The Humanitarian Times

February 25, 2000

 

- PHILIPPINES EVACUATED 40,000 VILLAGERS NEAR ACTIVE MAYON VOLCANO which became active this week. Eruptions from volcano have killed thousands in past decades & centuries.

- WORKSHOP ON "SOCIAL COHESION & CONFLICT MANAGEMENT", ASIA MARCH 16-17, co-organized by the Asian Development Bank & the World Bank in Manila, Philippines to explore associations between violence, social tensions, economic disparities, devt., & program responses. Contact: KKurodaatworldbank.org.

- JULY 3-14 EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT LEADERSHIP TRAINING IN PHILIPPINES in Makati City; contact the Asia Pacific Disaster Management Center: apdmcatnsclub.net .

- FEBRUARY SNOW AVALANCHES KILLED PEOPLE IN SWITZERLAND & NEW ENGLAND

- US NGO "MEMBER PROFILES 1999-2000" AVAILABLE FROM INTERACTION (Washington DC) next week, with information on 170+ aid groups.

- NON-PROFIT ORGS RAISED OVER $100 BILLION ON THE INTERNET IN 1999 according to the Direct Marketing Association, counting both donations (90%) & sales revenues.

- POPULAR HUNGER WEBSITE SENDS CORPORATE AID TO WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME: Each time someone visits the private website, www.hungersite.org, it arranges a small ($.03) donation to the UN World Food Programme, in exchange for corporate publicity. The for-profit owner of the website keeps 15% overhead on funds donated, or $150,000 of the $1M raised since last summer. Many people have expressed satisfaction with this way of helping without actually contributing themselves.

 

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DISSEMINATING HUMANITARIAN PRINCIPLES: THE SPHERE PROJECT

 

The Sphere Project that promotes a new "Humanitarian Charter & Minimum Standards in Disaster Response" grew out of collaboration among NGOs, through the Geneva-based consortium called the Steering Comm for Humanitarian Response, along with the Intl. Committee of the Red Cross, plus InterAction (US NGOs), VOICE (European NGOs) and ICVA (global NGO associations). The Sphere revised-2000 book is now published on the web: www.sphereproject.org/handbook/index.htm (& was reviewed in the December HT : see here / voir ici). As the introduction explains, "most of the standards and the indicators that accompany them are not new but consolidate & adapt existing knowledge and practice. Taken as a whole they represent a remarkable consensus across a broad spectrum of agencies & mark a new determination to ensure that humanitarian principles are realized in practice." The SPHERE standards are one among sets of standards that NGOs adopt to explain, root & harmonize their work; e.g, see InterAction's statements on private voluntary standards at www.interaction.org/pvostandards/standards.html.

The Sphere project is currently seeking training specialists to facilitate training events in coming months & years. A training of trainers workshop will be convened in May; interested professionals contact joshiatuk.care.org. Upcoming trainings include:

- March 17/17 in Nairobi, Kenya; contact: wayneatcare.or.ke ; - March 23/24 Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; contact care.ethattelecom.net.et; - In May, workshops will be convened in Rwanda, Mali, Mozambique, Bosnia, Honduras, Colombia & El Salvador.

- This coming summer, trainings will expand & be conducted in Spanish, French, Portuguese & Russian.

- For details, contact: lowrieatuk.care.org or sean_lowrieathotmail.com or Fax:44-171-379-0543, at Tower House, 8-14 Southampton St, London, UK, WC2E 7HA.

 

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RECENT LITERATURE ON TRENDS IN HUMANITARIAN THREATS

 

- "RESPONDING TO EMERGENCIES & FOSTERING DEVELOPMENT: The Dilemmas of Humanitarian Aid" (edited by C Pirotte, B Husson & F Grunewald 1999 London: Zed Books), originally published by Urgence- Rehabilitation-Developpement (URD) Group & re-issued with support from ICRC & the Geneva Foundation for Health in War. In one brief section, this book critiques the SPHERE project, stating concern that "if agencies & donors start to respond to needs on the basis of a list of minimum standards, the likelihood that they will spend more time looking at these standards than at the reality of the situation is very high. Those proposed by the SPHERE project do not take into account the cultural diversity & changing nature of the crisis. They leave little room for proactive thinking in response to the prognosis of an existing situation. These standards apply only to particularly ideal (& rare) refugee camp conditions. ...For the 20 or so members of the URD Group, the fact that the SPHERE project has deliberately excluded from its sphere of interest rehabilitation phases & survival activities is a cause for grave concern." The authors review different types of crises, including those arising from climate change plus technological disasters; they are not optimistic when looking at the rise of authoritarian regimes. Countering the vague & misleading mass media colorizations of crises as "chaos" & "anarchy", the authors "observe that local survival, resistance, organization, support & negotiation capabilities continue to function during periods of tension & conflict, just as they do in times of stability... societies tap unsuspected resources to survive." The book is full of similar strong, precise propositions, mixed with case studies of groups like GRET, ICRC, ACORD, OAP & MSF. It observes that Anglo-Saxon NGOs tend to be more full-service while Francophone NGOs tend to specialize, within "a very clear distinction between the humanitarians, who specialize in emergency, the development NGOs, the human rights activities, the lobbyists & the specialists in non-exploitative economic initiatives." Several chapters deal with monitoring & evaluation, but caution, "the origin of funds at the disposal of NGOs favors or limits their freedom of thought. As the situation in the field is constantly changing, they need necessary distance & independence to reevaluate & challenge the validity & quality of the action .. .. periodic evaluations are often biased, as their avowed or subconscious goal is to reinforce the decision to carry on with the action."

 

- "STATE OF THE WORLD 2000" BY THE WORLDWATCH INSTUTUTE (NY: WW Norton & Company) is their annual focus on trends of concern both to people & biodiversity, including chapters on malnutrition, persistent organic pollutants, information technology, & global trade, employment & ecology. Editor Lester Brown summarizes a number of environment/resource trends, such as: "In India, water pumped from underground far exceeds aquifer recharge. Unless New Delhi can devise an effective strategy to deal with water scarcity, India like Africa will soon face a decline in life expectancy."

 

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