August 9, 2004
African Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies Seek Capacity Building Help to Strengthen Local Impact on Mass Humanitarian Crises
SAN FRANCISCO and JOHANNESBURG - Leaders of 15 major African Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, including Sudan, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa, met with Fritz Institute this week to examine ways to build their capacities, and thereby, have a greater, longer-term impact on the humanitarian crises that plague Africans from AIDS to famine. This summit resulted in the creation of a network of humanitarian leaders who are committed to working together and strengthening the local impact of their organizations with their millions of volunteers.
"Fritz Institute convened this summit to empower African humanitarian organizations to have a greater impact on the humanitarian crises that they know most intimately. Those humanitarian organizations in-country could do so much more if they had the necessary skills and resources," according to Anisya Thomas, Ph.D., managing director of Fritz Institute.
Empowering Local Humanitarian Organizations will Lead to Stronger Communities
Central to the summit were talks about how to improve capacity so that African-based organizations can deliver aid as effectively, or even more so, than international relief organizations. "The world's interest in African humanitarian needs is fickle: from one crisis to another. It is essential that our local humanitarian organizations have well trained staff and volunteers in essential relief operations, preparedness and mitigation, so we can provide year-round services leading to a reversing trend in African humanitarian needs," stated Omer Osman, secretary general of the Sudanese Red Crescent Society. The Sudanese Red Crescent is currently meeting the needs of 650,000 in the Darfour region with 2,500 active volunteers.
Local Organizations as Preferred Government Partners
Participants felt that local African humanitarian organizations should be the preferred partners of African governments. "By outsourcing so much of relief to international organizations, our communities miss the opportunity to build our long-term capability to care for ourselves and the relief process misses out on the unique local knowledge of infrastructure, culture and aid supplies sourcing that we bring," said Abbas Gullet, treasurer of the Kenyan Red Cross.
Private Sector Needs to be Leveraged More
An important outcome of the summit was the recognition that African NGOs need to collaborate more with the private sector. Participants felt that they have not yet found ways to effectively leverage local companies, who have the greatest self-interest in tackling Africa's vast humanitarian needs. "Multi-national and local companies can do so much to facilitate the objectives of humanitarian organizations, including providing equipment and sharing their expertise around functions such as logistics, technology and accountability," said Thomas. "So much more can be done to leverage corporations' expertise and tools, particularly by involving locally-based companies in developing operations strategies and better training relief staff."
The group also resolved to actively engage local and international media in their efforts to improve lives.
About Fritz Institute
Fritz Institute strengthens the infrastructures of humanitarian relief organizations by mobilizing logistics and technology expertise and resources from the corporate and academic communities. For additional information visit www.fritzinstitute.org.