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Posts Tagged ‘emergency’

The use of social media and new technologies in disaster and crisis situations will likely be framed forevermore as ‘Before Haiti’ (BH) and ‘After Haiti’ (AH). The terrible earthquakes that devastated the country and the resulting flood of humanitarian interventions that followed mark the moment that the world woke up to the role that new technology and new media can and do play in the immediate local response to a crisis as well as the ongoing emergency response once international volunteers and aid organizations arrive to the scene.

Still left in the dark? How people in emergencies use communication to survive — and how humanitarian agencies can help,’ is a new policy briefing by BBC Media Action. It does a fantastic job of highlighting the ways that new media is changing disaster response and the fact that the humanitarian industry is not doing enough to keep pace.

The briefing asks: ‘Are humanitarian agencies prepared to respond to, help and engage with those who are communicating with them and who demand better information?’ As the report shows, the answer is ‘not really’.

Many humanitarian agencies continue to see ‘communication’ as something done to raise money or boost the profile of their own efforts, says the report. Yet the sector increasingly needs a clear, strategic focus that responds to the information and communication needs of disaster-affected populations. ‘While responders tend to see communication as a process either of delivering information (‘messaging’) or extracting it, disaster survivors seem to see the ability to communicate and the process of communication itself as every bit as important as the information delivered.’ Communicating with affected populations can improve programming and response, not to mention, as highlighted in the Listening Project and referred to in the BBC report, ‘Listening is seen as an act of respect.’

The briefing is not one-sided, however, and it does a good job of understanding some of the common perceptions around the use of new technologies. There is ICT and social media hype on the one hand (often the position of international ICT specialists, based on very little hard evidence). And there is strong questioning of the value of these tools at all on the other hand (often the position of aid workers who are turned off by the hype and want to see proven practice if they are to consider investing time and resources in new ICTs). The briefing paper provides examples that may serve to convince those who are still unconvinced or uninterested.

Many of us see the reality that social media tools are still quite out of reach of the poorest members of a community or country. But writing new media and technologies off entirely is ‘too crude an analysis,’ says the briefing paper, ‘and one that is being challenged by data from the field.’ In Thailand, for example, use of social media increased by 20 percent in both metropolitan and rural areas when the 2010 floods began. ‘Communities now expect — and demand — interaction,’ the paper emphasizes.

Throughout the paper there are good examples of ways that in the immediate aftermath of a disaster local individuals and companies are quickly creating and rolling out communication platforms that are more relevant, feasible and sustainable than some of the initiatives that have been led by international agencies.

An important point that the report makes is that the most successful use of new media in disaster response combines multiple communication channels — new and old — allowing information to flow in and out, to and from different populations with different media habits and levels of access. For example, local journalists and radio stations may pull information from Twitter and Facebook and broadcast it via the radio. They may also be broadcasting online, meaning that they not only reach their local population, but they also reach the diaspora community. ‘Good communication work,’ the paper notes, ‘is, by definition, multi-platform. It is about integrating media, non mass media and technology tools in a manner that is rooted firmly in an understanding of how communities approach information issues.’

So ‘while aid agencies hesitate, local communities are using communications technology to reshape the way they prepare for and respond to emergencies.’ This hesitation remains in the face of growing evidence, according to the paper, that agencies who invest in meaningful communication with disaster-affected communities garner a range of benefits. ‘The communication process becomes central to effective relationships, mitigating conflict and identifying and preventing rumours and misunderstandings.’ Doing it right, however requires good program design, which in turn, requires aid agencies to focus time and expertise on improving communications with affected populations, which, of course, requires budget allocated to these kinds of activities.

For those agencies that want to look more closely at integrating some of these tools and approaches, the report gives several great examples. The recommendations section is also very useful.

One of the recommendations I think it is especially good to highlight is ‘analyse the communications landscape’ (see InfoAsAid’s materials). I would, however, have liked to see mention of involving members of local communities in a participatory analysis of that landscape. In addition to the technical analysis, it’s important to know who trusts which information sources, and why. For example, the information sources trusted by men may be different than those that women trust. The same goes for children, youth and adolescents. Access is also a critical issue here, especially in terms of reaching more marginalized groups, as the population affected by a disaster is not homogeneous and there will be hierarchies and nuances that should be considered in order to avoid leaving certain people or groups out. I would have liked more mention of the need to take a specialized approach and make a focused effort regarding communication with children and adolescents, with women, with certain ethnic groups or persons with disability, as they may be left out if care is not taken to include them.

Another recommendation I found very useful was ‘think of the whole population, not just beneficiaries.’ The paper cautions that working only with the population that directly benefits from an individual agencies’ funding is a positive angle for transparency and accountability, but it ‘seems to have a profoundly limiting effect in practice.’ Beneficiaries need information about more than just one aid agency, and those who are not benefiting from a particular agency’s programs also have information needs.

The report mentions that sometimes in the aftermath of a disaster, when people use new media to communicate, confidentiality and privacy risks are not fully considered. I’d like to see this aspect addressed a bit more in the future as there is a lack of documented good practice around privacy and protection. (Note: I’ll be involved in some research on ICTs, migration and child protection over the next year, so watch this space if it’s a topic of interest.) Humanitarian agencies may have strong policies here, but this is an area that others may not consider in their rush to offer support following a disaster.

Overall the report is extremely useful for those considering how to improve two-way (or multi-way) communication in a post-disaster situation and I very much enjoyed reading it as it sparked learning and fresh ideas, and documented some good work being done by local as well as international groups.

I don’t have a lot of pity or patience for aid agencies who are ‘left behind’ because they refuse to move with the changing times or because their approaches are not effective or relevant. There are several forces that are ‘disrupting’ humanitarian work these days, and  the report does a great job of identifying some of them. It also highlights the importance of local actors, local private sector and diaspora communities who have always played an important role in aid and development but have only recently been given more recognition.

International agencies still play a critical role in the humanitarian space, but they need to understand and adapt to the changes happening around them. This report can serve as a discussion piece and offer guidance for those agencies who want to use new media and technology to enable them to do a better job of listening to, working with and being accountable to disaster affected populations.

In summary, highly recommended reading!

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When working with women and girls in conflict or displacement situations (actually, when working with anyone, in any situation), we often make assumptions. In this case, the assumption is that “economic opportunities for women and adolescent girls have positive roll-on effects”, according to Mendy Marsh, UNICEF’s Gender Based Violence (GBV) Specialist in Emergencies.

Slide from Marsh’s presentation.

