More than any other humanitarian crisis in recent history, the novel coronavirus pandemic brings into stark view the imperative for humanitarian leadership. By its very nature, the pandemic forces communities and countries into a state of lockdown, restricting transit of people – including humanitarian actors – in or out, and so it shines a spotlight on the limits of both governments’ capacity to respond as well as the gaps in the international humanitarian aid system where local leadership, preparedness measures, and coordination need to be the most robust.
We recognize the complexity of challenges facing humanitarian actors today and the need for creative leadership in order to meet the needs of affected populations. The international community must take action on the grand bargain commitment to a “participation revolution,” by identifying and supporting local humanitarian leaders. There are plenty of talented, motivated, and creative individuals exercising leadership in some of the world’s least accessible and most inhospitable places. As an international community, we need to support their organization’s efforts through direct material assistance so that they remain incentivized to continue to support local populations in need.
The novel coronavirus underscores the extraordinary strain on countries coping with the virus to provide relief and demonstrates the limits of donors and international humanitarian agencies to prepare for and effectively respond to the most critical humanitarian emergencies. Governments have a duty of care to their citizens and in many instances will be the primary responders in the COVID-19 response.
Yet, many governments either lack adequate capacity to respond, or in some cases, may lack the necessary political will to provide for their citizens. Furthermore, there are millions of refugees and internally displaced persons globally that may fall through the cracks, but are served by front-line national non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or community-based organizations. One can readily imagine that if the COVID-19 response has been dire in the global north, that it is going to be infinitely more devastating for governments that have only a fraction of the financial and medical resources.
This blog is part of CDA’s From Where I Stand series, designed to listen to people most affected by aid as they explore and amplify their leadership experiences, stories, and lessons for the aid sector.