Last Monday evening, the UK Secretary of State for International Development, the Rt. Hon. Justine Greening, was joined by leaders from the global humanitarian community and private sector to announce the launch of the Humanitarian Leadership Academy. Many years in the making, the academy represents a leap forward, both conceptually and practically, towards prioritizing preparedness and supporting leadership and capacity building in local communities in recognition of their role as the true “first responders.” Accordingly, the mission of the academy is to “empower people around the world to prepare for and respond to crises in their communities.”
The reality that humanitarian need globally is fast outpacing the ability of the current system to respond is becoming more acute. This was certainly a strong theme at the World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction earlier in March, and has been supported in the statistics of growing numbers of people affected by crises, the economic and developmental costs of these crises, and their growing complexity. It may sound pessimistic to envisage a world that will always have humanitarian emergencies, yet there is optimism around opportunities created to decentralize and improve the power and resources around response, and transform the delivery of humanitarian assistance as we know it, to better meet the demands of the future. Many humanitarian agencies are currently tackling these issues with an eye on the World Humanitarian Summit being held in May 2016.
Many in the mobile industry know well the importance of building local resilience and investing in training and leadership programmes for staff. Mobile operators are also increasingly aware that their network engineers and other employees may be at the front lines of a humanitarian emergency, whether it be through supporting refugee programmes in Iraq or restoring a cell tower in the path of a cyclone in Vanuatu. Linking up local private and public organisations along with global response coordination such as the Emergency Telecommunications Cluster, or the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has been a priority of the GSMA Disaster Response Programme. More awareness and engagement with existing players and their capacity on the ground ahead of crisis will be critical to tapping into the local knowledge and expertise that already exists, as well as providing gaps where the Humanitarian Leadership Academy can build or transfer skills.
As the Humanitarian Leadership Academy begins it’s work, we look forward to inputting into the training and encouraging participation from our GSMA members to ensure that the knowledge and skills they have in their markets can be built on and shared to increase our collective capacity to face the challenges of the future.