Humanitarian aid workers meeting in Nairobi, Kenya. Photo: CDAC.
“Digital inclusion and community voices: Stepping over the humanitarian-development divide” was the theme of the “Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities” (CDAC) Network Global Forum held 31 May to 1 June, 2018, in Nairobi, Kenya.
As the CDAC Network reported, “The resounding sentiment in the room was that if humanitarian and development agencies are to be relevant in a world where a woman drawing water at a well has a device that enables a conversation with the world, there has to be wide, systemic change.”
Afiwa Allahare, Executive Secretary for Communication and Climate Change, All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC), represented the World Association for Christian Communication (WACC) at the forum. WACC is a member of the CDAC Network.
This year’s forum threw a spotlight on innovative initiatives and programmes seeking to redress digital and power imbalances, the push for system-wide change and local leadership.
Presentations emphasized that power must be put in the hands of disaster-affected communities. There is also a need to reinforce the humanitarian-development nexus and overcome persistent funding and institutional obstacles.
“The concept of innovation challenged me a lot,” said Allahare. “Though using technology is part of it, the forum enlightened me on the fact that trying other methods, even methods which failed in the past, is also innovation. So we should continue exploring best ways to reach out to our membership in order to maximize our outreach and impact on the ground.”
The answers are still not only digital. Allahare gave the example that “emails has proved not very effective” even in preparation for their assembly in July. “We might need to invest in physical trips to our members, especially at grassroots level, so that they can connect more with AACC.”
For her, the forum also highlighted that “some groups need to be involved more, such as the youth, since they are generally more connected than the older generation and they can help follow-up on some of messages from the Secretariat with their respective leaders.”
The Forum addressed new technologies and opportunities and pitfalls in data collection and use in humanitarian and development responses. Presentations explored the importance and potential of communication and community engagement.
Speakers also addressed the humanitarian-development nexus from the perspectives of donors, international organizations and communities.
“It was interesting to see the shift from some donor organizations from the purely humanitarian to the development perspective. And I hope more donors would shift their focus,” stated Allahare. “In the framework of the promotion of human dignity in our context in Africa, it is important for people to move from dependency to self-sustenance.”
For more information, read the CDAC Network full report on the Global Forum.