We assume that when women and older adolescent girls have income, they are safer. We assume that when households have income, children are more likely to be in school, that they are accessing healthcare, and that they are better fed, says Marsh.

But do we know whether that is true or not? What does the evidence say?

I took an hour today to listen to Marsh along with Dale Buscher, Senior Director for Programs at the Women’s Refugee Commission (WRC), talk about WRC’s “Peril or Protection: Making Work Safe” Campaign (watch the recording here).

GBV happens in all communities, including stable ones. But when situations become unstable, Marsh noted, a number of additional factors combine to make women and adolescent girls in conflict or displacement settings vulnerable to violence.

Slide from Marsh’s presentation.

These factors include:

  • Inadequate legal frameworks –eg., impunity for those committing GBV and a lack of awareness of rights
  • Lack of basic survival needs  — eg., food, non-food items, fuel, water, safe shelter
  • Lack of opportunities – eg., women’s and girls’ financial dependence, potential for exploitative work
  • Sociocultural aspects – eg., harmful practices, domestic violence, early and forced marriage
  • Insecurity – eg., flight and displacement, no lighting, no safe shelter, non-separate latrines or hygiene facilities for men, women, boys and girls, or facilities that don’t lock or are insecure; dependency on males for information

Emphasis during conflict situations tends to focus on response not prevention, said Marsh. Different agencies and sectors often work in isolation, but no single agency or sector can address GBV. It needs to be addressed across all sectors with strong community participation, including that of men and boys.

Often, she noted, livelihoods programs are brought in as a response to women’s needs and based on the assumptions above. There can be unintended negative effects from these programs and we need to be aware of them so that they can be mitigated.

Following Marsh’s introduction, Busher explained that because WRC wanted to better understand any potential unintended consequences from livelihoods programs aimed at women in conflict or displacement situations, in 2009 they conducted research and produced “Peril or Protection: The Link between Livelihoods and Gender-Baed Violence in Displacement Settings.

There is a very weak evidence base in terms of the links between gender based violence and livelihoods programming, he said.

WRC found that in some cases livelihood programs implemented by NGOs actually increased women’s and adolescent girls’ risks of GBV because of factors such as their entering the public sphere, going to market, using unsafe transportation and domestic conflict. The economic opportunities heightened the risks that women and girls faced. Providing them with income generation opportunities did not necessarily make women and girls safer or give them more control over resources.

Slide from Buscher’s presentation.

The answer is not to stop creating economic opportunities, however. Rather it is to design and implement these kinds of programs in responsible ways that do no harm and that are based on in-depth consultations with women, girls and their communities, livelihoods practitioners and GBV specialists.

Based on their research and with input from different stakeholders, WRC designed a toolkit to help those creating livelihoods programs for and with women and adolescent girls to do so in a way that lessens the risk of GBV.

The process outlined in the toolkit includes secondary research, safety mapping, a safety tool, and a decision chart.

Based on the secondary research, practitioners work with adolescent girls, women and the wider community to map the places that are important for livelihoods, explained Buscher. For example, the bus, a taxi stand, a supply shop, the fields.

Community members discuss where women and girls are safe and where they are not. They describe the kinds of violence and abuse that girls and women experience in these different places.

They identify strategies for protection based on when GBV takes place in the different locations. For example, does it happen year-round? At certain times of year? Only at night? Only on weekends?

They identify and discuss the most risky situations. Is a girl or woman most at risk when she is selling by the side of the road? Alone in a shop?

They also discuss which relationships are the most prone to GBV. Bosses? Suppliers? Buyers? Intimate Partners? Together the women and girls share and discuss the strategies that they use to protect themselves.

An additional tool identifies the social safety net that a women or adolescent girl has, considering that social networks are important both for livelihoods as well as for protection. Ways to strengthen them are discussed.

Finally, a decision chart is created with a list of livelihood activities and the information from the previous charts and discussions to determine the levels of risk in the different kinds of livelihood activities and the potential strategies for mitigating GBV.

Decisions are also made by the adolescent girls and women regarding which risks they are willing to take for which levels of livelihoods.

Marsh and Buscher concluded that safe, dignified work may be the most effective form of protection because it can help mitigate negative coping strategies such as transactional sex, child labor, pulling children out of school, and selling rations.

Livelihoods, however, should not be thought of as a little bit of money to supplement daily rations. They should be sustainable and help meet basic needs in an ongoing way; and they should lead to dignified work. The amount earned and the risks involved for women and girls need to be worth it for them, considering all the other domestic chores that they are required to do. NGOs need to consult with and listen to girls and women to better understand their needs, coping strategies.

If you’d like to learn more about the research, and the toolkit, WRC offers a free e-learning tool on how to make work safe.

You can also follow the #safelivelihoods conversation on twitter.

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On a flight home from Kenya last summer, I sat next to a young man from Burundi. His country was just holding elections, and we got to talking about them. I’d heard people calling the elections a sham because the opposition boycotted them, and there was only one candidate (from the ruling party) to even vote for. I asked what he thought about that situation and the current president. He said ‘Well, you know, we Africans…. sometimes these guys have their own style of doing things which others may not understand.’ We got to talking about politics in countries near Burundi and African big men who don’t want to step down. He kept joking, with each subsequent leader: ‘Hey… well, you know, I guess he has his own style too.’  Seems there is a lot of personal style to be reckoned with.

Consider Laurent Gbagbo in Cote d’Ivoire who’s refused to step down as president and whose conflict with internationally recognized president-elect Ouattara is bringing (has brought?) the country to civil war. I’m about as far from a Cote d’Ivoire expert as you can get, never having visited the country and not having a great handle on the history or much knowledge about the current situation. So I went digging for some news articles and opinion pieces so I could understand things better.

Alex Thurston gives a good round-up on Sahel Blog and John James describes the day-to-day in his article Ivory Coast’s Descent into Madness (heard through @scarlettlion). This sobering article, West Africa lurches towards war, from March 11, explains how the Cote d’Ivoire conflict could impact the whole region. The International Crisis Group sums up the situation like this:

‘The election was part of a peace process that began after the September 2002 rebellion and was endorsed by several accords, the latest the 2007 Ouagadougou Political Agreement that all candidates, including Gbagbo, accepted and that set out compromises on organisation and security for the balloting. Ouattara won the run-off with a margin of more than 350,000 votes over Gbagbo.

The UN certified that result, but Gbagbo used the country’s highest court to throw out votes arbitrarily so he could stage a constitutional coup. Since then, he has relied on violence and ultra-nationalist rhetoric to cling to power. Over 300 people have been killed, dozens raped and many more abducted and disappeared by security forces. ECOWAS and the African Union (AU) have recognised Ouattara as president-elect and asked Gbagbo to step down, but he is apparently prepared to resist to the end, even if it means throwing Côte d’Ivoire into anarchy, war and economic disaster with terrible consequences for the entire region.’

