The COVID-19 pandemic shows that the threat of a public health emergency at such a global scale is real and imminent and its ramifications go beyond direct responses to the pandemic. The humanitarian community is affected both directly and indirectly. Challenges facing humanitarian action are compounded by simultaneous emergencies, unique features of infectious diseases, disrupted supplies of humanitarian items, and cuts to humanitarian funding to name some of the most salient. The outbreak highlights the need for the humanitarian sector to reconsider its future planning to be better prepared for a much more complex and uncertain future.
The outbreak has given rise to different demands from conventional humanitarian needs. The communities displaced by disasters are more vulnerable as healthcare for them is minimal and not designed for dealing with infectious diseases at such a scale. The strong transmissibility of the disease further increases the vulnerability of these groups as their living conditions make it difficult to implement the necessary prevention measures. The ability of the humanitarian community to respond is compromised. Humanitarian actors face such challenges as protection for humanitarian workers, shortage in available humanitarian workers and competing humanitarian needs.
Complex situations with a public health emergency occur alongside pre-existing humanitarian problems and pose challenges to the existing response system in terms of leadership and coordination. Given the probability that the pandemic may last for an extended period and with the risk of concurrent outbreaks of other infectious diseases, it is timely and imperative to discuss the mindset, expertise, capacity and institutions that will inform the humanitarian community in the years ahead.
About the Speakers
Beris Gwynne is the Founder and Managing Director of Incitāre, based in Geneva, Switzerland. After a career divided in equal parts between public service (Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Vietnam, Poland, Mexico and Nauru) and “aid” agency) and executive roles in non-profit organisations (World Vision Australia, The Foundation for Development Cooperation, The Global Water Partnership and World Vision International), in 2016, Beris created an open platform for collaboration to encourage fresh thinking and mobilise practical action to accelerate achievement of sustainable development and humanitarian goals.Capitalising on the concentration of UN, governmental, business and non-profit organisations in International Geneva, Beris encourages strategic foresight to free up space to conceive and develop futures-fit strategies and results-oriented and innovatively financed “sustainable business” partnerships, measuring success in terms of transformational change. She has post graduate qualifications in International Law and International Relations.
Said Faisal has more than 15 years of senior management and leadership experience in government, international and regional organizations. He was a former Executive Director of the the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (the AHA Centre), an agency that is responsible to coordinate the overall effort of 10 countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in disaster management. As the first Executive Director of the AHA Centre, he was tasked to set up, build and fully operationalise the newly established organisation from the very beginning. Prior to that, he worked with the President’s Delivery Unit for Development, Monitoring & Oversight of Republic of Indonesia.
Following the Indian Ocean Tsunami disaster in December 2004, he was appointed as Deputy Minister/Head of Rehabilitation and Reconstruction Agency for Aceh and Nias (BRR Aceh-Nias), a ministerial level agency of the Government of Indonesia mandated to coordinate and implement the overall rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. He also served as Senior Advisor to the Special Envoy of Secretary General of ASEAN and Head of Operation of ASEAN Humanitarian Task Force in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis disaster in Myanmar.
In the wake of Asian financial crises in 1997-1998, Mr. Faisal worked as Senior Manager at the Jakarta Initiative Task Force, an agency established by the Government of Indonesia and supported by the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, Asian Development Bank for accelerating corporate debt restructuring through mediation as a commercial dispute resolution process between debtors and creditors. Throughout his career, he also worked at the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank Jakarta, Indonesia as well as Phoenix Home Life, a financial services company, in Chicago, USA.
Mely Caballero-Anthony, PhD. is Professor of International Relations and Head of the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. Prof Anthony teaches courses on Non-Traditional Security in Asia and Security Governance.
Prof. Anthony’s research interests include regionalism and multilateralism in Asia-Pacific, human security and non-traditional security, conflict prevention and global governance. She has published extensively on a broad range of security issues in Asia-Pacific in peer-reviewed journals and international academic press. Her latest books, both single-authored and co-edited, include: Negotiating Governance on Non-Traditional Security in Southeast Asia and Beyond(New York: Columbia University Press, 2018), An Introduction to Non-Traditional Security Studies, (London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2016), Asia on the Move (Japan: JCIE, 2015), and Human Security and Climate Change (London: Routledge, 2014).
Lina Gong, PhD. is Research Fellow with the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Programme at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS Centre), S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU). Her research interests include non-traditional security studies in East Asia, China and global governance, peace and conflict, and marine environment.
Alistair D. B. Cook, PhD. is Coordinator of the Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Programme and Senior Fellow at the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS Centre), S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore. He also serves as the President, Asia-Pacific Region of the International Studies Association (2018 – 2021). He Tweets @beancook.