The inaugural Asia Pacific Humanitarian Leadership Conference, held in Melbourne from April 26 to 28, was an opportunity to discuss and debate the future and direction of humanitarian response. Below are five key takeaways:
- Traditional humanitarian leadership styles are unsustainable in the current global environment. More involvement of the private sector, blurring the division between humanitarian and development, smarter use of resources and better engagement with local communities were important factors good leaders need to develop smarter humanitarian responses, said several speakers. Leadership styles should change to reflect changing needs.
- Localization and the humanitarian ‘power play’ – Localization was a major theme, with many arguing it will be a key aspect of humanitarian reform — providing greater resources by building capability for local leadership in response. Successful strategies involving localization could involve respect for national decision making, and up to 75 percent of humanitarian funds channeled through local and national organizations within 10 years.
- Converting lessons learned into change. Traditional information sharing is an individual-led knowledge management approach. A management-led knowledge management approach was instead recommended. As an iterative approach, new knowledge and lessons could continue to be incorporated into approach, evolving and improving humanitarian responses over time.
- Reintegration is the ‘sweet spot’ between humanitarian and development. Discussions of blurring the lines between the humanitarian and development sectors — a “sweet spot” between the two sectors. Reintegration is a process by which returnees are able to maintain sustainable livelihoods, access safe services and reintegrate into communities within their country of origin. Calvert explained it involved the “poorest of the poor” and amongst the most vulnerable refugees returning to their country or origin — both voluntarily and not.
- Despite the changing environments, ethics and principles need to be at the core of humanitarian response. Leonard Blazeby, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross Mission in Australia, shared that a humanitarian leader needs to be a known entity in an actual position and an actual person. And that person needs to uphold humanitarian values, principles and ethics.