Aaron Bady of ZunguZungu goes deeper and analyzes the historical roots of the conflict in his post Our deafening silence on the Coast of Africa: Cote d’Ivoire and our Myth of Continents, which I’d encourage you to read in full.

‘This is, in other words, about the political power structure working to limit who gets to politically represent and be represented in this “African” nation, precisely by drawing a line to separating “North Africa” from “West Africa,” in politically interested ways, to maintain political control for the ‘real’ Ivoirians in the south. Without denying that there might be other bad guys in this story, the fact remains — virtually unspoken — that ten years ago, Ouattara’s ethnic origin as Burkinabé — his parents were from Burkina Faso — was used by politicians from the predominantly Christian southern part of the country to disqualify him from running for the presidency; a political campaign of “Ivorité” worked to distinguish between “indigenous Ivorians” and “Ivorians of immigrant ancestry,” as a thoroughly programmatic effort to dis-enfranchise the (largely Muslim) north by lumping them all together with the (many) immigrants in the north who originated Burkina Faso. The current violence started with a disturbingly analogous move: after Ouattara was declared to have won the presidential election — by the UN, ECOWAS, the AU, and all international observers — the Gbagbo controlled Constitutional Council threw out 660,000 votes from the north and gave the election to Gbagbo.

It’s all very complicated. But for now, my point is simply to note that these geographical categories are not only part of the problem in Côte d’Ivoire itself. In this case, they are part of the reason why we find it so difficult to even talk coherently about the problem.’

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The organization where I work operates in Liberia, and so I’ve been getting updates about the situation on the Cote d’Ivoire-Liberia border, where we’re providing some support to the large number of refugees streaming into Liberia. These updates describe a deteriorating situation. Ghana, Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso haven’t received as many refugees but are still starting to feel the effects of the conflict heating up. The past week saw a spill-over of violence onto the Liberian side of the border as armed Ivorians entered the Liberian territory and attacked Liberian and Ivorian nationals who were found along the North Eastern Liberia-Cote d’Ivoire border.  UN security troops were deployed to put an end to the fighting and gain control. Serious shooting has also been reported along the South East Liberia-Cote d’Ivoire border, accelerating the influx of refugees into the counties of Maryland and Grand Gedeh. One report says that in Cote d’Ivoire, rapes, abductions and killings are being committed by people supporting both sides and influential leaders appear to be deliberately stimulating attacks against political opponents, other ethnic groups, nationals from other West African countries, as well as UN staff and operations.

I was Skyping Wednesday with my boss, who lives in Burkina. She oversees our programs in the West Africa region, including emergency and humanitarian crises. She said there are over 80,000 refugees who’ve come into Liberia already, ‘and it’s only going to get worse.’

On top of those who have fled into Liberia, there are at least 300,000 internally displaced. ‘The area where the refugees are in Liberia is totally undeveloped,’ she said. ‘It’s 26 villages with no infrastructure which now have to cope with the influx of people. People don’t want to go to a camp. They prefer to stay in the villages. There are security worries as there is fighting very close to the border and armed men from Cote d’Ivoire are crossing the border to Liberia and started firing on the Liberian side of the border. They were shut down by UN troops, but it’s worrying.’

Since she and I talked the situation has gotten worse still. Foreign Policy Blog reports:

‘This is the real thing. In a message on state television last night, Gbagbo — who has refused to step down after losing an internationally certified election in November — asked civilians to get involved in the fight to “neutralize” his opponents. That’s about as close as you get to saying pick up your machetes and join me. Or forget machetes; Ivory Coast is still heavily armed from its civil war last decade. Gbagbo certainly hasn’t been shy about using military force lately; his forces are thought to have been behind a mortar attack on a market yesterday that left 40 people injured. Earlier this week there were reports of his using helicopters and tanks to mow down suspected opposition supporters.’

My boss also worries there will be a cholera outbreak. The rains started early and the hygiene conditions are bad. Ghana has a cholera outbreak right now, and it’s likely that with much people movement, rains and inadequate sanitary conditions, there will be an epidemic. ‘And people from Cote d’Ivoire are hungry,’ she said. They haven’t had access to cash for weeks as all the banks are closed and food stocks are used up. We are feeling this even here in Burkina as food coming from Cote d’Ivoire starts to get short and prices increase…. And many of the refugees are adolescents. We are worried about them being hired into armed forces, so we are looking into options to try to organize the youth to simply give them something to do.’

On March 3, the International Crisis Group issued the steps that they see as necessary to avoid a civil war and conflict that will shake the whole region:

‘The requirements to avoid a disastrous new conflict include Gbagbo stepping down; Ouattara offering to negotiate, with civil society help, an agreement for unity, national reconciliation and an interim transitional government with him at its head (but without the irreconcilable former president); the UN peace-keeping mission standing firm to carry out its civilian protection mandate; and the international community unequivocally supporting any decisions of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including deployment of a military mission.’

I wonder if these actions will actually be taken, or if the escalating situation will allow for them to be taken, as each passing day seems to throw the country further towards a seemingly impossible-to-resolve situation.  It’s tempting to think that people are not paying attention to this crisis because of other crises happening right now in Japan, Egypt and Libya. I’m not convinced. Aaron Bady’s post, referred to above, spells out other possible reasons for the lack of attention to the situation, including the common narratives about Africa, ‘the dark continent’, that color our perceptions and reactions. Again, I’d really encourage you to read the whole piece, but here’s a bit of it:

‘It isn’t that “we” don’t want to understand; it’s that we don’t know how to see beyond the initial same-old-story-ness of this story, when we hear it. Which is why, I would suggest, we end up where we started: a sense that, because there is violence, we should pay attention to what is happening, followed by the discovery that there is no news there; just the same “turmoil in Africa” narratives we sort of quietly presume to be going on across the continent all the time, and nothing we can think anything new about.’

I’m someone who rants quite a bit about the negative images we associate so often with Africa and Africans. But looking at the information available about the current situation, I’m having a hard time finding any hope there. I wonder what solutions there really are, where they come from, and if and when these cycles will end. Is it because I haven’t visited Cote d’Ivoire myself that it’s hard to see beyond the negative narratives? Is it because I don’t personally know the day-to-day ‘place of friendly people, amazing fresh fruit, long and unspoilt tropical beaches ‘ that John James describes? In my mind, I keep coming back to the narrative about Africa’s ‘big men’ and their ‘personal styles’.

