Do No Harm, they say – but what does that mean for private sector disaster management?
When the Asia-Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management in Sri Lanka (A-PAD SL) partnered with the private sector to deliver meals for flood-affected people earlier this year, they knew they had to consider – and adjust – to the context. The Country Director of the A-PAD SL, a CBi Member Network, Firzan “Hush” Hashim, used the Meals that Heal project as an example when talking about conflict sensitivity in a recent CBi webinar. But how do religion, language and ethnicity relate to private sector work in disaster management?
The basic premise of conflict sensitivity rests on recognizing that disaster management interventions, too, can unintentionally exacerbate existing tensions or give rise to new ones. Private sector networks therefore need to actively assess the context in which they operate, understand the impact of their activities, adjust their operations to mitigate risks and where possible, seize opportunities to strengthen social cohesion.
Unfortunately, many examples exist where an organization’s good intentions have turned sour. Aid distribution can create competition over resources, for example, as was the case in Cox’s Bazar where non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were seen as only supporting displaced Rohingyas, but not addressing the needs of the vulnerable host community. Aid can also increate insecurity, as was the case in Aceh, Indonesia, when fighters returned to tsunami-affected areas because aid was being provided there.
In Sri Lanka, the diversity in ethnicities, religions and languages part of what makes the country’s culture so rich, but it has also been a source of conflict in the past. When designing the food distribution, A-PAD SL had to make sure that they would not be perceived as favoring one group over another and thus create social tensions. For example, the private sector partner, a 5-star hotel, prepared halal food to ensure that people from different religious backgrounds could all enjoy the meals. The location was identified by the National Disaster Management Centre to ensure people from different cultural backgrounds could access the location; and lunch-time was selected to ensure it would be as safe as possible for women and children to also collect meals. The Government had typically provided dry ration packs to affected populations, so the notion of receiving 5-star hotel food – something that was considered a luxury by many – also brought people together around a common, positive experience.
The new CBi Guidance Note on Conflict Sensitivity in Private Sector Disaster Management provides guidance for business networks as they plan and implement their activities in support of disaster preparedness, response and recovery. It provides recommended actions and key points to consider that will help private sector networks ensure they do no harm and where possible, also contribute to social cohesion and peace.
Conflict sensitivity is not always easy to implement. The most important step is the first one: getting started. “Conflict sensitivity is about professionalizing how we work in disaster management as a private sector network,” Firzan Hashim reminds us, while acknowledging that “the new CBi guidance note will help us integrate the concept into our operations.”
“Conflict sensitivity is about professionalizing how we work in disaster management as a private sector network,” Firzan Hashim reminds us, while acknowledging that “the new CBi guidance note will help us integrate the concept into our operations.”
The CBi Secretariat is ready to support Member Networks in their journey to conflict-sensitive interventions by helping simplify the process and by providing examples of how others have addressed the topic.