Strengthening Diaspora Emergency Response and Coordination through DEMAC

Following up our previous support activities for Syrian civil society and humanitarian initiatives in Germany, we started together with the Danish Refugee Council and the African Foundation for Development the ‘Diaspora Emergency Action and Coordination’ initiative (DEMAC). In this framework, we explore interventions and organizational capacities of Syrian diaspora humanitarians and provide spaces for dialogue to enhance a mutual understanding between diaspora emergency responders and institutional aid agencies. By providing workshops, trainings and consultation meetings, we seek to capacitate diaspora groups to strengthen coordination, professionalize standards of delivery, and manage risks as well as enable joint innovative thinking about mechanisms and avenues for cooperation and genuine and equal partnerships. Our activities with the Syrian diaspora humanitarians through DEMAC seek to contribute to enhancing the overall humanitarian response in times of limited physical presence of international aid agencies inside the country.

Berghof remains committed to support efforts of Syrian actors to engage in international and national mediation aiming to de-escalate the military conflict and to start a political process as we strongly believe that the conflict in Syria can only be solved with a political process of negotiations and dialogue.

In May 2015 we started together with the Danish Refugee Council and the African Foundation for Development the ‘Diaspora Emergency Action and Coordination’ initiative (DEMAC). Responding to growing global needs in humanitarian action and increasing complexity of man-made humanitarian crises, DEMAC supports diaspora-based humanitarians to improve their emergency response and coordination capacities within the international humanitarian system. Responding to the growing interest in alternative ways of delivering humanitarian assistance and the shrinking humanitarian access in a range of crises, the DEMAC initiative explores intervention modes and organizational capacities of diaspora humanitarians and provides spaces for dialogue between diaspora emergency responders and formal aid agencies. Thereby DEMAC aims to enhance mutual understanding and joint innovative thinking about mechanisms and avenues for cooperation and genuine and equal partnerships between diaspora groups and aid agencies.

By conducting workshops, trainings and consultation meetings, DEMAC capacitates diaspora groups to strengthen coordination, professionalize standards of delivery, manage risks and improve operational and strategic communication and coordination.

As a consortium of three partner organizations, the Danish Refugee Council, the African Foundation for Development (AFFORD) and the Berghof Foundation, the DEMAC initiative is able to work with diverse diaspora groups and focus countries and to pool a wide range of expertise, capacities and networks. The Berghof Foundation is DEMAC’s focal point for the Syrian diaspora in Germany and beyond.

Timeframe

2017-2018 (phase II)

Project website: www.demac.org

Syrians living abroad have provided relief since the early beginning of the political crisis in their country of origin. They dispatched food aid to affected communities in the country and refugees in neighboring countries, disseminated medical supplies, equipment and drugs, provided cash for hospital maintenance and salaries for doctors, organized aid deliveries and provided scholarships and school materials for Syrian children and youth in emergency situations etc. With an ever-escalating conflict since 2011 and a humanitarian crisis described as the largest displacement crisis in the world, early Syrian diaspora-based individual responses have evolved into formalized aid organizations that support local aid structures in delivering aid and assistance to affected communities in those parts of the country that international aid agencies struggle to reach. Despite their access to beleaguered populations, diaspora organizations struggle for recognition amongst institutional humanitarian NGOs and donors.

Beyond the Syrian crisis, diaspora communities are increasingly becoming influential actors in humanitarian aid, often being the first to provide assistance at crisis onset. They often have access to first-hand information from affected populations, inject large amounts of cash support and send skilled volunteers to their countries of origin. However, diaspora-based relief aid is often provided in parallel to the international humanitarian system and mechanisms that seek to inform and coordinate common crisis responses. Diaspora communities often lack systematic and technical knowledge about the support structures and aid modalities of the conventional humanitarian system. They also receive little support from international donors because of rigid funding structures and complicated reporting mechanisms. Likewise, ‘conventional’ aid implementers and donors often know very little about the role and modalities  of diaspora humanitarian interventions and are thus not seeking active coordination with diaspora actors, even in crises where they are struggling with considerable challenges to reach those in need.