Seems I’m also caught in the thinking trap that Aaron laid out.

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What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

In my last post (Orgasmatron Moments) I compared re-hashed development and aid work ideas to re-makes of songs, lamenting that often people don’t realize that their favorite new innovation is more like a cover of an old idea.

Dave Algoso at Find What Works commented:

So my question is: Linda, what’s next?! … What principles of good development are already being implemented by smart groups, but are still unnoticed by the academics and other commentators? To continue the music analogy, if you’re the fan who liked the hip new band before they were big — what are you listening to now?

Hmm. A tricky question if you ask me. There are a lot of people who write and blog about development trends and who know a lot more about this than I do, (Owen Barder, for example) but I’ll take a stab at some things that I’m hearing about, working on, discussing and/or seeing nowadays.

The fact that I can link to most of these ideas means that they are not going unnoticed. Or maybe the development blogosphere is akin to the underground music scene.  In any case, none of these are totally new. There is nothing new under the sun, but there are lots of old things we don’t know. Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary (1911).

Some mash-ups/re-mixes that together create a new, interesting and good sound to my ears:

Cynefin, aid, development. I first heard about Cynefin when reading @morealtitude’s post ‘Embracing the chaotic: Cynefin and humanitarian response‘. Cynefin draws the world’s systems into four paradigms:  Simple, Complicated, Complex or Chaotic. Each paradigm has its own characteristics, and systems can shift from one paradigm to another. Not new, as the concept is at least 10 years old… but I love the connection between these paradigms, development/humanitarian aid work, and the way that organizations market themselves. A good resource on complexity theories in aid and development is Aid on the Edge.

Social media and ICTs to broaden participation. I’m digging the use of social media and ICT tools to bring marginalized voices into discussions about development, aid, governance, accountability, corporate abuses and other related areas, and to get broader input from ‘beneficiaries’ on approaches, ideas and initiatives. I’m liking how they are being used to simplify information and expand the number of people with access to information that was hidden or inaccessible before. (Update: This cool effort to geo-code aid data could make a lot of foreign aid project funding data more available.)

Not a new concept, as people have been ‘popularizing’ and sharing information for ages (think town criers, jesters, printing press, cartoons or ‘child friendly’ versions of legal documents) but social media and ICTs continue along this path. Issues of accessibility, language, gender, literacy, electricity, and disability need to be overcome, but things are moving forward, and organizations are more and more thinking about how to use ICTs for these purposes. This makes aid transparency, budget transparency come alive, and it becomes easier to see who is doing what where and who is spending what where and who is funding what. Kind of like that cool website Source Watch where you can type in a name (eg., the name of the guy who did that research saying that climate change doesn’t exist) and find out who he works for and who pays his salary is spreading to new areas and new levels.

Crowdsourcing/crowdfeeding in humanitarian and development work. Linked to the above, I’m increasingly interested in approaches that combine broad and quick information gathering with good quality information gathering, are based on experiences in past emergencies or development initiatives, that find ways to speed up information processing and response, and that improve on quality. Those efforts that consider proper management of expectations and privacy; child and witness protection, and that do not create parallel systems score extra points. Use of these technologies internally in organizations and among/across organizations, and with /by affected populations all fall into this category, which is closely linked with the one above. Check out this cool presentation on interaction design and crowdsourcing or this brilliant piece on Social Media and Humanitarian Response.

Online + offline combos. Not everyone is online, and not every context is the same. I’m really interested in approaches that use a variety of communication tools and methods to reach their goals and that are flexible and seamless across the initiative.  Looking at how to better connect knowledge and information from the local level to the global level and back again, and to link horizontally is key. I’m a fan of initiatives that are goal, results, impact driven, but that also consider good process and take local context into great consideration. I like initiatives that are not technology driven, but where technology is incorporated strategically if and when and where it actually adds value.  An example of this is where hand drawn maps and digital maps work together in participatory mapping to meet the needs of different groups.

Data and information collection and sharing by mobiles. Data collection – not new. But use of low cost mobile phones and data decentralization to district and community levels is a relatively new phenomenon. When data is owned more closely to the source, it seems more likely that people will care more about data validity and that the data will become information that they can use to manage their own processes and their own development. This is happening in many areas, from health to education to financial transactions a la mPesa and mKesho, to civil registration (eg, birth certificates) to government budgets to emergencies.

Expanding innovation. ALNAP (Active Learning Network for Accountability and Performance) talks about the 4 Ps model (pages 3 and 4 of this really relevant .pdf file) of innovation in humanitarian aid, and expands on the typical thinking that ‘innovation’ means ‘creating a new thing/product’.  ‘Innovations can be directed towards improvements or new developments of four aspects: (i) products, such as improved cooking stoves or food products to counter malnutrition; (ii) processes, such as methods for stockpiling goods, improved coordination, or improving learning and quality assurance; (iii) the position of an organisation and its work in relation to key stakeholders, for example by changing an organisation’s public profile or by changing attitudes to an area of work such as shelter; (iv) paradigms or combined attitudes and beliefs determining the fundamental approach to humanitarian work, such as the calls for paradigm shifts in humanitarian business models towards beneficiary participation, local ownership and capacity development. Exploring these ideas in the context of humanitarian work gives a new way of understanding and harnessing organisations’ creative potential.’ Yeah. I guess Marketers have their own 4Ps, (product, price, place, promotion) and marketing innovators have theirs (population, penetration, price, purchase frequency), so having 4 P’s is not new, just maybe it’s new when thinking about innovation in humanitarian aid.

Questioning capitalism’s influence on aid and development. By that I mean looking more closely at things like Corporate Social Responsibility (sometime I think that term is an oxymoron — check this animated video version of Slavoj Zizek’s Marxist reading of charity). Questioning capitalism is not new. (Hello Marx). But it’s still relevant to pick apart capitalism and to wonder if things will ever change if we keep pushing the same system with all its flaws and inherent inequities.  Questioning CSR includes thinking critically about ‘philanthrocapitalism’ in the sense of 1) the application of business models/ approaches to aid and 2) doing things to benefit the poor at a profit.

Related to that, thinking critically about cause-based marketing and its link to consumerism and the destruction of the planet and having clear program-driven policies on if, when and how to engage volunteers, take gifts in kind, and work with corporations and other funding bodies; and having mechanisms in place to ensure before accepting them that the above are actually necessary and contribute to program goals and actually benefit communities in the long run. Then again, a lot of people are on the trade-not-aid kick (thanks to Dambisa Moyo) and the two sides are a bit at odds with each other. It’s a battle of the bands that I’m still not ready to vote on yet. Can someone please come up with a new political and economic system that is fair and works?

