Expert of the Week   for  24 - 30 Nov 2014

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Jeroen Jurriens

Program Officer Disaster Management

ICCO&Kerk in Actie / ACT Alliance Expertise:  Disaster Risk Reduction; Strengthening Resilience; Faith-Based Organisations; Programmatic work; Humanitarian Aid; Emergency Preparedness.

Jeroen has been working at ICCO Cooperation / ACT Alliance for 7 years. He is Program Officer within the Disaster Management Unit. He is responsible for the coordination of disaster management work, currently focusing on Central & Eastern Africa region. Jeroen is account manager for Disaster Risk Reduction & Resilience within ICCO Cooperation. . ICCO Cooperation is member of the ecumenical network the ACT Alliance. ACT Alliance is a coalition of more than 140 churches and affiliated organizations working together in over 140 countries. Jeroen is member of the Community of Practice within ACT Alliance on Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Change. As representative of this group he participates in lobby group within ACT Alliance on the follow-up of Hyogo Framework for Action. Act Alliance members are implementing DRR programs in a wide variety of countries and have expertise to share on the role of Faith Based Organizations in DRR. Act Alliance is planning to host a side-event together with other FBOs during the HFA2 conference in Sendai, Japan. Jeroen has a background in Health Sciences and International Business Studies. He started his professional career working as a consultant within healthcare sector in Netherlands. Before joining ICCO Cooperation/Act Alliance, he worked abroad for Médecins du Monde Netherlands in Indonesia as overall program coordinator for a community health program in Atjeh during 2007-2008.

Role of Faith-Based Organisations in Disaster Risk Reduction and Strengthening Resilience

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QQuestion by Ms Francisco Reyna

Hi Joroen, good morning and the best for you in your daily work.

Here in Guatemala we are workin with a Core Partner faith based organization. The name of this partner is CIEDEG - Conferencia de Iglesias Evangélicas de Guatemala-. Now we have challenges with this faith based organization on how to involve with a real commitment form them in Disaster preparednes and Response.

Do you have experiende in working methods to create conditions regarding the involvement of this kind of orgnization in humanitarian actions? Do you have some suppor documets about it?

Thank you very much for your response.

Ms Francisco Reyna Programme Officer on Climate Change and Emergency | Norwegian Church Aid, Guatemala Office
Guinea

APosted on 28 Nov 2014

Dear Ms Francisco Reyna,

Many thanks for your question. Indeed disaster preparedness can be a challenging topic for any organization, especially if emergency response is not a core business of an organization. For faith organizations this is often the case. There are quite some manuals and guidelines available, both on general organizational capacity development methods and specifically for emergency preparedness.  

In terms of general organizational capacity development and methods, let me share with you the link to the Barefoot Guide Connection, which is a global and local community of social change leaders and practitioners that has developed several handbooks on how to work with organizations and social change which I find quite useful and practical. See: www.barefootguide.org

For emergency preparedness, there are also several resources to tap into. Within the Act Alliance we have developed an Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan template that includes all main elements an organization should look at to be prepared to respond to disasters. Of course, like with all such templates and formats, these are only documents. What’s far more important is the process of discussing the format, completing it, coordinating with staff members and other stakeholders on each other’s role, etc.

Another interesting for you may be the Tearfund guide entitled 'Disasters and the local church: Guidelines for church leaders in disaster-prone areas (see: http://www.tearfund.org/~/media/Files/TILZ/Churches/Disasters%20and%20the%20local%20church/Disasters_and_church_web.pdf)

Furthermore Cordaid has a training manual for Community Managed DRR, which has useful tools and methods in it for discussing.  See: https://www.cordaid.org/nl/publicaties/building-resilient-communities-training-manual-community-managed-disaster-risk-reduction/

Others have also produced manuals and handbooks on DRR, you can find more on the internet.

And talking about emergency preparedness I should also refer to a link to the Code of Conduct for the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) in Disaster Relief  (see: https://www.icrc.org/eng/resources/documents/publication/p1067.htm). The same applies  to the Sphere Guidelines (www.sphereproject.org).

