The AIDF Aid & Response Summit; Asia 2015 concluded last Thursday [18.06.2015] at the United Nations Conference Centre in Bangkok. Taking place just over 50 days after the Nepal earthquakes that claimed nearly 9,000 lives, the conference heard numerous voices from around the region discussing and sharing their expertise on most effective aid delivery, innovation and disaster resilience across the region.
The three-day summit and exhibition attracted close to 300 leaders and executives from the Asia-Pacific region representing governments, UN agencies, regional and international NGOs, military, research institutions and the private sector. The Summit featured 14 exhibiting companies showcasing cutting-edge products and services by the Bullitt Group, HESCO, Inmarsat, SES Techcom Services, ST Kinetics, SkyLIFE Company, Motorola Solutions, NRS International, Eutelsat, Blackmores, The Aussie Mozzie Tube, ContenO, Ukrainian Helicopters and SilvaTex. Each of the companies was presenting unique and innovative solutions which can speed up and improve aid delivery, protect aid workers or help saving lives of disaster victims.
The landscape of humanitarian action has changed significantly, lately, and not for the best. In the last 10 years, the number of people affected by humanitarian crisis has almost doubled, and the cost of humanitarian assistance has more than tripled. The average period of displacement has significantly increased as well, to as much as 17 years, according to the UNHCR. Humanitarian agencies and governments are struggling to build resilient communities to a growing number of natural and manmade disasters while meeting the sustainable development goals in the region. The humanitarian ecosystem needs to adapt and collaboration between public agencies, private companies and the communities was the key topic discussed during the summit.
Available and emergency mobile technologies are evolving to meet the needs of first responders, development and government agencies to better communicate with communities and for more effective delivery of aid and response. This unique and timely Focus Day on Mobile for Development was attended by over 150 delegates from UN and government agencies, NGOs and private sector and featured practical advice, case studies and debate on applying mHealth, mMoney and mLearning tools in humanitarian programmes. Particularly the recent examples from the relief operations in Nepal, as shared by USAID, IFRC and WFP, showed that mobiles can be invaluable in disaster preparedness and recovery efforts. But only by addressing the digital cash revolution in a wider sense shows the full potential of mobile money for the humanitarian and development sector. And the hands-on examples and case studies by leading organisations such as FHI 360, Oxfam, CaLP, Inmarsat, BBC Media Action, Internet Society, Tharuni, World Vision International and Digital Divide Data showcased how mobile devices can help achieving the sustainable development goals around health, education, gender equality and global partnerships.
Donald Tartaglione, Communication Consultant, Asian Disaster Preparedness Center commented ‘‘The conference in itself is really good spread of disaster risk management, disaster response and even some topics that I don’t know too much about personally such as mobile money transfers. It is something that I haven’t thought about and is very refreshing to hear about these new concepts at great presentations. We are very happy to be a part of the summit.’’
The second day of the AIDF Asia Summit discussed how the Southeast Asian region can build resilience to climate change, disasters, and diseases and better support communities and at-risk groups.
Kicking off the day Vinod Thomas of the Asian Development Bank shared some of his research on lessons and innovations for disaster resilience. He said “The future [of the humanitarian aid] is much harsher; preparation, prevention and mitigation just rise to the surface as top priority for development.”
UNISDR shared what the new Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction means for the Southeast Asia region and also discussed with the audience what roles NGOs can and should play during the roundtable discussion. While speakers from the Ministry of Interior of Thailand, the ADPC, The Asia Foundation and World Vision addressed how communities can build a better culture of resilience and strengthen disaster preparedness. A particular emphasis of this event was on transformation through innovation, especially around early warning systems and flood prevention. Experts from IOM, ESCAP, the Ministry of Science and Technology, Thai Meteorological Department, UN Global Pulse and the Thai Geo-informatics and Space Technology Development Agency shared their organisations’ work and explained how the region can better prepare and respond to changing needs and complex disasters with increased creativity and innovation. Still focussing on innovations and technology trends the afternoon of this knowledge packed summit day discussed emergency health response, disease control and community resilience with invaluable insights from the Ministry of Public Health of Thailand, the Asia eHealth Information Network, SES Techcom Services, UN Global Pulse, UNICEF and John Hopkins Center. And while innovations and technology are extremely important for overcoming the challenges provided by modern disasters, the speaker panel (UNHCR, IFRC, Catholic Relief Services, UN Women, International Rescue Committee) highlighted that the people’s need have to remain first priority and we need to ensure to fully engage with the local communities and especially support at-risk groups.
