Posted on 18 October 2014.
Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman speaks before the participants to the recently held Disaster Response Dialogue Global Conference with the theme “Improving trust and cooperation for more effective humanitarian responses.” In her keynote message, Secretary Soliman stressed the need to come up with an organized, strengthened, and enhanced system of collaboration between government and international partners for a more effective and comprehensive disaster response. (Photo courtesy of Department of Foreign Affairs)
“In disaster operations, trust is the foundation of an effective working relation.”
This was the thrust of the message of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman earlier this week to the participants of the Disaster Response Government Dialogue Global Conference hosted by the Philippine Government in partnership with the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) which is chaired by Australia.
For her, in the landscape of humanitarian response, trust paves the way for cooperation needed between governments, donor institutions, and non-government organizations implementing approaches and strategies that help rebuild the lives of people affected by disasters.
“The success of any working relationship depends on the ability of different sectors to trust one another,” Sec. Soliman said
With the theme “Improving trust and cooperation for more effective humanitarian responses”, the event was participated in by representatives from international non-government organizations, donor-countries in various disaster operations worldwide, and key persons working in the department/ministry responding to disaster situations from different countries.
Sec. Soliman also shared the Department’s experience during disaster operations for survivors of Typhoon Yolanda.
She said that the magnitude of ‘Yolanda’s’ destruction was so vast that there was room for everyone to attend. This however created a logjam in attending to the needs of the survivors.
The large number of donors and new actors led to spending at least three weeks in meeting new faces, leveling off expectations, discussing working protocols and setting up procedures among other things.
“The lack of familiarity with each other made it difficult,” she said.
A lesson she shared from the disaster operations was that experiences and expertise will be most effective if practiced with proper understanding, and proper grasp of the context of the situation by those coming in to help.
“The surge of compassion and desire to help expressed by foreign agencies must be balanced with an understanding of the situation and capacities of the country they will support,” she added.
Sec. Soliman suggested that the approach of the donors/international organizations be tailor-fit to the context of the country and should encourage the use of in-country resources.
“We need support for the local agencies rather than bringing in people from foreign offices who have yet to familiarize themselves with the political and cultural climate of the country and the affected areas,” she stressed.
Sec. Soliman also took the opportunity to thank all the institutions, organizations, and countries which helped and continue to help in the relief, recovery and rebuilding of areas affected by Typhoon Yolanda.
Donation accountability issues
The Secretary also mentioned that the influx of donors at the height of the ‘Yolanda’ disaster operations posed a challenge to the country especially in ensuring that the contributions/donations are effectively utilized.
She also noted that while the financial assistance was overwhelming, a good part of the donation was given outside formal protocols and bypassed procedures and consultation with local authorities in using these to respond to the needs of survivors.
“Most funds from donor-countries in the relief phase went through United Nations agencies and international organizations, yet, the public asked government to account for it,” Sec. Soliman cited.
She said that to avoid this, all UN agencies and international organizations should coordinate officially with the government for a place within the overall coordinated disaster response.
As the core objective of the conference, the participants conducted a workshop to come up with policy recommendations for establishing and strengthening a more effective coordination between the disaster-affected country and the international humanitarian aid organizations or donor-countries.
The policy recommendations, which would be further studied, will provide a platform for a better and more effective working relationship towards the important task of rebuilding the lives of the families affected by disasters.
The dialogue was first initiated in 2011 by Switzerland through its Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA), and Office of Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) to bring together governments and humanitarian organizations involved in international disaster response to improve trust and mutual cooperation. ###