Best regards,

Jeroen

QQuestion by Ms Helen Stawski

Local faith based NGOs share many of the strengths & weaknesses of other local NGOs– but do you think their faith identity & values (spiritual capital) offer any distinctive contributions to refugee protection? If spiritual capital is to be considered a positive contribution to protection (in some cases) how can we seek to better understand it’s dynamics & integrate it into our theories of change?

Ms Helen Stawski Senior Policy Advisor | Islamic Relief Worldwide & The Joint Learning Init
United Kingdom

APosted on 28 Nov 2014

Dear Helen Stawski,

Thank you for these very interesting questions.

To respond to your first question, indeed I do think the faith identity and values of especially local FBOs can offer distinctive contributions to refugee protection, also in terms of disaster risk reduction measures in emergency response for refugees. An example of such a DRR measure in emergency response for refugees is that local FBOs can very well facilitate to provide space for spiritual capital, rituals and prayers, which can enhance psychosocial resilience of refugees by finding inner peace, and having a connection to ‘normal’ life and cultural practices at home.

Spiritual capital is regarded as a ‘unique and intangible resource’ based on ‘intrinsic value-systems and religious beliefs’ which is often poorly understood by secular humanitarian agencies, whereas it can be practically applied to positive behavior change around culturally sensitive issues. Spiritual capital thus can offer positive contribution to protection as described above, although it should be mentioned that’s not always the case. Foremost it’s important that spiritual capital and aligned activities and practices fit with the local roots and beliefs of the refugee population. That’s where local FBOs can play a critical role since they are rooted in the local context. Local FBOs can very well identify and assess the needs of people in terms of need for spiritual capital. Actually it is impossible to distinguish within local societies what constitutes faith behavior and what actually belongs to the non-faith norms and values. The two are intertwined. Spiritual capital is partly inherently incorporated in social behavior and culture. That’s where the added value of local FBOs comes in.

Another aspect I would like to mention here has to do with the strength of FBOs in mobilizing volunteers. Especially local FBOs can often make use of a large pool of volunteers to do all kind of supporting work towards refugee population. The faith narrative of helping your fellow is an important motivational factor to volunteer. It should be noted that in this narrative the fellow can be of any (or no) faith. To have at least some kind of answer to your question on how to integrate spiritual capital in our theories of change on DRR, let me state here that (I)NGOs in general could recognize this mobilizing potential more and integrate it into their programming so to improve community participation in humanitarian action.

Furthermore, I am aware of the interesting research led by the Joint Learning Initiative (JLI), which resulted e.g. in the JLI Scoping Study published by Oxford Refugees Studies Centre in 2013 entitled ‘Local faith communities and the promotion of resilience in humanitarian situations’. This scoping study gives a good overview on the topic, and shows that local FBOs can have distinctive positive contributions in emergency response and DRR> An interesting read for anyone who wants to know more on this topic (see: http://jliflc.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/LFC-and-the-promotion-of-resilience-in-humanitarian-situations-2013_02.pdf). Also I know that you as JLI were involved in a Columbia research in Irbid/Jordan conducted this summer on the role of local FBOs. Act Alliance members have been contributing to this research as well. This research is still in draft form, but may when published shed further light on how we can seek to better understand the dynamics of spiritual capital and integrate it into our theories of change. Others are also researching this area, and it seems interest from the bigger donors is increasing. As such, in the coming future we will probably be much better able to include the role of FBOs and spiritual capital in our theories of change.

Best regards,

Jeroen

QQuestion by Mrs Gudrun Bertinussen

Dear Joren Jurriens,

Thank you for raising this topic of the role of FBOs in DRR and strenghtening resilience. Thank you also for the good examples posted. You reflect in the examples on strenghts/assets of the FBOs f.ex. their access to and presence in remote communities. But what about their role towards duty-bearers at national and global level to address rooot cause of vulernability?