Along these lines is questioning models of social entrepreneurship, social innovations, innovation contests, and design for the BOP, design for the ‘third world’ and other similar initiatives. There is a great article that opens a lot of questions around that model and a cool initiative called “Design for the First World.” Not to mention the Bruce Nussbaum et al. debate around ‘Is Humanitarian Design the New Imperialism?

Transmedia activism. I first heard about Transmedia Activism from Lina Srivastava (@lksriv) and I still don’t fully understand it, but then Lina is way smarter than I am, so that could be why.  I quote: ‘Transmedia Activism is a framework that creates social impact by using storytelling by a number of decentralized authors who share assets and create content for distribution across multiple forms of media to raise awareness and influence action.’ Again, not new is the concept of transmedia storytelling, used in marketing and product sales for quite some time, but it’s only recently that it’s being applied and used in advocacy work and non-profit causes.

Organizing your workers with the times. Rather than top-down, super structured, cubicle-based working environments, some offices are (and IMHO, all should be) looking at management styles that encourage innovation, collaboration and global teamwork.  Time Magazine, a  mainstream news source, talks about “global teams that use social media and collaborative decision-making that might involve team members scattered around the world, from Beijing to Barcelona to Boston, whom the nominal leader of a given project may never have met in person…. By 2019, every leader will have to be culturally dexterous on a global scale.”  If you ask me, not enough INGOs are paying attention to this and are still embracing old-fashioned structures and work environments. (Update: Google is known for stimulating innovation, and Netflix also seems to be doing this well.) (Update #2: Recommend subscribing to the Aid on the Edge of Chaos blog. Love this post – now, can I just get the organization where I work to see the light?)

Global warming and climate change. Whether because of the global meetings (COP15), because of the increase in disasters, because a younger generation is entering the workforce, or because we are finally realizing that it is for real, there are more programs dealing with climate change and its effects, especially looking at the differential impacts on women and children. Organizations are starting to think more about how they themselves contribute to climate change. Again, this is not a new thing, but it’s coming into vogue again. It makes us think about consumer based advocacy and cause based marketing, travel and carbon footprints, and starts asking why people are still coming up with ‘send your old crap to Africa’ schemes rather than working on changing consumer-based cultures in their own territories to stop buying so much stuff and producing so much waste.

Continuum between emergency and development. The gap between what is an emergency/humanitarian program and what is a development program continues to close up a bit more as organizations realize the importance of community ownership and engagement as soon as possible after a disaster. Again, not new. This was signaled as early as the 90s with the Red Cross Red Crescent Code of Conduct, but it’s taken awhile for it to hit home. The dangers of too much doing by external agencies and the damage it can cause to longer term development are coming more to the forefront and entering mainstream conversations a bit more. Here’s one blog post and related discussions that sort of gets at what I mean…. I’m sure there are many other discussions happening in the humanitarian world that I’m not currently participating in.

Some ideas I’ve been listening to a bit less/conversations I’m not very engaged in and (in keeping with our metaphor of music) where I’m trying to figure out if I want to buy the album:

RCTs: There is quite a lot of debate around RCTs (Randomized Controlled Trials) and the importance of evaluation. This is one of AidWatch’s favorite topics, and there’s a lot of debate every time they do a post on it. Here’s one such post by Alanna Shaikh.

Cash transfers… conditional or un-conditional, universal or targeted. Not new. Lots of agencies have done cash transfers in the past. Sponsorship agencies for example used to do only that, but they moved over to community based development in the 1970 and 80s. I’m trying to find some information on why, but haven’t been successful yet. Also trying to figure out what exactly is new about the current cash transfer model, and what makes it work better than the old sponsorship line-up-to-collect-your-$20 models. There’s more information on cash transfers here.  If anyone has concrete information from back in the day on why sponsorship organizations made this change in how they work, it would be much appreciated. I plan to do some more homework on this when I have time, as I do agree with giving people more control over the ‘aid’ and ‘development’ that is coming their way, but there must be a reason that organizations stopped giving out cash, and I’d hope some studies on that decision and its impact on ‘beneficiaries’ for better or worse.

Cash on Delivery aid is being discussed quite a bit. I don’t know enough about it to have an opinion one way or another, but you can check out the Center for Global Development’s site. As I was in the middle of composing this post, Amanda Makulec commented on my last post, saying: In some ways, CGD’s Cash on Delivery Aid idea isn’t entirely new either (and I’m not the first to call them out on this), though it’s gotten a lot of press from everyone from DfID to Nick Kristof who have heralded it as a “new” way of doing development. Programs in Haiti, Rwanda, and other countries have relied on the idea of making either financial incentives or even specific percentages of an annual budget contingent on meeting specific service delivery targets. I’d have to go back into old files from my grad school internship for specifics, but, for example, in a past program in Haiti funded by USAID, NGOs received funding to accomplish certain program outcomes (vaccinate X children, for example). By meeting their targets, the NGOs ensured they received continued funding.

The CGD proposal does, however, advocate for taking the principles behind performance-based financing (or results-based financing, if you work for Abt or the World Bank), and applying those ideas to how governments spend aid dollars. So perhaps it could be held up as a good example of a new way to apply an existing idea, elevating it from a program to a policy.

So, time will tell which of the song categories each of these development trends will fall into…. and there are certainly many more trends. Feel free to add your own in the comments section or challenge the ones I mentioned above… But maybe more fun than that, what do you think? Which of the ideas above or the new ideas you’re seeing will fall into which of the categories below?

  • Instant Classic –good enough to get played on the Classic station even when it’s only been out for a year
  • Alternative – but eventually you’ll hear it at the dentist office, or feel obliged to comment when you see the next generation be-bopping to it at wedding receptions because it used to be so provocative
  • Underground – edgy and radical, still waiting for pop stars to water it down or to cover it when the time is right for it to go mainstream
  • One Hit Wonder – great idea, doesn’t last past evaluation stage or burns out
  • Child Star — forced to mature before its time by too much media attention and too much donor money
  • Pay to Play –not necessarily bad, but forced on everyone because it’s backed by big corporations/ donors and crowds out the other ideas that have less financial backing
  • We are the World – feel-good idea that most people buy into that is actually bad development / bad aid and a waste of everyone’s time
  • Next  Bono  – seemed pretty cool at first, but overrated

PS: thanks to everyone who contributed directly or indirectly to this post for constantly challenging my thinking and taking it to new levels.

