The sixth annual AIDF Disaster Relief Summit was held in Washington D.C. on the 19th and 20th November at the Ronald Reagan Building. Over two days close to 400 participants representing international and regional NGOs, UN agencies, investors, governments, the military and private sector discussed best practice in field operations, logistics and transport, emergency water security and ICT solutions for disaster response and preparedness.
Addressing a full house on the changing technology landscape for disaster relief, the first expert panel featured Hani Shannak, Chief Operations & Services, UNICEF, David Jones, Chief Executive, Rescue Global and Nicholas Assad, Managing Partner, Connected Development Group. The speakers addressed the data challenges in emergency situations, the digital gap between first responders and local communities and the importance of keeping it simple and understanding local customs and culture.
This debate was carried over to the second panel on effective emergency communication by Richard Parker, VP Communications, Project Concern International, Thomas Sullivan, Chief of Staff, U.S. Federal Communications Commission, Widson Petit-Freres, AVP, PCCW Global and Omar Abou-Samra, Senior Advisor, American Red Cross, who presented their disaster preparedness app. The debate highlighted the importance of humanitarian social networks, sharing data between responders as well as the increasing impact of 2-way communication between agencies and beneficiaries. The moderator Gianluca Bruni, Chief of IT Emergency Coordination, WFP, pointed out that “Information communication IS aid!”
Safety of field personnel was also a main topic at this event. Alastair Morrison OBE MC, Director at RW Chelsea Group, mentioned that “International aid workers are at greater risk due to perceived links with the government”. Amaury Cooper, Deputy Director of Risk Management & Global Security at INSSA, warned that “security is often seen as an afterthought and the first thing cut from the budget. In fact, security should be seen as enabler”. While Drew Brandy, VP Strategy & Development at Inmarsat, showed how ICT communications and tracking solutions can support security of staff. The panel agreed that programme delivery sometimes stops because money has to be re-allocated from at to staff safety. So the key learning here is: Think of safety first!
Following an interesting case study from Paul Cropper, Global Lead Military and NGO sector, Philips Healthcare, the audience split into interactive roundtable discussions, which allowed to drill into today’s topics in more detail and off-the-record. After a lively networking lunch the summit continued in two conference rooms for the streams on Field Operations and ICT Solutions.
The Field Operations session started with an engaging presentation by Augustina Maria Rato and Ojea Andrea Lucas Quintana, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Workship of the Argentine Republic, sharing insights on the work and achievements of the White Helmets Initiative and celebrating with us their 20th anniversary. A discussion on improving product standards followed with presentations from Mario Flores, Director, Habitat for Humanity, Farhaj Sawar, Manging Director, NRS International, John Mitchell, Coordinator, Cookstoves & Indoor Air, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and Martin Keitsch, Humanitarian Aid & Disaster Relief Systems, Kaercher Futuretech. Part of this session was also a conference version of Shark Tank/ Dragon’s Den with organisations presenting their relief products to a panel of field operations and procurement experts. The field operations debate can be summed up that safety vs. economy is a tough battle when developing new disaster relief and aid products, but using poor quality products often ends up hurting more than they help.
And of course the current Ebola emergency was a big topic throughout the event, from Ebola response communication in Liberia up to regional advice from Dr. Joxel Garcia, Director, District of Columbia Department of Health, on Ebola preparedness here in the city. Dr. Garcia stresses “We need to make sure we use science before we make policy.”
At the same time, the ICT stream kicked off with a case study by Emiliano Rodriguez Nuesch, Director, Pacifico, on the use of new technologies for building resilience and engaging the community. Followed by a debate on best practices in data collection and analysis, with key presentations from Suman Biswas, CEO, NiyamIT, Sanja Celebic-Lukovac, Head of Project Development, IOM Iraq, and Steve Birnbaum, Chairman of Humanitarian Assistance, Global VSAT Forum. Also the growth of mobile money in developing countries and its impact on aid work had been examined with a focus on electronic payment applications by Sara Murray, Mercy Corps, Hamilton McNutt, Nethope, and Max Larson Henry, CEO, Transversal.
And the final panel of the day showed how agencies can better utilize their existing technology and get the most out of what they’ve got, with practical advice by Keith Robertory, American Red Cross, Alex Pompe, IREX, and Dr. Steve Hunt, Team Rubicon.
AIDF saw a packed exhibition floor with over 30 carefully selected companies from around the world showcasing their latest innovations and services that will drive the disaster relief forward. Strategic partners included Kaercher Futuretech GmbH, Ford Motor Group, Inmarsat, Philips, Thuraya, Clements Worldwide, Navistar, Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, NRS International, Embassy of Argentina, Worldwide Industries, Yahsat, Royal Roads University, PYAM, SAF, Basboga, Butyl Products Ltd, Greenshields Cowie, Parker, Sawyer, SATMED, Emergency.lu, Amzco, BeinSync, H2gO Purifier, Sun-STAT, MPOWERD, Fundación Exportar, Capia, The Chelsea Group, Aquamira, NIyam, Transversal, PCCW Global.
