We’ve reached the end of the regional consultations – on the road to Istanbul
"Dushanbe was my second regional consultation, and let me tell you, the energy in Dushanbe was quite different."
Jamie Munn, Regional Representative for ICVA Asia, attended the South and Central Asia WHS Consultation in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on 28-30 July 2015.
This was my second regional consultation; the first was the North and Southeast Asia region held in Tokyo just over a year ago. Tokyo was only the second round of regional discussions and had an atmosphere and set of outcomes quite different than what I have just experienced in Dushanbe. A year ago, representatives to the consultations were pragmatic and focused but at the same time, more vocally skeptical of what “real” change could be achieved, of where these regional consultations would take us, and whether or not such an open and fluid dialogue would be able to build momentum in order to create a constructive review and, potentially, a restructuring of humanitarian aid.
Let me tell you, the energy in Dushanbe was quite different. In Dushanbe, there was a sense of ownership of the consultation, particularly amongst the CSO, affected communities and Youth representatives. It was clear from the ICVA-hosted preparatory day that CSOs from across the region came with one main purpose – to be heard. And their message was crystal clear – localization is more than a word and more than a modus operandi; to be effective, implementation will require partnerships built on practical and principled complementarity with the empowerment of affected communities as the primary driver.
Without question, over the three days national stakeholders dominated each session and presented more dynamism, suggestions of change, and inspiration to improve with a focus on durable solutions than I have seen reported from any other regional dialogue. Each of the 34 resulting recommendations is pragmatic and principled.
Collectively, national actors presented a vibrant and, often, provocative discussion on what humanitarian aid should look like in the years ahead and why they, working with governments and international partners, should lead future responses. Incidentally, this was the first consultation in which I have seen youth representatives challenge humanitarian agencies on our modes of communicating with communities and our out-of-fashion means of coordinating by presenting alternatives for humanitarian messaging as simple as asking young people to use social media or enabling community groups to spread the word through their own means – reaching more people, more quickly through a medium already available and putting the affected communities back at the center of the decision-making. Many of us walked away from break-out sessions reinvigorated and with simple but innovative means to begin making changes now.
Perhaps with the knowledge that the South and Central Asia consultation was the last of the eight regional discussions in the run up to Istanbul in May next year, representatives took on the challenge to be bolder and more visionary. The particular emphasis of the consultation was on affected communities, keeping in mind that the whole purpose of the WHS is to better focus on the communities we seek to assist.
By the end of Day 3, many CSO participants expressed their hope that these consultations will result in real change – change that will allow for a better balance of power between international and national responders, for more emphasis placed on complementarity and partnerships amongst and between stakeholders, but, most importantly, better inclusion of affected communities in the decision-making of their future, be it in the short term emergency phase or in a long term resiliency to future crises. For my part, as ICVA Regional Representative, I was inspired by the openness to address real problems of coordinating efforts between national and international responders, and, by the representatives of affected community members.
Let’s hope that the upcoming meetings in Berlin and Geneva take seriously the recommendations from the regional consultations and help deliver concrete outcomes, with concrete pledges toward empowering local responders and communities.
4 August 2015.