Related post on Wait… What?

Orgasmatron Moments

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There are a lot of great ideas floating around about how Information and Communications Technology (ICTs) and technology in general can help to rebuild Haiti.  I hope these ideas keep coming.  I would love to see international development organizations, aid agencies and non-profits in general open up more to ideas on how technology can improve the lives of the people they are trying to support as well as facilitate coordination and program implementation.

But I also hope that the technology folks who haven’t worked in a crisis context such as that in Haiti will lend an ear to those who have experience working in past disasters and on-going development programs, human rights work, volunteer initiatives and advocacy. Those experiences shouldn’t be tossed out as old-school.  Good programs and experiences exist that can be examined, processed and built on.

I work globally, with one foot in community development and the other in ICTs, and I notice a gap between these 2 sectors, though they could really learn a lot from each other and work nicely together.

Cool technology ideas, just like cool program ideas can flop on the ground if the local culture and context are not taken into consideration, users were not involved or consulted during design and testing, the supposed ‘problem’ really wasn’t a problem at all, the proposed idea is not sustainable, a better/preferred local solution already exists, etc., etc.

Sometimes when I hear enthusiastic people sharing ideas for new applications, innovations or program ideas that they want to implement in ‘developing’ countries, I find myself thinking:  “Wow.  They have no idea what it’s like on the ground.”  I don’t want to shoot down someone’s excitement.  But I do wish that those who are not intimately familiar with their end users would slow down, think for a minute, and realize that local context is king. I wish they would remember that ultimately this is not about them and their ideas for other people. I wish they would stop being mad that abc organization won’t take that shipment of xyz technology that they want to send over, or that no one wants to implement such and such program that was so successful in such and such place.  Solutions looking for problems are not the best way to go about things, even when you have the very best of intentions.

However, non-profit organizations (large and small)  can be totally resistant to trying new tools, technologies and programs that could make a huge difference in their effectiveness, impact and quality of programming. They can be bureaucratic and slow to put new ideas to work.  They can be risk averse, afraid of failure, and resistant to innovation and new ideas.  The seemingly limitless relationships that need to be negotiated around can really slow things down.

Sometimes I see non-profits doing things they way they’ve always been done and I find myself thinking “Wow.  I wish they’d be open to trying ________.” I wish organizations would be more willing to test out new technologies and new ideas that don’t come from within their sector. I wish it were easier to make change happen.

When it comes to the Haiti earthquake response, the technology and non-profit sectors are 2 of the key players.  I’m worried that the outpouring of interest in helping will lead to a lot of wheel re-inventing.  I’m worried about local relevance and executability (if that’s even a word) of some of the ideas I am seeing.  I have concerns about the amount of projects being conceived and designed from afar.  I also see that there are new program and technology ideas out there that have the potential to make people’s lives easier if they were well integrated into the local reality, yet there are many factors that prohibit and inhibit organizations from exploring them or using them.

The technology and non-profit sectors benefit quite a lot from each other when they work together and understand each other.  It would be great to see a bigger effort to bridge the gap between these sectors.  Regardless of whether people believe NGOs and/or private enterprises and/or technologists or the Haitian government or the UN are good or bad, there are a lot of experiences that can be learned from and/or improved on from all sides.

The links below might be helpful for thinking about designing technology, ICT and programs in ‘developing’ country contexts and to help avoid known pitfalls and overcome obstacles. They can help reduce the amount of time and other resources wasted on projects that are not sustainable or impactful, or at worst are actually harmful in the short or long term to the very people that we all want to support and help.  There are certainly many more resources out there… please add ones that you find helpful in the comments section.

ICT Works and The 4 C’s of ICT Deployment

Mobiles for Development Guide by Hannah Beardon

IDEO Human Centered Design Toolkit

Changemakers and Kiwanja collaboration: SMS How To Guide

Mobile Active‘s case studies

ML4D:  Mobile learning for development’s design narratives

Ushahidi Blog: February Archives have a lot of information on the Haiti response

iRevolution: thought provoking posts on technology and crisis situations

Educational Technology Debate:  Sustaining, rather than sustainable ICT4E and Designing and sustaining a sustainable ICT4E initiative

Posts on Wait… What? that might be useful:

7 (or more) questions to ask before adding ICTs

Finding some ICT answers in Benin

Meeting in the Middle: A good local process

It’s all part of the ICT jigsaw

I and C and then T

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There is a lot of talk about “Child Protection” these days and an increased awareness of the vulnerability of children who are separated from their parents or who have lost them due to the Haiti earthquake   But what exactly does “Child Protection” mean?  What does a child protection system look like on the ground?  How can child protection mechanisms be set up during an emergency phase, and how can they be turned into a sustainable mechanism post-crisis?

Jose Francisco de Sousa (“Quico”), a co-worker of mine at Plan Timor-Leste, sent me written information on Plan’s child protection work in the 2006 crisis response there and talked me through some of details below. Photo:  Quico.

Plan was active in the broader emergency response in Timor-Leste following the political crisis of April 2006 through work in over 40 camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs). (For some deeper insight into Timor-Leste, check out this post by my twitter pal @giantpandinha).

In Timor-Leste, Plan was one of the first agencies to respond as Site Liaison Support (SLS), responsible for the coordination, operation and management of camp activities within days of the crisis. Plan’s specific focus was on addressing the needs of children in the camps, covering service provision such as the delivery of potable water to 15,000 IDPs, addressing hygiene and sanitation issues to improve health, and training youth in conflict resolution skills to aid the nation’s peace building process, and child protection.

Plan’s child protection approach included identifying, monitoring and protecting children at risk, setting up referral systems, training communities in child rights and child protection strategies and mechanisms, and ‘seconding’ Quico as an advisor to the government to strengthen its child protection systems.

Quico was “loaned out” to the Ministry of Social Solidarity (MSS) to build upon existing capacities in the Ministry of Social Solidarity (Child Protection Department) and to ensure a strongly coordinated sectoral, systems-building approach to the child protection response. Through this process, the government came to see child protection as a priority in the long term and eventually established a Child Protection Department under the MSS. So, in other words, the emergency child protection mechanisms established during the crisis were successfully built into a sustainable child protection system in the long term, and services are now available in the district and sub-district levels across the country.

“When the crisis began in Timor Leste, it was very difficult for us to get any resources on how best we could assist internally displaced people. During the emergency, there were many NGOs and other organizations trying to support the internally displaced through different approaches. The focus was mainly to provide the basic needs. There was no proper coordination strategy/mechanism that included broader child protection issues.