On the second summit day Dmitri Dovgopoly, Director, UN Procurement Division gave an inspiring and entertaining presentation on emergency procurement stressing the importance of using modern technology and innovations. He explained his department’s best value approach for procurement, saying that basing procurement on lowest price costs too much and should rather be based on total costs, including disposal.
The morning was all in the light of finance and partnerships for disaster relief, with interesting contributions by Sergio Pombo, formerly IFC, Britt Lake, Global Giving, Samuel Bendett, TIDES, National Defence University, and Bernardo Valenzuela, President, Terranova Global Trading Solutions. Followed by an outstanding gathering of procurement professionals, including Bryan Cook, Chief of Corporate Procurement, World Bank, Monica Siles and Trexyl Chua-Miranda, Peace and Security Cluster, UNOPS, Jin Leong, CPO, IMF, and John Abood, USAID sharing first hand insights on successful sourcing and supplier management and useful tips on working with the UN and investors.
After another round of interactive group discussions, for example on Women and Disaster Relief, moderated by The Female Health Company, on Procurement Strategy and Logistics Challenges, lead by Baker Hostetler and Bolloré Africa Logistics respectively, the audience enjoyed a networking lunch before choosing between two different streams: Logistics & Transport and Emergency Water Security.
Key topics of the Logistics session included how to achieve operational efficiency, with a lot of talk on open source and open data solutions. Dale Kunce of the American Red Cross stated “We try to use the power of the crowd.” He was joined by Jaden McNeely, Global Refuge International, Wiley Knight, Hellmann Worldwide Logistics, and Steve Smith, Airlink. The panel agreed that pre-planning and mapping out a supply chain that moves fast is critical for operational efficiency. And there is a big need to build local capacity when external funding runs out.
Vehicle and Fleet management is the second highest cost, after personnel. Martin Walsh, Global Vehicle Leasing Programme, WFP, and Kirk Born, Emergency Market Services, Ford Motor Group, shared their first-hand insights on best practices in fleet management and the importance of lifecycle maintenance. Peter James, Clements Worldwide, added that we are seeing a shift towards self insurance programmes and addressed the importance of good claims management, internal payment funding and reserve funds for catastrophic loss. And Navistar introduced their new Multi-Purpose-Vehicle which combines water purification, fire fighting and medical care in one truck.
The parallel running Emergency Water Security sessions, moderated by Adam Marlatt, President, Global DIRT and Logistics Coordinator, UNDP, kicked off with a general debate on ‘what is clean water’ ddressing concerns on water quality in emergency situations. The audience benefited from a wealth of field experience and scientific expertise by Martin Keitsch, Humanitarian Aid & Disaster Relief Systems, Kaercher Futuretech, Dr. Dennis Warner, Millennium Water Alliance, John Akudago, Samaritan’s Purse, and Kevin Sofen, W.S. Darley & Company.
The discussion on sanitation and waste water management discussed adequate solutions for different disaster relief scenarios. The following speakers shared their insights on emergency WASH programmes and innovations: Craig Ball, Butyl Products, Dr. Ian Halsall, Worldwide Industries, and Jason Krass, Toilets for People. The discussion on identifying the best suited solution for water security was continued in the pitch tank session, where three different technologies by Aquamira, Kaercher Futuretech and Worldwide Industries where presented to an expert panel for evaluation and feedback.
Since often there is no clear line between emergency water security and development water security, the event also offered a session on development water management, which was joined by Radwan Chowdury, UDiON Foundation, Lisa Schechtman, Water Aid America, and Bill Horan, Operation Blessing International. The contributors and audience concluded that local social, cultural and technological customs need to be considered for any WASH programmes, whether development or disaster relief. Also the sustainability of WASH programmes needs to be better addressed and measured. This point was particularly highlighted by Elynn Walter, WASH Advocated, and Jason Meisner, Relief International, during their contributions on health promotion activities.
For the conclusion of the summit Lauren D’Amore, Save the Children, and David Jones, Rescue Global, highlighted the importance of training to improve safety and stressed that a better coordination of stakeholders is needed to really improve aid and disaster response. This very much brings us back to the overall objective of this 6th Annual AIDF Disaster Relief Summit to bring all stakeholders together in one room to establish effective policies and best practice for better, safer and more efficient emergency response, from NGOs to military, from UN and aid agencies to private sector, research organisations, investors and the government. And we are looking forward to continue the conversations next year!
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