The DEMAC project therefore aims to strengthen the capacity of diaspora groups as well as humanitarian actors to engage with each other within the humanitarian systems and architecture to improve overall coordination and response to the needs of affected populations. Responding to the growing interest in alternative ways of delivering humanitarian assistance, it explores intervention methods and organizational capacities of diaspora humanitarians and provided spaces for dialogue for enhancing a mutual understanding between diaspora emergency responders and formal aid agencies and for enabling a joint innovative thinking about mechanisms and avenues for cooperation and genuine and equal partnerships. By conducting workshops, trainings and consultation meetings, DEMAC capacitates diaspora groups to strengthen coordination, professionalize standards of delivery, and manage risks and improve operational and strategic communication and coordination. Hereby, the project seeks to contribute to the improvement of overall humanitarian responses, delivered by a broader field of humanitarian actors to the benefit of affected populations.

The Berghof Foundation’s support to Syrian diaspora humanitarians through DEMAC seeks to enhance humanitarian response capacities of Syrian actors and relief providers in face of lacking physical presence of international aid agencies inside large parts of the country.

Partner

The DEMAC initiative is implemented by a project consortium consisting of the African Foundation for Development, the Danish Refugee Council and the Berghof Foundation. The consortium brings experienced partners together and its diversity enables the project to cover diverse diaspora groups and focus countries, and to pool a wide range of expertise, capacities and networks. Each partner works with a specific diaspora community: AFFORD works with the Sierra Leonean diaspora in the United Kingdom, the Danish Refugee Council with the Somali diaspora in Denmark and the Berghof Foundation with the Syrian diaspora in Germany and beyond.

Funding

The DEMAC project is funded by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO).

“New Ways of Working” Workshop Series

A series of three-day workshops has been held for operation-level humanitarian professionals and diaspora humanitarians. Their main objectives were to create a space for dialogue to enhance mutual understanding and to capacitate avenues for coordination with the humanitarian systems in a manner that improves overall response to the needs of affected populations.

The variety of humanitarian actors, expertise, and relationships involved in any extended crisis response and the consequential lack of coordination and duplication of efforts oftentimes result in operative challenges and weak response efforts. The “New Ways of Working” workshop series has been designed to address these challenges by equipping diaspora actors and humanitarian workers with a mutual understanding of the international coordination system and support identifying potential avenues of inter-operability for a more effective humanitarian response.

Through presentations, case studies, activities and group dialogues, up to 32 Somali, Syrian and Sierra Leonean diaspora and ‘institutional’ humanitarians representing numerous international NGOs and UN agencies discussed the following issues at the three workshops:

  • 1st  DEMAC workshop “Humanitarian Principles, Volunteerism and Coordination”, DRC, Copenhagen, 25 - 27 February 2016 > Programme and Workshop Report

  • 2nd DEMAC workshop “Use of Technology and Social Media in Humanitarian Crisis”, AFFORD, London, 28-30 April 2016 > Programme and Workshop Report

  • 3rd DEMAC workshop “Negotiating Access and Security Management in Complex Environments”, Berghof Foundation, Berlin, 2-4 June 2016 > Programme

Joint Diaspora Recommendations Submitted to the Global Consultation to the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS)

The DEMAC consortium organized three separated workshops with Syrian, Somali and Sierra Leonean diaspora aid providers in July 2015 and facilitated the formulation of a joint position paper on humanitarian effectiveness for the World Humanitarian Summit Global Consultation. The position paper provides an overview over current debates on diaspora-based emergency relief and entails recommendations to the World Humanitarian Summit.

DEMAC’s Participation at the Global Consultation to the WHS

Following the submission of the joint position paper the DEMAC consortium was invited by the World Humanitarian Summit Secretariat 2015 to suggest diaspora humanitarians to participate to the WHS Global Consultation (GloCon) on 14-16 October 2015 in Geneva. Nine among those suggested diaspora humanitarians and one DEMAC coordinator received an invitation for the GloCon. During the GloCon a diaspora representative presented a statement “Not just a wallet” at the final session “The Road to Istanbul and Beyond”, calling for an improved strategic cooperation between diaspora humanitarians and the institutional humanitarian system. Berghof’s executive director Professor Hajo Giessmann facilitated the Diaspora Preparatory Stakeholder Session at the World Humanitarian Summit Global Consultation.