Dr. Shamika Sirimanne, Director of Information and Communications Technology and Disaster Risk Reduction Division, UN ESCAP said ‘‘I think AIDF summit is very good summit and has brought together very different stakeholders across government, UN agencies, private sector & NGO’s into one platform to discuss the frontier developments in addressing disaster reduction and other sustainable development agendas. Going forward UN will come with sustainable development and what we are discussing in the meeting that AIDF has organised is how especially the Asia Pacific region and South East Asia can prepare for achieving sustainable development goals that the UN will be bringing in September.’’
Humanitarian effectiveness has become top priority over the past years, especially in times of budget cuts and increasing global need for humanitarian assistance. The aim of this third summit day was to take the lessons learned from the previous days and see how they can be applied in practice. A diverse speaker panel discussed best practice and guidelines for building strategic partnerships, establishing effective private-public-people-partnerships, improving procurement strategy, developing and managing an effective response team, overcoming humanitarian supply chain challenges, upgrading communication lines, especially with communities, but also among agencies and within your organisation. Attendees had the opportunities to learn from experts from a wide array of backgrounds, presenting organisations included NRS International, World Vision Indonesia, GIZ, Plan International, NEEDeed Foundation, The Logistics Institute, SkyLIFE Company, Pacific Disaster Center, ST Kinetics, IFRC, WFP, Eutelsat, Motorola Solutions, Center for Excellence in Disaster Management & Humanitarian Assistance and the START Network.
In addition interactive and off-the-record round table discussions offered the opportunity for attendees to discuss a specific topic in more detail with like-minded people in a relaxed atmosphere over lunch.
Delegates have been positive about the summit, some of them commented:
Shaun Ellis, Regional Manager and Technical Consultant, HESCO
‘‘The AIDF summit has been so far fantastic and it has been held in a superb environment. The UNCC is a superb location with all the facilities required. It is ideally located and assessable for all the UN staff and the associated NGO’s. As a company we have met loads of influential key people within the market sector that we work in, so in so many aspects it has been fantastic.’’
Michael R. Kennedy, VP of External Operations, The SkyLIFE Company
‘‘You know it is interesting! I read a book recently I believe was by Stephen Johnson, it was called ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ and in it he talks about the adjacent possible and the whole concept behind this is that no one by themselves comes up with a good idea. They bounce it off other people who have different perspectives, and in a place like AIDF summit you’ve got all these humanitarians from different backgrounds and different regions sharing their ideas. At SkyLIFE we come up with new ideas for new payload, new ways to integrate these into assessment teams in a different way and aspect of approaching the whole humanitarian problem. That’s what AIDF does for us!’’
Dr. Sharad Sapra, Director of the Global Innovation Centre, UNICEF
‘‘I think it is a very interesting forum where academia, government representatives, private sector, international organisations and the development community all together to have a dialog and present different perspectives, because when different perspectives come together everybody learns and improves. So I think it is a great platform.’’
Samantha Newman, Coordinator, Regional Centre for Emergency Preparedness, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
‘‘I think that AIDF summit is very interesting! We are very strongly supported by the government of Japan as well as the government of Australia and we only recently relocated the E-centre from Japan and we just moved to the regional office in Bangkok so it’s my first time at the summit. It is very interesting to meet so many different people from different walks of life who have different experiences to share. It is a great way to learn more’’
Meg Sattler, Communications with Communities, Global ET Cluster, UN World Food Programme (WFP)
‘‘The AIDF summit has been really great for me personally. My background is in communication with communities and that’s what I’m working at the moment with ETC. So to see that across all of the presentations there has really been a theme of involving communities more in humanitarian response is really nice. The other thing with the AIDF forum is that it brings such adversity of actors. Yesterday we were looking at a presentation from a very small NGO in India right up to very big private sector agencies. I think it’s very good that we are all here for three days to be able to network and leverage each other’s expertise and particularly looking at private and public partnerships as well as looking at the way NGO’s and the humanitarians can really work better with the private sector.’
Other events partners included Voice of America, IRIN News, ReliefWeb, AsianNGO, the Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC), Internet Society, SAFE Steering Committee, NetHope, Logistics Matters, International Stability Operations Association, Indonesian Business Council for Sustainable Development, The International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, Alliance and AMCHAM Thailand.
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