I would say that if we look at the nature of the disasters in Timor-Leste and what is happening in Haiti right now, It’s different,  but I imagine (correct me if I’m wrong) that the impact of the disasters might be same, where instability is created in different sectors leading to broader child protection issues.

Plan responded to the emergency in Dili (the Capital of Timor-Leste) with immediate practical child protection measures focusing on the prevention of family separation, and the promotion of safety, and health and hygiene in camps. We also prioritised co-ordination of child protection actors by initiating a Child Protection Working Group. This filled a leadership vacuum whilst building the capacity of the Government  to gradually take over leadership responsibility.”

Keep reading for an overview of the Toolkit…..or download it here.

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Plan Timor-Leste’s Child Protection Emergency Toolkit is divided into 7 parts:

1. Overview of Framework & Standards Related to an Emergency Response in Timor-Leste
This section aims to give an overview of the international, national and organizational laws, policies, standards and approaches to child protection in emergencies in order have clear guidance on how to create an appropriate framework for a potential response that is in line with global, national and internal organizational laws and policies on Child Protection in Emergencies. (If replicating the toolkit, these documents would need to be adapted to the country context).  Users of the toolkit should read this section before they go on to use the other sections in the toolkit.   These overviews are important to integrate into Child Protection in Emergency trainings and orientation for new staff recruited in the event of an emergency.

Some of the legal instruments and Humanitarian Principles Applicable to Child Protection in Emergencies in Timor-Leste included:
  • Overview of Approaches and Guidelines in Child Protection in Emergency
  • Timor-Leste Structural Framework of the Current System for Child Protection
  • Timor-Leste Legal Framework for Child Protection
  • Plan’s Approach to Emergency
  • Summary of Learning and Recommendations from 2006 Emergency Child Protection Response

2. Emergency preparedness
The section includes an overview of steps that should be taken to ensure that Plan offices are prepared for an emergency. It’s divided into two areas – programmatic preparedness and administrative preparedness.  It also includes the practical internal financial codes for general emergency preparedness activities so that these are compiled and readily available to support and inform activities and rapid proposal writing in the event of an emergency. These are also useful for Country Offices to be prepared for emergency in the long term.

Programmatically, the tools include government and Child Protection Working Group contingency planning, risk analysis and scenario planning, child protection activity mapping and definition of roles and responsibilities.  They also include tools developed specifically for the geographical areas where a child protection response might potentially be needed, such as contact lists for child protection actors at the municipal level, and community-based hazard, risk and capacity maps developed by children and their communities as part of Plan’s on-going mitigation activities.

The administrative tools cover generic job responsibilities, a general child protection in emergencies orientation session for newly recruited staff or those who are new to emergency response.  The human resource structure of a response is defined and responsibilities are allocated within the current staff organigram.  Advocacy and media standards and a stock list of necessary items for the first phase of an emergency response are also included.

3. Initial emergency response
This section contains the basic tools relevant to an initial emergency response.  The emergency planning tools included in the previous section are also relevant to ensuring the most efficient response possible, in line with Plan’s community-based approach.  The shape of the response will depend largely on the type, scale and location of the emergency, and any tools need to be adapted according to this context.

“One of the tools here is a child protection message to Camp Managers.  During the emergency period, Plan was assigned to be responsible for a certain number of IDPs. One of our focuses was to establish and ensure that the structure in the IDP was functioning to assist the IDP’s and that we established the camp. But we also wanted to make sure that child protection was understood and prioritized in displaced persons camps. This meant that we discussed children and child centered programming with camp managers, and they worked to ensure that there would be no discrimination towards children and their families during the emergency.”

This was difficult for us to introduce in the beginning of the crisis, as people tended to have different thoughts and priorities, and it gave additional works to the IDPs.  In addition to that, some organizations did not have a mandate for “child centeredness.” So we started facilitating child protection focused workshops for camp managers and other NGOs, and getting their commitment to be involved in process.  Aside from that we also guided the camp manager on using the checklists as well as we assigned Plan, government and other NGO staff  (who were also in IDPs) to support throughout the process, and it worked.

One of the problems that we encountered was related to volunteers.  Since we were establishing a new system, we needed people to take responsibility at different levels. Camp managers already had additional child protection tasks for the whole camp, so they were supported by child protection focal points and child protection teams in each block of IDPs.  I wouldn’t say it all worked perfectly.  There were issues among volunteers that were brought to the Child Protection Working Group to discuss. Some NGOs who were also assigned in the IDP camps had a policy of paying camp managers and teams, which created jealously and conflict between them and the volunteers. But in the end, we developed guidelines for volunteers, establishing from the start that we would not give them cash but rather give them recognition and reward such as:

· identification cards recognizing them as volunteers
· training and continuing refresher courses
· certificates for every completed training course
· promotional t-shirts, hats, umbrellas & bags, whenever available
· public acknowledgment
· certificate of community service for every 3 months of services rendered
· access to information about suitable job vacancies in NGOs”

4. Child protection assessment
This section contains tools for use in assessing child protection-related needs.  It draws heavily from the Inter Agency First Phase Child Protection Resource Kit developed by the IASC Child Protection Working Group. The assessment contains generic questions relevant to a range of child protection issues common to emergencies.  They are adapted and modified according to the context of the emergency and the child protection issues that are identified as emerging. Training on ethical considerations and assessment methodologies should be conducted as necessary.

“There are 8 main focus questions in the Questionnaire for Children, for example.  To find out about children’s psycho-social well being, we ask the questions:

· What are the things/activities that you like the most?
· What kind of things makes you happy or comfortable?
· What are the things/activities that you dislike?
· What kind of things makes you angry or sad?
· What kind of activities would you like to have here?
· What are the main problems that you face now?
· What would help you solve these problems?
· What are your biggest concerns or worries about the future? What do you think would help?
· Which people make you happy in the community?  Why?
· Which people make you unhappy in the community?  Why?”

5.      Building a Child Protection System in an Emergency
The section looks first at developing child protection systems in the context of displacement.  It then looks at supporting district, sub-district and village child protection systems to respond to the needs of displaced people living in host communities and other disaster-affected communities.   It goes on to look at the implementation of the Child Protection Policy and ensuring the effective management of individual child protection cases.  This sub-section contains guidelines on monitoring and reporting grave violations of children’s rights.

6. Key issues for children in emergency
This section looks at some of the issues that children commonly face in emergencies and appropriate child protection responses in line with international standards and according to Plan’s mandate and experience.  The three key issues covered in detail are: Family Separation, Sexual Violence against Children, Psychosocial Support for Children. Each of these three issues has a sub-section containing a summary of standards and guidelines, process for prevention and response, necessary tools, and a training module for staff.