DEMAC’s WHS Preparatory Meeting Participation at the WHS

Fifteen representatives of humanitarian diaspora organisations suggested by the DEMAC consortium received an invitation to the World Humanitarian Summit. In order to prepare their participation at the WHS, to familiarize them with the outcomes of the consultation process, and to review key stakeholders’ expectations and commitments, 11 of the 15 invited diaspora representatives attended the WHS preparatory meeting in Berlin organized by BF. The main outcome of the preparatory meeting was the drafting of a joint diaspora commitments statement to the WHS. This draft joint diaspora commitments statement[NR1]  was shared widely through an online platform with diaspora humanitarians globally for their endorsement.

DEMAC at the WHS

Fifteen representatives of humanitarian diaspora organizations and three DEMAC consortium staff participated at the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul/Turkey. Five DEMAC-sponsored diaspora participants delivered statements at the “Member States and Other Stakeholders Announcement Plenary” and one DEMAC diaspora representative delivered a speech at the Special Session on “People at the Centre”. The DEMAC project manager acted as diaspora focal point at the WHS. Two additional DEMAC consortium members also received invitations to attend the WHS.

More information on DEMAC at the WHS.

Community Workshops

A fundamental component of the DEMAC project is to share and disseminate the conversations and lessons learned coming out of the various project activities among fellow diaspora-based humanitarian organizations and groups involved in humanitarian aid and emergency response. Those representatives who participated in the New Ways of Working workshop series and other activities contributed to share lessons learned with other diaspora initiatives, organizations, networks and communities. The community workshops took place among Somali, Syrian and Sierra Leonean respectively.

DEMAC Conference “A missing Link? Diaspora’s place in an enhanced international humanitarian system”

Convened by the DEMAC consortium, the conference brought together EU and international representatives from government, civil society, diaspora organisations, humanitarian organisations, and research institutes to explore and discuss opportunities and strengths related to diaspora humanitarianism. Hany El-Banna, founder of Islamic Relief, and Robert Smith, chief of partnership coordination at UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, were among the key note speakers and many diaspora organizations were invited to share their experience and reflections from different contexts.

DEMAC conference report >

DEMAC Advisory Board Meetings

The advisory board consists of a permanent group of 13 representatives from diaspora organizations engaged in relief activities and from institutional aid agencies. The DEMAC Advisory Board follows the project’s progress and discusses its findings with regard to their relevance and validity at policy level. Recommendations made by the Advisory Board are collected to inform further programming and ensures the relevance of activities in pursuit of DEMAC’s objectives. The DEMAC Advisory Board convened in January, June and October 2016.

Report Diaspora Humanitarianism: Transnational Ways of Working

The DEMAC research report outlines the basic modalities and features of formalized collective interventions by Sierra Leonean, Somali and Syrian diaspora-based relief organizations and initiatives based in the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany respectively, by elucidating their responses to the humanitarian crises in their countries of origin/heritage and neighboring countries.

Based on interviews conducted in Denmark, Germany, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Somalia (Somaliland), Turkey, and the UK, desk-based study, cross-referencing surveys and mappings, the report identifies the instruments and explains the ways through which diaspora humanitarians operate to provide relief to affected people in need. Informative, yet largely explorative in nature, the report elicits potential areas of increased and more effective cooperation and coordination between diaspora organizations and initiatives engaged in humanitarian action and institutional aid agencies of the international humanitarian system.

Report >

Findings of the Diaspora Emergency Action and Coordination Project

Based on the overall project outcomes and experiences, the report and handbook presents the findings of the DEMAC initiatives and includes specific operational recommendations for diaspora humanitarians, institutional actors and donors.

Report > 

DEMAC Checklist: Engaging Diasporas for Emergency Action and Coordination

The Checklist is a practical tool for diasporas organisations and actors in the formal humanitarian system designed to improve operational and strategic communication and coordination.

Checklist >