DIHAD 2013, the Dubai International Humanitarian Aid and Development Conference and Exhibition, hosted annually in Dubai, has become a well established and well respected event bringing together a wide range of actors within the international development and humanitarian community.
This year marked DIHAD’s tenth anniversary and focused on building partnerships for humanitarian assistance and development. Tony German, Executive Director of Development Initiatives (DI) and representing DI’s Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) programme, chaired a session on humanitarian trends, with participation from Barbara Jackson, Humanitarian Director, CARE International, Leonor Nieto Leon, ECHO and Imam Qasim Rashid Ahamd, Al Khair Foundation.
There was agreement from all panel members that the context in which humanitarian assistance is delivered is increasingly complex. The intensity of natural and man-made disasters is on the rise, which reduces the capacity of the most vulnerable populations to access aid and compromises the safety of humanitarian workers. However, the humanitarian community should still, as Barbara Jackson highlighted, remember “the human face” – that humanitarian work is essentially, about individuals, families and communities.
There was a particular focus on gender in the session, as women are often the most affected during emergencies and crises. For example, women often do not feel equipped to seek help, and when they do they are often left unheard. Women also tend to be more vulnerable and gender-based violence is often used as a weapon in fragile situations.
The panel also discussed cuts in government aid budgets and the pressure this puts on donors and recipients alike. In this context, effective partnerships, donor coordination and value-for-money are fundamental. For example, the EU Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) has initiated a series of stakeholder consultations to evaluate if ‘the Union’s humanitarian aid is fit for purpose.’
Another hot topic was that ’new actors’ are on the rise in response to humanitarian crises, bringing new approaches as well as resources. The Al-Khair Foundation, for example, has expanded initial operations as an educational platform to provide humanitarian and health assistance to Muslim as well as non-Muslim communities. Al-Khair Foundation was established in 2003 and in its first year raised £200,000. By 2011, donations had risen to approximately £6 million, most of this coming from UK communities. They claim this success depends on quick and functional delivery: “Our advertisement is good delivery”, Imam Qasim Rashid Ahamd said.
The issues of accountability also spurred an interesting debate. Imam Qasim Rashid Ahamd stated that donations are “trust in our hands” and should be used carefully. Barbara Jackson said that accountability should be to those communities in need. Tony German presented a different perspective, suggesting that a variety of different actors are involved and should be accountable. The International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI) is a tool to enable various stakeholders and beneficiaries to gather information on aid in order to support better decision making on allocations and track how aid money is spent.
There were also a number of interesting presentations at DIHAD, highlights of which included:
HRH Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein:
The Princess’s presentation highlighted her view on how helping others is deeply rooted in Islamic values and history. In present day, these values operate on a much larger scale and helping others is not just a matter of culture and religion; it is integral to humanity. Since 1971, the United Arab Emirates has delivered financial assistance to more than 90 countries and its aid architecture now encompasses more than 30 organisations. New donors are on the rise, which includes private organisations and non-Western states. The scale of humanitarian challenges and the complexity of the system requires stronger coordination, trust and a system that is able to track aid from all sources. The Princess invited participants to be ambitious and imagine what effective aid delivery will look like in ten years, asking them to help shape it and make it happen.
Sara Pantuliano, Overseas Development Institute on self protection in five communities:
Sara’s presentation highlighted how vulnerable people take the lead in protecting themselves and their communities, in line with local understanding of protection. These are not necessarily mechanisms that are expressed in international conventions and aid agencies rarely acknowledge or support them. However, self-protection is not enough. The international community and national governments have a key role to play in supporting and complementing these efforts and helping protect the most vulnerable.
Development Initiatives’ Global Humanitarian Assistance (GHA) programme looks forward to participating in next years’ DIHAD conference, 25-27 March.