7. Monitoring and Evaluation
This section contains the tools used to monitor and evaluate child protection in emergencies interventions.   These are based on tools already used by the Plan Timor-Leste Office.  They are adjusted according to the needs of an emergency context and are supplemented with additional tools in line with good practice.

“In Haiti, I would say that children separated from their parents will need to be especially considered, while people will also need to be alert for the effects that the crisis may have, for example, increased violence.  This will be a special concern if there were any political issues before the crisis. Psychosocial activities are very, very important too, the other key areas are likely to be water and sanitation, heath problems and education.  Coordination mechanisms between aid organizations must be considered, as each organization will have their own approach but in this situation each organization needs to think about the wellbeing of children and the community.”

More resources:
The Child Protection Working Group in Haiti has created the following Guiding Principles for Unaccompanied and Separated Children Following the Haiti Earthquake, 2010.

These principles represent the views of the following agencies: the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Save the Children, Terre des Hommes (TdH), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Vision International (WVI), Plan International, War Child UK.  Organizations wishing to work on behalf of separated children are strongly encouraged to endorse these principles.


Plan International: Children and the Tsunami


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Related posts on Wait… What?:

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In early 2005, following the Tsunami, I collaborated with a cross-section of people at the organization where I work to put together a summary of lessons learned and some short guidelines for working with children and communities in emergencies.

All of us had been directly responsible for supporting and/or coordinating disaster response with communities, staff, local and national governments, international and national NGOs, children, youth, schools and teachers, or some combination of the above, in the countries where we lived and worked.  We discussed preparedness as well as relief and recovery phases. We talked about how child focused community development organizations, like the one where we worked, should look at children’s survival, development, participation and protection in a disaster situation and we created some internal guidelines.

Some of the most important things that stayed with me from the weeks we spent talking with each other, with peer organizations, and with our colleagues who were dealing with the 2004 Tsunami are related to the importance of child participation and protection during emergencies.  These recommendations can be applied now to the crisis in Haiti.

  • Don’t assume children or their families can’t do anything for themselves. Local coping mechanisms are often overlooked and underestimated by central governments or aid organizations, creating unnecessary dependency.  Participating and taking control of their situation can actually help people return to normal sooner. I clearly remember an example of an IDP camp where all the services (food, water) were at first centrally coordinated by the municipal government.  A manager from our organization was able to convince the government to engage camp ‘residents’ and organize children and youth into smaller groups who handled particular responsibilities. Suddenly the trash in the camp was picked up and time spent in the food line went from 2 hours to 20 minutes, tempers lowered and people relaxed a bit and got on with things.  The Children and Participation: Research, Monitoring and Evaluation with Children and Young People by Save the Children is a general guide that can help staff think through and orient participation of children and young people in emergencies.  Child-Oriented Participatory Risk Assessment and Planning (COPRAP): A Toolkit developed by the Center for Disaster Preparedness (CDP) in the Philippines is another excellent resource. Both were adapted and used by Plan during the conflict in Timor Leste, for example.
  • Child protection is critical during an emergency and after. During a disaster the typical social patterns and groupings that protect children may be challenged or broken. Children can be further harmed, abused and exploited by those who take advantage of the chaos.  Unaccompanied children can be preyed on if mechanisms are not established quickly.  Personal information about children is often shared or published widely in the interest of helping find parents or relatives or find missing persons, yet it can also help unscrupulous people to identify unaccompanied children and prey on them, especially now when published on the internet.  Birth registration and restoration of lost identity and other civil registration documents are critical to halt trafficking, as is close coordination among organizations, governments, communities and local agencies/staff.  Community members and the affected population can play a strong role in protecting their children, as can older children themselves.  The Interagency Guiding Principles on Unaccompanied and Separated Children, put together by the International Committee of the Red Cross, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children UK, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and World Vision, gives an excellent overview of protection.  Further resources are available at Better Care Network’s website which has materials on separated children in emergencies, how to prevent separation through good relief and response efforts, registration, documentation and tracing, emergency care arrangements, verification and family reunification.
  • Unaccompanied children should not be given up for foreign adoption during the emergency phase. Experience in many past emergencies and conflicts has shown that this is just not the way to go.  In the emergency phase there is no way to ascertain which children are orphans with no other family at all, versus children who might be orphaned but have family somewhere who could take them in.  Taking children out of the country to feed them without a long-term, sustainable plan for them can end up being more complex than finding a way to feed and care for them in country.  Supporting removal of children from their own country during a time of upheaval can also engender a negative reaction among the affected population, who may come to see every external face that comes into the community or camp as someone coming to steal their children.  Interim and emergency care should be consistent with the long-term goal of family reunification.  More background on this can be found at the International Foster Care Association’s website.
  • Participation and protection go hand in hand. The greater the amount of knowledge and ownership that children, youth and their families and communities have, the safer they will be and the sooner they will recover. When the affected people have more input in the relief, recovery and reconstruction, efforts are more successful.  This means linking and coordinating with existing community organizations and structures, local government mechanisms, local non-governmental organizations.  Though it may appear that everything is wiped out in a major disaster, leaders will emerge and regroup.  Plan’s publication “After the Cameras have Gone:  Children in Disasters” offers some examples and insights on protection and participation in disaster situations.
  • Report ethically. The media will undoubtedly look for the ‘best’ story in the interest of raising the most funds possible for the emergency.  In media-speak, unfortunately, that often means the hardest hitting story, the most emotional story, and some journalists/media folks will go extremely far to get it.  However, journalists and agencies bringing journalists to affected communities should obviously not further harm children or take advantage of affected persons in their drive to get the best story.  Journalists should not ask children to relive traumatic experiences or to make them tell stories that upset them just to get a shot of a child crying.  The golden rule applies – how would you like it if that were you or your child?  Children or other community members may be too polite or unsure of whether they can say ‘no’ to a journalist, especially if that journalist is foreign or comes with an aid agency or entity that is linked with emergency aid.  Those working regularly with children and their families should ensure them that they can refuse to talk, they can halt an interview, or not have their picture taken. Local staff managing media visits should feel empowered to intervene on behalf of children in these cases. UNICEF’s “Child Rights and the Media” Guidelines for Journalists and Media Professionals, published by the International Federation of Journalists, gives a background and guide for ethical reporting on children in general.  These guidelines include things like striving for sensitivity when reporting on issues involving children and avoiding use of stereotypes and sensational presentation to promote journalistic material involving children, and they should apply in emergency situations as well.

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