Karin Achtelstetter with Marian Casey-Maslen, CDAC Network Director Photo: Contributed
Karin Achtelstetter, WACC General Secretary, writes this blog from the CDAC Global Forum and Members Council meeting in Bangkok (Thailand).
Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities (CDAC) is a platform of humanitarian, media development, social innovation, technology, and telecommunications organisations, of which WACC is a rather new, but already active member. Communicating with disaster affected communities means changing existing power dynamics, and challenging out-dated participation models.
It all started two years ago with an assignment and research I had to do during my postgraduate studies on “Strategic Issues In Humanitarian Affairs”. I was asked to analyse “failed” emergency interventions, such as the Tsunami in 2004/2005 or the emergency response after the Haiti earthquake in 2010.
I read through piles of evaluations – and as general secretary of WACC I read these reports with a communication rights lens. Evaluation after evaluation admitted that disaster affected communities had not been involved in the operations, were not informed or updated as to why certain interventions happened, nor were they consulted in finding solutions. These factors led to large scale failures.
I believe that WACC is called to share its communication rights approach with actors in the humanitarian aid arena:
WACC members and partners that reached out to the WACC Secretariat consistently shared similar experiences: they found it difficult, if not impossible to connect with international aid operations. Their detailed assessments reports, their specific local knowledge and experience were ignored by the international agencies.
At least within the CDAC network WACC and its partners and members have found a platform that acknowledges that “authenticity and accuracy come from communities themselves,” as one of the panellists put it.
Andy Wheatley, of the UK Department for International Development, called for participation and communication to be properly integrated into humanitarian projects, while Nick Van Praag, of Ground Truth Solutions, talked about the need to “foster a listening culture in our organizations.”
“Donors pretend to demand community participation and agencies pretend that communities are included,” said Nick Van Praag describing the present situation and the problem.
In this context I found it especially inspiring to listen to Jenny Hodgson, the Executive Director of the Global Fund for Community Foundations, whose organization supports local community philanthropy as one strategy to overcome donor – recipient dependencies. Jenny and I started to discuss how, for example, community radios could develop sustainable models of financing without depending on donors – a discussion to be continued.