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Urban Humanitarianism – Towards a Collaborative Response

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On 16 October 2017, over 90 participants took part in this event to foster collaboration between the humanitarian and private sectors.

The conference took place on the 11th floor of the Lloyd’s building, and was livestreamed for those who could not attend in person. This event was part of RedR’s Ready to Respond programme (Phase II), which aims to develop resilience and effective responses to disasters in urban settings.

Setting the challenge

The evening began with a warm welcome from the Chair Wendy Fenton, Coordinator for the Humanitarian Practice Network at the Overseas Development Institute. She talked about the purpose of the conference being to enhance our understanding of urban disasters, to share experiences and success stories, address common challenges and strengthen networks. With humanitarian crises increasingly affecting urban centres, there is an urgent need for agencies to change how they operate. The scale and complexity of urban disasters often dwarf the technical and financial resources available to the humanitarian sector, but by drawing on the expertise and funds available to private companies, disaster response and recovery can be more effective.

Setting the challenge

Twenty or thirty years ago the majority of humanitarian response took place in rural centres and camps; now over 60% of refugees and 80% of internally displaced peoples live in urban areas.

Wendy Fenton

Chair, Urban Humanitarianism

Presentations

CARE International UK

Tom Newby, Head of Humanitarian at CARE International UK, described how, by working with private-sector engineering and design practice BuroHappold (BH), their emergency response became faster, more effective, and cost-efficient.

Working with BH allowed CARE to call on the skills of a large, inter-disciplinary team who produced ‘cyclone-proof’ building strategies one month after visiting the country, enabling CARE to tender for the building of schools and health centres within 6 months of Mozambique being hit by a cyclone. In addition, cost-savings were made through buying materials and BH’s ‘Share our Skills’ programme, which allows employees to carry out non-fee paying work during regular hours.

CARE International UK

Concern Worldwide

Anne O’ Mahony, Director of Concern Worldwide, shared the experience of Concern’s most ambitious project to date: building a sewage system in northern Lebanon to accommodate a local population of 9,500 people and a further 2,000 refugees from Syria. This project was the most sophisticated engineering task the charity had been involved in, and they partnered with engineers Mott MacDonald to help. In hindsight, Anne explained, taking on a project of this size and scope was probably not the best use of the charity’s expertise. The project highlighted the need for a level of technical support that only the private sector can provide.

Concern Worldwide

Arup International Development

Next to speak was Darren Gill, Senior Consultant with Arup International Development (AID), a specialist not-for-profit business within Arup. Darren explained how a pre-existing and long-standing partnership with NSET (National Society for Earthquake Technology, Nepal), facilitated AID’s contribution to the disaster response after a series of earthquakes hit Nepal in 2015. Similarly, an existing contract between the World Bank and AID allowed the company to work quickly and flexibly to help fill the information vacuum surrounding how many schools had been destroyed and how could they be fixed.

 

Arup International Development

The value of the collaboration of NGOs with private sector companies and other actors is that it enabled the facts [about Nepal] to be known… which led to some $6 billion worth of investment to fix homes and schools.

Darren Gill, International Development

Urban Humanitarianism

Urban Hub

Jeremy Foster, a Director of Ramboll, officially launched the Urban Hub, a ‘common platform of engagement’, designed to bring together the skills of the humanitarian and private sectors in the relief and recovery phases of large scale urban disasters. Designed to be effective in the 6-8 week window following a disaster, the Hub allows access to a wide network of engineering experts, so that they can define the technical need. The Hub can ensure high-level technical people are deployed in the field, on a cost-recovery basis.

Urban Hub

Online Poll

The evening concluded with a poll, which asked participants about the evening. The responses were overwhelmingly positive, with the majority finding they had made ‘very interesting and useful contacts’; that the conference had ‘a positive impact’ on their work, and that their knowledge of the challenges and benefits of partnering had increased.

 

RedR would like to thank all those who took part in the event and the Lloyd’s Charities Trust for its continued support of the Ready to Respond project.