NEAR Regional Launch - Asia
On 6th December 2016, NEAR with support from Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, launched the first ever network of local NGOs working both in humanitarian, development and resilience work in Asia. The launch of the NEAR was held from 1700hrs – 1930hrs on 6th December 2016 at Windsor Suites Hotel and Convention in Bangkok Thailand. The launch which was attended by over 70 guests, including local and national NGOs from Asia, international NGOs, representatives from ADRRN and supporters.
Through its role as ‘a voice’ for local and national NGOs from Asia, Middle East, Africa and Latin America, NEAR ‘s four main focus areas of advocacy, organizational strengthening, financing will continue to work closely with like-minded organizations to achieve the overall objective of the network of contributing to an international humanitarian system that is global and representative in its composition and working and more attuned to the national and local realities related to policy and practice.
`There is no justification whatsoever to continue with this broken humanitarian ‘system` said Degan Ali.
The Network Chair, Degan Ali, gave the opening remarks. In her speech, she acknowledged the tremendous work of local and national organizations. She called for a new way of working together as national NGOs in regions to change the aid architecture to make sure that there’s accountability to the beneficiary. In her speech, Degan said: “NEAR network formed because we were tired of people making decisions about our countries and are not from our countries, we want to hold a seat on the international decision making table if we want change.
There was a panel discussion with NEAR’s Leadership council which included, Dr. Filbert Leone, Executive Director, Humanitarian Development Consortium (South Sudan); Sema Genel, Executive Director, Support to Life, Turkey, Manu Gupta, Executive Director, SEEDS, India and Degan Ali, Executive Director, Adeso, Kenya. Moderating the session, Degan engaged in a conversation with NEAR leadership council members to share their experience in what led them to join the Network and what the Network has done for them.
It’s not about lack of capacity, but lack of resources` Dr. Filbert Leone, Executive Director, Humanitarian Development Consortium (South Sudan).
Dr. Filbert Leone talked about local actors in war- torn regions and the vital role they play as first responders and how they always stay with their communities when all the international community leaves. Further, Filbert stated that resources should be built around communities and argued that for local organizations, the problem is not lack of capacity but lack of resources and funding. He said; “Lack of resources is a major hindrance to capacity development in local organizations, once we provide adequate resources, local organizations will have no problem maintaining capacity.” “We want to see the affected populations taking the lead in finding solutions to their own needs,” he added.
NEAR not a replacement of the middleman in the aid architecture
During Q & A session participants congratulated NEAR on its launch in Asia and how it represented a signal of hope for better future to the humanitarian and development aid architecture. Many stated the need for NEAR to deliver on its promises so that the communities we serve can live and witness a change in the way aid is delivered to them.
Mr. Salimee of the Coordination of Afghan Relief (CoAR), a member-in-waiting for NEAR, congratulated NEAR leadership in launching the network in Asia. He stated that he was proud to be associated with NEAR and supported the network in positioning itself as a global voice for local actors. He also wanted to see more members taking the lead in some of the network’s activities.
One participant was concerned about NEAR replacing the middleman in the aid architecture. Manu from SEEDS India clarified that the need for NEAR was not to replace the middleman but to create a platform where the global south can come together to form strong and strategic partnerships that will push for direct funding to local organizations. He said: “Networks do what individual organizations can't achieve, it's the reason we come together to form strategic partnerships.” Degan reiterated Manu’s point by stating that.
Mihir, asked why NEAR advocated for 20% direct funding to local organizations during the WHS consultations and not 80 or 100%.
“It’s vital that Northern allies commit to the localization agenda, including the grand bargain commitments made at the WHS in Istanbul,” Degan said. In her response, Degan stated that, during the WHS consultations in Geneva in 2015, NEAR called for an increase of all humanitarian funding to 20% by 2020 to local actors. When this proposal was made in October 2015, many said that a target was not needed and would never be endorsed by major northern donors. Hence, the percentage of 20% has basis in reality which estimate that local actors receive >0.5% of total funding despite widespread acknowledgement of the important role of national and local actors.
To date, perhaps the big advocacy win for NEAR was the signing of the Grand Bargain commitment of 25% of funding by 2020 to be channeled directly to local organizations although the language has been watered down. NEAR welcomes the Grand Bargain commitment and intends to track the progress going forward.
Manu Gupta of Seeds in his closing remarks called for more strategic partnerships into ensuring the inclusion of the global south and more so Asia in shifting the power in the Aid system. He thanked the organizations represented during the launch and guests for sharing a great moment for NEAR as it expands to other regions.