Mrs Gudrun Bertinussen Humanitarian advisor | NCA
Norway

APosted on 27 Nov 2014

Dear Mrs Gudrun Bertinussen,

Thank you for raising this important point related to the role of FBOs towards duty bearers.

The terminology of duty-bearers and right-holders stems from the Right-Based Approach. Let me start with a bit of explanation on these terminologies. The Rights-Based Approach has as starting point for development and humanitarian programs that we should see those living in poverty and affected by disasters as rights-holders and not objects of charity. By accepting that individuals have legitimate claims to rights and a dignified life, we also acknowledge that there are actors in society who have obligations and responsibilities to realize human rights, the duty-bearers. The national state has the principal legal obligation, is the principal duty bearer, and should therefore always be addressed in rights-based strategies at the relevant strategic levels. (Derived from http://www.aprodev.eu/files/about_us_reports/rights-position-paper_e.pdf)  

As is common knowledge by now, in order to really make an impact and reduce disaster risks, the root causes of these disasters need to be addressed. Duty bearers at national and global level have a huge role to play here. These duty bearers include e.g. national governments, international stakeholders, multi-national corporations, and other institutions, etc. FBOs are in a unique position to dialogue with duty bearers on the need to address the root causes of disasters, due to their unique position and role in society, as well as due to their networks and partnerships with others both within and outside the country.

It should be noted that FBOs themselves are duty-bearers as well. They also have moral and legal obligations. For example they have a role to play in accompanying and leading their respective faith constituencies, by providing religious services and other forms of support like psycho-social, basic services, and others. Where churches/mosques/temples have physical mechanisms for early warning signs like bells or loudspeakers, this puts an obligation on them to fulfill a role in early warning. Similar where strong structures of churches and mosques exist, they have an obligation (at least moral) to use these for evacuation centers. FBOs at all levels are duty bearers at their respective village, district, national or even global level.

Having touched upon this element of FBOs being duty-bearers themselves as well, let me explore more on the role FBOs (can) play towards duty bearers, e.g. the national government which I earlier referred to as the principal duty bearer. FBOs are organized from the village level up to the national level, and often up to the global level. This allows leaders of FBO groups at all levels to address DRR issues that are relevant at their respective level towards duty bearers, be it local/national governments and international government agencies, and local/national/global companies. The different levels of the structure of FBOs can support and mutually reinforce each other in these attempts.

For example, a religious leader in a village can influence the village government to make decisions that reduce risks and address the root causes. I referred to the example of Atjeh earlier. Mosques and churches were re-built that are earthquake resistant, and are open to people from all faiths in case of the need to evacuate. In the process to realize this, religious leaders at village level played an important role to discuss this with the village board to get approval. And of course not only with the village board, but also with the broader community. This was reinforced by discussions at district level with government authorities to allow for the re-building of mosques and churches on those locations. The result is not only a DRR measure in terms of preparedness for evacuation, but also addressing the underlying risk of tensions between groups of different faiths.

Another good practice example is that several countries have Interfaith Councils that have regular meetings with the government. During these consultation meetings DRR issues can be discussed, and underlying risks discussed. Such interfaith councils are useful initiatives to influence the actions of duty bearers. Foremost networking and partnerships between different faith groups strengthens such endeavors and leads to greater impact of those actions on duty bearers.

An example of what FBOs are doing jointly within the HFA2 negotiations is illustrated by the ‘Joint FBO Statement on DRR’ developed during the 6th Asian Ministerial Conference on DRR 22/6/14. See: http://www.sgi.org/es/assets/pdf/FBO-Statement5-orgs.pdf. This statement was further developed and also submitted by a mix of FBOs as input during the 1st meeting of the Preparatory Committee for Sendai HFA2 meeting in July in Geneva.

