disaster, people need to communicate with each other’. Paul Margie, the U.S. Representative of Télécoms sans Frontières (TSF) explained that with the new focus on affected communities and recognition of their role as first responders, TSF has been providing communication access and services to affected communities over the past years, especially sharing their experience in the recent Nepal emergency. Christian Clark, Global Advocacy Advisor of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs expanded on the World Humanitarian Summit theme of empowering local actors, commenting: ‘Access to information is a human right. Refugees need to have a free access to truthful information’. Larry Engelbert, Vice President of Land Mobile Sales at Satcom Direct, was representing the private sector in this discussion and talked about different voice and data solutions available during initial phases of deployment and how theycould be better used to engage with local communities. And Justin Richmond, Founder of IMPL, followed up on this discussing how data is becoming a ‘game changer’ to demonstrate impact and for including communities in M&E strategies.
The panel Electronic Payment Models for Aid Operations emphasized the trend and need for digital payments during and after an emergency where access to actual money can be difficult. The panel agreed that digital money doesn't replace cash but provides a necessary and safe alternative. This was discussed in great detail by Hamilton McNutt, Technical Advisor of Payment Innovations for NetHope, Nandini Harihareswara, Senior Digital Finance Advisor at USAID’s Digital Development Division, Jeremy Cole, Director at Red Rose, Dominic Duru, Solutions Lead for NGOs at Ebury, and Eleanor Nagy, Senior Director of Humanitarian & Emergency Affairs at World Vision International. The panel examined different payment models and solutions, how to choose the right partners and manage the transition. One big focus of the discussion - bringing together private sector, first responder and donor – was the topic of public private collaboration around investment in preparedness; the aim was to create a better understanding of who the key stakeholders are and how to engage with them in exploring partnerships
Meanwhile in the other room the Field Operations stream looked at Safety of Crisis-Affected Population. Ben Parker, Co-founder and Chief Executive of IRIN moderated the discussion on the safety and support of at-risk groups, including children, women, elderly, disables and minorities. Ann Erb- Leoncavello, Communications Advisor of the Humanitarian Response Branch at the United Nations Population Fund set the scene with a passionate speech on the safety concerns and solutions, also bringing in some physical props to engage the audience. This topic has become increasingly more important as the Syrian refugee crisis intensifies. Vahid Jahangiri, Deputy Director of International Lifeline Fund, declared ‘We cannot have refugees who simply exist. They need to live. How do we develop a holistic strategy? And Corinne Hart, Director of Gender and Humanitarian Programs at the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves suggested that a way to create a better quality of life in camps is to priorities access to energy sources ‘Energy is an area that is really missing among the complex elements being addressed in refugee camps’.
The conversation on safety and quality of livelihoods continued in the second panel on Shelter Assistance and Post-Disaster Settlement Planning. The panel of Kevin Peach, Business Development Manager at NRS International, Mohamed Hilmi, Senior Coordinator and Technical Specialist for Shelter & Settlements at InterAction, Susana Rojas Williams, Director of International Shelter Initiatives and Habitat for Humanity International, and John Service, Humanitarian Response Officer at Catholic Relief Services, discussed the latest trends in emergency shelter management and best practices solutions depending on emergency situation. All speakers shared first-hand insights and practical examples of shelter initiatives. Mohammed Hilmi recommended to 'Use local material, design, and skills in shelter assistance & settlement planning’, in order to create sustainable shelter quickly. Also the need for disaster risk resilient settlements was addressed and we expect many interesting initiatives to follow those examples showcased.
Again the audience had an opportunity to split into interactive roundtable discussions, which allowed all participants to engage with the topics in a more detail and share their stories and questions off-the-record with their group.
After a lively networking lunch the summit continued with the panel discussion on Data Collection, Analysis and Management, moderated by Laura Walker McDonald, the CEO of Social Impact Lab. This panel brought together a wide array of expertise and topics from Livio Rossi, International Business Developer at e-GEOs, Dr Eric King, Innovation Specialist at USAID’s Global Development Lab, Bobby Jefferson, Director of the Center for Informatics and Innovation at Palladium, and David Megginson, Chief Architect of the Data Analysis Project by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The speakers shared a great deal of examples and best practice for data collection and mapping for disaster relief operations, for example via UAVs, use of mobile technology for collection and reporting, data exchange through could solutions, data standards and analysis, as well as issues around ethics and data privacy.
It was a lively debate with plenty of questions from the audience, especially around cloud solutions and ethics of data capture and exchange.
The last expert panel of the summit was on Taking an Human-Centered Approach to Relief and Recovery Programs, examining a holistic approach to aid delivery to better address community needs and rights. This was presented by Gregory Beck, Director of Integrated Development at FHI 360, Steve Feldstein, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the U.S. Department of State, Gregory Adams, Director of Aid Effectiveness at Oxfam International, and Patricia McIlreavy, Senior Director of Humanitarian Policy at InterAction. The panel discussed what it means to be human-centered in relief and recovery programs and if there is a value propositions for this looking at aid effectiveness, human rights and development policy. Sharing recent case studies and examples, the panel concluded that there is still plenty for the humanitarian and development to work on. Greg Adams from Oxfam concluded ‘It’s more important to do the right thing than the fastest thing’
Elizabeth Zimmerman, Associate Administrator of the Office of Response & Recovery at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, closed the summit with a passionate keynote speech about FEMA’s strategy and the importance of partnerships and collaboration. This very much summed up the objective of this summit: bringing together all stakeholders from different backgrounds and organizations to improve disaster relief and management globally.