Shifting the Power: Reflections on 2016 from Pakistan

Project: Learning ProjectShifting The Power 15th June 2017

Empowered and sustainable institutions with well trained staff significantly contributes to reducing the impact of disasters. To address this, the skills and knowledge of staff and organisations, especially in the humanitarian sector, could be strengthened through effective capacity building programmes and adoption of new technologies. As Pakistan is a disaster prone country severely affected by the impacts of climate change the government has endorsed a number of documents to reduce losses and damages sustained by disasters, namely; the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (SFDRR) 2015-2030, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the World Humanitarian Summit commitments. In light of this, the Shifting the Power project’s work in Pakistan is the right move at the right time in the right direction.

Interestingly, this project emphasises that each capacity building initiative must contribute to increased organisational capacity overall, with improved levels of efficiency and efficacy. The project focuses on the following three thematic areas; governance and leadership, power and influence, and preparedness and response, with each initiative driving organisational development. After completing the first year of the project back in December 2016, the Shifting the Power project conducted a learning review and reflection event with all the 12 national NGO partners and National Humanitarian Network (NHN) representatives involved. Local partners contributed incredible stories and learnings from the past year, including those submitted to the Call for Learning process which was part of the DEPP International Learning Conference organised by the Learning Project in November. Efforts were also made to observe change brought through these interventions and identify their impact.

Customized approach

The Shifting the Power project was developed with a vision to introduce international standards and guidelines to national and local partner organisations, with the aim of improving the quality of humanitarian response. The reflections shared by the partner organisation that have benefitted from the project validates that it has strongly contributed to improve the weak areas identified through initial self-assessment exercises. Mainly through developing organisational systems and policies (financial, logistic, admin, HR, gender and monitoring), supporting organisations in improved efficiency, and increased power to influence various stakeholders.

Based on initial assessments, systematic capacity building events were customized to fulfil partners’ needs. This including improved knowledge of the Core Humanitarian Standards and principles, monitoring and evaluation frameworks, technical proposal writing, humanitarian strategy development, preparedness and response. The initiative led to many success stories that were the outcome of the collaborative approach promoted by Shifting the Power. The most prominent change that partners experienced during 2016 was attaining increased self-reliance and reduced dependence on external consultants. Partners also engaged with system and policy development processes to simultaneously learn these skills as well.

Greater coordination and power to influence

Partner organisations from all the four provinces in Pakistan acknowledged that learning through this platform enabled them to take the inter-agency coordination and linkages with relevant networks, alliances and disaster management architecture to the next level. Partners secured memberships with the National Humanitarian Network (NHN) – a network of national humanitarian NGOs, the Pakistan Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Forum, and the Human Resource Development Network (HRDN), thus increasing their access to decision-making forums and enhancing their ability to convey the concerns of affected communities at higher levels. The project also became instrumental in bringing the national and international NGOs even closer. As a result of effective liaison, the Provincial Disaster Management Authorities (PDMAs) endorsed the contributions of NGOs in helping them expand their services and outreach. The Rural Education & Economic Development Society (REEDS) even moved a step further, and with the help of Shifting the Power has entered into a formal MoU with the District Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) Rahimyar Khan in Punjab.

The course of the project has also led to a new arena of interventions, partnership building, information sharing, improved reporting mechanism, innovation, transparency and openness. The improved networking and collaborations among government and non-governmental stakeholders, facilitated and promoted through the Shifting the Power project, has helped to build mutual trust as well as improved preparedness and response mechanisms for disaster prone communities. As an example, the collaboration established between the Research and Development Foundation (RDF) and Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD) will potentially support humanitarian actors in accessing timely and reliable early warning information about upcoming disasters to reduce losses.

Recognition and awards

The local humanitarian organisations benefiting from the project during 2016 made a visible improvement in their complaints and grievance redressal mechanisms, hence contributing towards operational and financial transparency and accountability. The partner organisations were not only encouraged to adopt the innovative procedures, but to consider the improvement of existing policies and strategies as well. Other organisational internal systems improved through the initiative during 2016 included the development of M&E frameworks; putting Customer Relationship Management systems in place; the development of organisational and humanitarian strategies; better preparedness, procurement and hiring processes in emergencies.

Organisations were equipped with improved practices; innovative technologies; transparent systems; quality assurance; reliable tools for accountability; and age, gender and disability-inclusive approaches, which together enabled them to attract donors and secure funding for various projects. The enhanced level of contribution and quality delivered by the national NGOs as an outcome of this initiative also helped them to attain recognition at international, national and local level. Awarding of two important projects by the Muslim Aid Pakistan to the Participatory Welfare Services (PWS) supports this claim. After the development of these policies and increased compliance with due-diligence processes, some partners even became eligible to access the Pakistan Humanitarian Pool Fund (PHPF). Another outcome of the project, in collaboration with the NHN, was the establishment of the Digital Resource Centre (DRC) – a digital space containing relevant knowledge products easily accessible to all humanitarian organisations, both national and international.

On the road to equal ground

The 2016 learning review of the Shifting the Power projects speaks volumes and reinforces the argument that institutional capacity building of local organisations could lead to great success, and serve enormously in addressing increasing humanitarian challenges. The flexibility of funds and other necessary resources also play a vital role in local organisational development, transparent delivery and trusted partnerships. It was therefore urged by the partner organisations that this facilitation needs to continue until local organisations are completely empowered and recognised as transparent and sustainable humanitarian actors on par with international organisations.

Moving forward, Disaster Emergency Preparedness Program (DEPP) implementing agencies need to collaborate at local level, supporting local action in a more coordinated manner and complementing each other with shared resources.


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