Innovation Urgently Needed at the World Humanitarian Summit 2016

The World Humanitarian Summit is a breakthrough event hosted by the Turkey government and proposed by the UN to bring together world leaders, donors and NGOs working in the humanitarian sector. 
The goals are:

  • To re-inspire and reinvigorate a commitment to humanity and to the universality of humanitarian principles.
  • To initiate a set of concrete actions and commitments aimed at enabling countries and communities to better prepare for and respond to crises, and be resilient to shocks.
  • To share best practices which can help save lives around the world, put affected people at the centre of humanitarian action, and alleviate suffering.

Ban Ki Moon's five commitments for the WHS event are:

  • Global leadership to prevent and end conflict
  • Uphold the norms that safeguard humanity
  • Leave no one behind
  • Change people’s lives: From delivering aid to ending need
  • Invest in humanity

One of the principal ideas of the event is to focus on innovation in the Humanitarian sector. We see Regenerative Design as a core innovation that address many of the goals of the WHS 2016 and contribute to the five commitments:

Regenerative Design aims to meet universal human needs for food, shelter, water, health, and community through optimising the use of resources and designing beneficial connections that meet more than one need at once. Through integrated design we envisage communities, IDP and refugee camps, settlements, etc. in which wastes are utilised as resources, rather than accumulating as public health hazards or costing valuable donor resources; where durable, affordable and culturally appropriate homes are made from local materials, supporting the local economy, without denuding the local environment; where reliable and affordable energy is locally generated and distributed from renewable sources; and where ownership of the process is assumed by the community through training, mentoring and knowledge transfer. This integrated approach also increases the resilience of the ecosystem, mitigating further climate change, reducing risk of disaster, while increasing local capacity of response to further crises.

We propose a new approach to humanitarian response and community recovery and resilience that promotes integrated, regenerative design. It also promotes the use of innovative technologies that have been shown to greatly increase people’s resilience to natural hazards while enhancing economic opportunities, health and well-being and food and energy security. Combined, these will increase community resilience and self-reliance and reduce risks, anywhere. 

We aim to complement and enhance existing humanitarian responses to specific needs for shelter, WASH, food security, energy, etc. in situations of crises, our approach designs solutions to meet the same needs, in a way that maximises the beneficial relationships between them, while increasing the local environment’s ability to sustain life.

The key design areas are:

Community empowerment & self-reliance
Appropriate technologies
Ecological design
Equity & enterprise development

Some of the design elements include:

  • Safe drinking water, safe hygiene practices and access to appropriate sanitation facilities.
  • Access to sufficient food grown locally in and around people’s homes that offers health and dietary diversity and that addresses key nutrient deficiencies present within communities.
  • Knowledge and skills in the process of building affordable, durable homes and community infrastructure that are more resilient to natural hazards predictable within the local area - using local materials that do not further impact the local environment.
  • Energy security, defined as the access to affordable energy services for cooking, lighting, power supply, water pumping, thermal energy (heating or cooling) and mechanical energy.  
  • Capture and management of all waste water, human and animal wastes that reduce contamination of local water sources, while creating opportunities for the generation of productive landscapes including micro-forestry, biomass, horticulture and other species that are economically valuable and ecologically beneficial
  • Regeneration of denuded landscapes through a combination of soil improvement, landscaping to retain water flows, control of foraging animals, afforestation and allowing the return of vegetation to denuded hillsides that lead to topsoil erosion and increased flood risks.
  • Diversified livelihoods, giving opportunities for alternative income streams that are less vulnerable to natural or other hazards and shocks.
  • Trauma sensitive practices that support emotional recovery, human rights and dignity in community building and leadership.

Some of the problems that an integrated whole-systems framework addresses are:

Fragmented Paradigm
The cartesian reductionist and fragmented paradigm is also prevalent in the development and aid sectors. Immediate needs for WASH, food, shelter are often met with short-term strategies that do not take a systems-thinking approach and that frequently result in further damage in the future, for example, building latrines with septic tanks that ultimately results in leaks increasing the communities vulnerabilities to water-borne diseases.

Ecological Resilience
Many of the root causes for disasters or conflicts lie in the degradation of our natural environment - through overuse of resources, pollution or climate change. We have a responsibility and opportunity to, in humanitarian projects, address these causes and meet the needs of the present while increasing the local ecosystem’s capacity to sustain life in the future.