Best regards,

Jeroen

QQuestion by Mr Michael Mosselmans

Dear Mr Jurriens,
Thanks for your interesting material about the value of FBOs in disaster risk reduction.
I am pleased to see this theme on the Prevention Web agenda.
I wonder if, to make the proposition a bit more vivid/put some flesh on the bones, you would be able to briefly describe three specific concrete examples of how FBOs have helped to strengthen DRR?
best wishes,
Michael Mosselmans
(London)

Mr Michael Mosselmans Head of Humanitarian Policy, Practice and Advocacy | Christian Aid
United Kingdom

APosted on 26 Nov 2014

Dear Mr Mosselmans,

Thanks for your question to give three specific examples of how FBOs have helped to strengthen DRR. A very good idea indeed. There are numerous examples from different FBOs in the field on this, so a selection of three by one person is likely to give only a small part of the whole spectrum. So actually anyone reading this, I invite to contribute their examples from their FBOs background, preceeding or followed by a question on this topic. This can make the discussion and collection of practical examples more vivid and lively. Again this would contribute to greater understanding, discussion and learning about the role of FBOs in DRR.

Having said that, let me give some examples from the field that come to my mind.

During many disaster situations, many temples/churches/mosques had raised emergency fund and materials to support disaster victims.  Let me illustrate this with a case from Thailand, which represent that faith institutions often play a role to mobilize support and resources locally. The interfaith Network on AIDS in Thailand (INHAT), and INHAT’s network members comprise of local Christian churches, Muslim mosques, and Buddhist temples which mobilize community participation under the name of “FBO centers” nationwide.  During many disaster situations, many temples/churches/mosques had raised emergency fund and materials to support disaster victims.  For example, Tung Aor Temple in Chiang Mai raised fund to purchase blankets and warm cloths during the extreme cold in mountain areas. Yala mosques raise fund to support Halal food and clothes for flood victims in the most southern provinces in 2013.

Resources mobilization strategy is a critical element in disaster  preparedness, and the role faith based institutions play, such as in the case of Thailand above, could be considered as one of emphasis point if we were to achieve locally-rooted global DRR strategy.

 FBOs due to their position and role in society can play a big role in awareness raising and capacity building on disaster risk reduction. An example to illustrate this comes from Uganda, where the Uganda Joint Christian Council has trained its community facilitators in DRR awareness raising, which then led to roll out of further awareness raising in the communities such facilitators represent.  Close ties with the communities which this Christian Council has achieved over years enable them to identify key actors in the communities who can be influential in carrying out community wide awareness raising trainings.  Such roll-out by facilitators enables sustainable messaging which is beyond the life of any one project. Building on the example above, INHAT’s interfaith network also recognizes that trainings for disaster preparedness and response for young Muslim Association conducted for Muslim youth after Asian Tsunami in 2004 was possible due to its outreach and the acceptance already obtained by the local communities.  For many, areas in far South of Thailand remain area with sporadic conflict and a hard to access.

Another example links to the material and social assets of FBOs and Local faith communities (LFCs) which are useful for DRR action and emergencies. Material assets include loudspeakers in mosques and bells in churches and temples that can be the cornerstone of local early warning systems. Religious buildings often host community disaster planning events and serve as evacuation centers during emergencies. The social assets of FBOs and LFCs typically include existing volunteer networks and relationships with other FBOs, LFCs, wider civil society actors, governments and other stakeholders. An example from the disaster response work in Atjeh/Indonesia after the tsunami makes this more concrete. Re-building of destructed mosques and churches was often done in such a way that these buildings are now more disaster resistant. By setting up solid structures, these buildings will withstand a certain level of disasters. Therefore these mosques and churches serve as evacuation centers for the whole community in case of future disasters. By a community-based approach in building these structures and making a social contract, the ensurance that in case of evacuation the buildings are open for people of all faith was obtained. Another advantage of setting op more solid faith infrastructures is that after a next disaster, faith practices and habits can continue in a more normal way which supports the psychosocial recovery of people.

