Humanitarian Leadership Academy to train aid workers from over 50 countries in organising rapid responses to disasters and emergencies
The world’s first academy for humanitarian relief is to be launched, aimed at training 100,000 aid workers from over 50 countries in organising rapid responses to disasters and emergencies.
The Humanitarian Leadership Academy, launching on Monday, is a response to the growing number of humanitarian crises around the world, driven by climate change and conflict, combined with a severe and worsening shortage of people with the skills necessary to coordinate the large-scale response required in the critical first days to prevent mass casualties.
The HLA is being set up by a global consortium of aid organisations with initial £20m funding from the UK Department for International Development, out of a target of £50m. The Save the Children charity has paid the startup costing and is hosting the academy’s hub in London.
Further centres will open in Kenya and the Philippines later this year, and by 2020 the plan is to have ten training centres around the world, which would offer both classroom and virtual training for the surrounding regions, in mobilising the rapid response in resources and manpower needed in the wake of a disaster.
Jan Egeland, a former UN head of humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, will be the academy’s first chairman. He said the initiative “may revolutionise the entire humanitarian sector”.
“Investment in a new and better trained generation of humanitarian workers closer to where we find the greatest needs will bring development and sustainability to many of the world’s most fragile communities,” Egeland, the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said.
Last year witnessed a record number of severe global humanitarian emergencies and the highest number of refugees the world has seen since the second world war. 50 million people were forced to flee their countries.
Justin Forsyth, chief executive of Save the Children, said: “If we are to save more lives in some of the toughest places in the world we need to train and support local people themselves to become the humanitarian workers and volunteers of the future. The academy will do this by bringing together an extraordinary and unique coalition of actors to train and share best practice, transforming the humanitarian system.”
The idea behind the establishment of ten national and regional centres around the world is that each should be able to tailor responses to crises in terms of local conditions and local culture. Aid experts have said that previous attempts to increase local and regional capacity to react to large-scale emergencies have foundered because they were seen as impositions of practices developed far away.
The plan is for each centre to provide a common pool of knowledge, the latest technology and examples of best practice, as well as solid career structures for humanitarian workers, with internationally recognised certification for successive levels of achievement, recorded in ‘humanitarian passports’. The end result should be to expand the pool of people available in every region to manage the humanitarian response in the first 72 hours of an emergency.
“This is potentially one of the most transformational projects I have been involved in,” said Gareth Owen, Save the Children’s director of emergencies, who has been working on the academy project since 2007. “It is based on the recognition that many studies of humanitarian disasters and emergencies point to leadership and decision-making as the critical factor. Really by now we should have a global capacity that we can draw on that is far greater and more diverse. We haven’t invested enough in people on the ground.”
Owen said that climate change was adding to the relentless annual toll of humanitarian crises: “We used to have a big natural disaster about once a decade and that has come down to one every two or three years.”
Global funding for emergency relief has largely stagnated. Owen said the $20bn (£13bn) spending on the response to humanitarian emergencies is a third of the amount the world spends on yoghurt, for example, and that there is no comparison with the $1.5tn spent on arms.
“The Humanitarian Leadership Academy will help create a faster and more effective disaster response system by empowering local people in the most vulnerable countries to be the first responders after a disaster strikes,” Justine Greening, the secretary of state for international development, said. “The high quality training and expertise delivered by this academy will mean humanitarian responses not only provide immediate, life-saving relief, but also help build a more secure and resilient world.”