In this blog, RedR CEO Bernadette Sexton writes year-end reflections on the protracted crises we face in 2024, and the expertise needed to respond.
Some 300 million people faced humanitarian needs in 2023. This is a staggering figure, and these needs will continue into 2024, with many disaster contexts exacerbated by conflict and the climate crisis.
Half of the most climate-fragile countries also face conflict and crises. The effects of climate fragility are increasingly felt all over the world. Multi-year and seasonal variability, increased flooding, and drought are major risk factors. .
This matches what we’re observing at RedR UK. Throughout 2023, our emergency work saw ongoing responses across Ukraine, Africa, and Asia, and particular emergency responses to earthquakes in Türkiye, Syria and Morocco, and floods in Libya. Through this work, we’re developing the capacity and resilience of aid workers, communities and organisations in humanitarian, development, and peacebuilding contexts.
Photo: Training of Trainers for the World Health Organisation in Nairobi, October 2023.
Across these very different contexts, we’re observing some common needs:
- The need for high quality capacity strengthening that combines core humanitarian competencies with deep technical expertise;
- The need for localised responses characterised by locally led solutions - contextualising local need with global best practice;
- Bridging the gaps between the humanitarian sector and other sectors with expertise to bring to support people affected by disaster.
Photo: Security Management for Humanitarians capacity strengthening training in London, June 2023.
What does this look like in practice?
I’d like to take one example. In Derna, Libya, a country already affected by years of conflict and instability, the September flooding impacted a quarter of million people, resulting in 4,300 deaths, 3,800 missing, and 43,421 displaced. Destroyed and damaged buildings have further posed severe humanitarian challenges in the response.
Working through the UN-established emergency thematic working groups, RedR is developing the capacity of responders in Libya. These trainings are contextualised to the engineering and humanitarian needs, including:
- Rapid damage assessments of flood affected buildings;
- Water safety planning;
- Staying effective and managing well-being in a response;
- Communication and community engagement;
- Accountability to affected communities;
- Enhancing in-country learning capacity through a Training of Trainers approach.
We’re working with partners including the Libyan Red Crescent, ASARYA, Libya INGO Forum, NRC, WHO, UNDP, IOM, Rambøll Foundation, Cranfield University, and UN-Habitat, who are engaged in the response in Derna and the surrounding affected areas. By delivering Training of Trainers to responders on the ground, we enable a multiplier effect, where we catalyse the development of new capacity among local actors, for the long term.
We took a similar approach to our responses in Türkiye, Syria, and Ukraine, where we have worked with partners including Arup, Mott MacDonald and Tony Gee to deliver technical capacity strengthening in crisis response. These engineering firms play a significant role in delivering distinctive projects, as we bring the best of the humanitarian and engineering sectors together.
Photo: Disaster responders in Derna, Libya, following devastating flooding in September 2023. Credit: WHO Libya.
Likewise, our partnerships in the insurance sector are particularly significant in our climate change work. The proliferation of climate-related crises means demand for our climate change adaptation, anticipatory action, climate financing, and disaster risk reduction services has increased.
The outcome of the recent two-week UN Climate Conference COP28 demonstrated the tension between the need for climate action and our remaining reliance on fossil fuels as our economic engine. After nearly 30 years of climate COPs, this is the first COP to make specific reference to the need to move away from fossil fuels for energy, by far the biggest contributor to global warming, to reach net zero emissions by 2025. COP28 also introduced a Loss and Damage Fund, committing $700 million to poorer nations to help them respond to the negative consequences arising from extreme heat waves, desertification, and crop failure.
At RedR, we’re all too aware of these needs. The demand for our flagship Climate Change Adaptation and Disaster Risk Reduction programme far exceeds supply. This project empowers local and national actors in climate-vulnerable countries to better prepare for and respond to the risks that climate change presents, creating solutions that are grounded in economic, social, and geographical realities. Many participants are responding to climate emergencies in real-time, putting their knowledge and skills into immediate use in contexts such as the droughts in the Horn of Africa and floods in Pakistan.
Photo: Project Cycle Management three-day training for IOM (International Organization for Migration) in Lviv, April 2023.
Over half of the world’s population live in countries holding political elections in 2024 – 70 different countries. They include Indonesia, India, and the USA – 8 of the 10 largest countries. Many of the results of these elections will have a knock-on impact on geopolitics, security, and global commitments to sustainable development for communities worldwide.
New or worsening humanitarian crises are predicted, in addition to those that we’re familiar with.
What does this mean for the needs of the humanitarian sector and where does RedR fit in? We need:
- localised capacity development, to effectively respond to humanitarian emergencies created by conflict and/or climate. We will continue to provide this support by developing humanitarian standards, contextualising our services, and prioritising meaningful partnerships;
- evidence-based research and data to drive decision making of humanitarian leaders and professionals. In partnership with the Bureau for Humanitarian Affairs at USAID, RedR continues to support the humanitarian data ecosystem. We’re working to create more effective analytical capability, to allow principled and evidence-based decision making;
- thought leadership to drive innovation in learning. We are convening expertise within global networks of humanitarian capacity building, including developing the third edition of the Engineering in Emergencies Handbook.
Photo: Needs Assessments in Emergencies training for engineers and responders in Gaziantep, July 2023.
While we work in an increasingly fraught and unstable world, we’ll continue to seek opportunities for partnership that enable impactful and localised delivery, that make a positive difference for disaster-affected people.
The support of our wider RedR community including bilateral and multilateral partners, NGOs, governments, academia, the private sector, trusts and foundations, associate trainers and members, and donors, remain essential to our delivery.
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