Some of the above examples were derived from the ACT Alliance submission to the Global Assessment Report 2015 entitled ‘Role of faith based organizations / institutions in public awareness for disaster resilience

QQuestion by Mr Dave Paul Zervaas

Dear Jeroen,
Where do you see the advantages of faith-based teams when working in DRR? And, how do you see the prospects for collaboration within an inter-faith setting, i.e. Christians with buddhist, muslims and other faiths?
Thanks !

Mr Dave Paul Zervaas Programme Officer | UNISDR
Switzerland

APosted on 25 Nov 2014

Dear Dave. Thanks a lot for your questions.

On the strengths of FBOs there are several things to mention.

- FBOs have a huge unifying power because of their shared faith. This unifying power brings people together and has great mobilizing possibilities both at the local as well as the national and global level.

- Local faith-based networks reach every corner of our communities and nations; They are also found in communities that have weak, fragile or dysfunctional states. Also they are well linked to international structures and therefore able to participate in international discussions giving reflections from local realities in these discussions.

- FBOs and Local faith communities (LFCs) have material and social assets, useful for DRR action and emergencies. Material assets include loudspeakers in mosques and bells in churches and temples that can be the cornerstone of local early warning systems. Religious buildings often host community disaster planning events and serve as evacuation centers during emergencies. The social assets of FBOs and LFCs typically include existing volunteer networks and relationships with other FBOs, LFCs, wider civil society actors, governments and other stakeholders.

- FBOs and LFCs are almost always first responders in emergencies; combined with the fact that most lives are saved within the first 24 hours after a disaster, this provides strong arguments to engage with and invest in FBOs and LFCs and their capacities in DRR.

- FBOs and LFCs also contribute to resilience strengthening by utilizing their pre-existing local networks and infrastructure especially at local level.

- FBOs and LFCs build on existing community’s coping mechanisms and assets;

- FBOs can address man-made disaster risks, e.g. conflict, and play an important role in facilitating peaceful coexistence amongst religious groups

- FBOs often sustain development programs even in absence of any assistance from international NGOs, and in most cases they are able to respond to psychosocial issues and problems caused by disasters.

 

Your last question touches upon a very interesting and important issue, namely interfaith collaboration. Interfaith collaboration is an area of great potential as well as an area of challenge. What to say about prospects for interfaith collaborations? For sure prospects are partly promising. Interfaith collaborations can have huge impacts, create mutual trust and understanding, and make faith communities act together rather than act in isolation or even worse act against each other. The practice in the field does show numerous examples of interfaith collaborations, varying from collaborations at village level, district level on to national level and even regional level. These examples of interfaith collaborations do give ground to be optimistic about the prospects of interfaith collaborations. On the other hand, of course, there are also examples of situations where religion creates tensions, and where interfaith collaboration is not successful but rather has negative consequences. Pessimists may point to crisis in the world where religion plays a role in causing or exacerbating the conflict, e.g. the Israel-Palestine conflict. However, even in those instances often one can discover cases of interfaith collaboration at local level that show its potential positive impact, e.g. this letter exchange between Palestine and Israel youngsters aimed at creating dialogue and understanding. FBOs and Local Faith Communities and their activities should not be regarded and analyzed in isolations, they should be considered in their socio-economical and political contexts, which determine their behavior and actions.

In conclusion on the prospects of interfaith-collaboration, I think we should more actively share and promote the best practice examples we have from the field. For one, because the good examples are not always as well visible to the outside world, whereas the bad examples are since they end up in the news. This does not contribute to a positive public perception on the issue of interfaith collaboration. The pro-active sharing of positive experiences on interfaith collaboration in e.g. the field of DRR will help to give courage and hope to other FBOs and communities to engage in similar minded activities with actors of other faiths. By doing so, we may support a move towards a public perception on interfaith collaboration and its potential that is skewed more towards the positive. In the end then as FBOs we may contribute to making the prospects of interfaith collaboration look positive.

THIS SESSION CONCLUDED ON

30
November
2014