Empowering the humanitarian sector by building bridges citizens-institutions


Recently I have a meeting in the ICRC in Geneva with the Head of Diplomacy. The idea was to be informed of the mechanisms of how to build bridges from bloggers, social media activists and advocacy leaders to humanitarian institutions. To my surprise the Diplomacy activity of the Department is focused on internal affairs and not within other institutions, activists or local leaders. Clearly I was not fully aware of the consequences of a big organization as the Red Cross: it becomes rigid and bureaucratic rather than global and flexible.

The Red Cross is one of the greatest humanitarian aid organizations, with one of the biggest budget in the world, from 195 countries the Red Cross holds 190 National Societies, with a “priority pass” in any conflict in relation to the rest of the sector and with a print of trust and confidence built through their 7 fundamental principles. However, in terms of Diplomacy and a holistic approach for achieving a better performance and a resilient presence in the war field –particularly in times of war in cities- it fails at institutional level. Is it true that President Peter Maurer it’s doing a remarkable work in this sense, although not as a coordinated institutional strategy that emerges from the headquarters in Geneva and spread the strategy through the National Societies. Its more a matter of a strong leadership within the weakness of a centralized structure and a not coordinated action in Diplomatic terms with the rest.

This is a truly burden that goes against the own delivering of aid. Despite efforts and risks for many aid workers, if there is not a steady Advocacy work inside and outside the conflict on a perfect coordination with the National Societies by strong tools of impact –social media, activists, global leaders, etc.- it will be very difficult to stop the growing power of current technological war and no respect to IHL. This disrespect to IHL is making of aid a challenge and for citizens a useless tool that makes them feels and lives under a disempowered framework. In addition to contribute to migration global crisis.

 The Red Crystal represents the need for innovation and change that allows a holistic approach able to engage all actors. Is it only through Diplomacy and a work on Mediation that aid can be delivered on this stage of “no man´s land”.

Getting the complicity of the people and local structures with enough flexibility to deliver more than aid: peace and minimum standards of stability. Its possible and ICRC President Maurer is making great efforts, however not from a solid institutional perspective that allows a radical internal change but from specific projects –even successful- and good will from the people.

New signs for a new wave of thinking and performing in the field: becoming less institutional and with more contact with civilians. We need to be more focused on empowering the aid sector rather than just empowering the people. If there is not a Diplomatic network of influence there will not be a radical change that stop this level of atrocities and the uncertainty that delivers not having access to conflict areas.

The power of partnerships reflected on SGD 17 it’s the essential and missing tool to become resilient also for the humanitarian aid sector as a counterbalance pillar that make it sustainable.

Current humanitarian aid crisis is a consequence of a lack of an adaptive leadership, not exactly the root causes.

The sector is in an urgent need of innovation and in-depth changes that go through funding, management of funding, reshape of structures and delivering of aid. Working under the basis of a new concept of empowerment, Diplomacy and delivering aid: basic pillars for a new humanitarian approach.*

Innovation must be seeing through the idea of a renovated empowerment of the aid sector from the vision of humanitarian –but political- leaders and a network of organisations and individuals that go beyond “aid delivering” but of a solid-steady work on Diplomacy and Advocacy.



* Humanitarian sector: a Super institution that is losing global effectiveness


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