Financial Sustainability
The number and complexity of humanitarian disasters are increasing. Financial resources from donors must be used rationally and efficiently. In many cases, financial resources in programmes are wasted on short-term solutions that are not embedded in sustainable social, ecological and economic design. For example, money spent removing sewage from refugee camps, instead on investing in long-term ecological solutions, that could also produce new livelihoods opportunities. 

Psycho Social support is often separate from other dimensions of intervention (housing, water, sanitation, livelihood etc.) and in some cases rehabilitation projects are not trauma sensitive. Integrating this in the design together with leadership skills restore human dignity and well being of community partners enhancing their sense of safety and confidence to take ownership in projects they benefit and take part in.

Regenerative design and a more integrated approach to humanitarian action allow us to explore how to ensure vulnerable communities’ ability to become more self-reliant rather than dependent on humanitarian aid.  Self-reliance also brings independence and resilience in areas where local economies are dysfunctional, financial and social services cannot be accessed by the poorest.

Humanitarian action today is often linked to unsustainable land use such as deforestation, topsoil erosion, polluted water resources. Floods and droughts cause crisis wherever these practices have gone too far. We offer systems that can start to reverse these trends, initiate regeneration of natural capital and rebuild the base for more sustainable habitats for people and their surrounding ecological landscape.

Here are some examples of projects developed by members of the Blueprint Network:

Pakistan flood response: 2011 - 2014.  By incorporating natural building systems we transformed the shelter recovery model, saving approximately $500 per shelter. The programme went on to build 107,000 shelters, saving over $50m. By offsetting cement and fired bricks it also reduced 400,000 tonnes of C02 from the atmosphere.  Our role i: advisor to DFID; ii: natural building consultant to implementing partners.

Tsunami response, ACEH.  IDEP Foundation (Indonesian NGO) promoted permaculture based recovery which provided survivors and community knowledge to generate their own food, building materials, and resources to become financially independent and food-secure. This model has proven to be more effective than conventional approaches to food security and livelihoods response, though it was not rolled out on a large scale.

Tamera, Portugal. Context: economically depressed, ecologically denuded landscape. Project team transformed dry and semi-desert landscape into highly productive and lush agriculture zone, creating water abundance and significant food increase over short to medium term (3 to 10 years). This model now being used for consultancy and design advice in North Eastern Lebanon to promote social cohesion through landscape regeneration and enhanced livelihoods opportunities for refugees and local people. 

Laikipia, Kenya. A partnership between Lush Cosmetics and the local NGO PRI Kenya allowed four groups of local women, totalling over 300 beneficiaries, to develop an income based on aloe vera production, while also producing moringa and artemisia on very degraded, soil in highly eroded areas affected by drought. They received small amounts of funding for fencing, permaculture training and beekeeping. They use bee hives to keep elephants away, while also harvesting honey for their consumption. The majority of women used to walk 10-20km to buy food and eat only a few meals a week. They are now earning around $3000/year, more than double the country’s GDP.

Bangladesh, BASD. Climate Change risk reduction programme in cyclone-affected areas using permaculture and ecovillage strategies benefited 832 people in 42 villages. The programme increased livelihoods opportunities, improved conflict resolution significantly, increased food security through organic food production, tree planting and integrated fisheries and resulted in 30% conversion of the housing stock into cyclone-proof housing amongst other benefits.

The members of this coalition have over 30 years experience in designing regenerative systems within an integrated approach. They have developed expertise in sustainable community development, ecosocial enterprise, large-scale water retention landscapes, ecological sewage treatment, ecological food production, amongst other strategies. Several partner technologies are developed and marketed in the fields of solar energy, biogas, natural building, and more.

Within the humanitarian sector, the systemic innovation of a more integrated model is still fairly new. Programmes in Pakistan (with local NGO HANDS funded by DFID / UKAid), Lebanon (with ACTED funded by the EU) and Bangladesh (with local NGO BASD funded by the Scottish Government) carried out by our members have paved the way for further outreach to the humanitarian sector.

Please download our leaflet for a summary of our expertise and offers.

PDF icon2016 Blueprint Leaflet for WHS.pdf

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