The legacy of strengthening local capacity in Pakistan through Start Network’s DEPP programme
Saeed Ullah Khan has been involved in the development sector for the last 20 years. He has worked for Oxfam in the UK, International Rescue Committee in Kosovo, Pakistan, Thailand, and UNHCR in Somalia and Tanzania, before returning to Pakistan in 2011 to work for Norwegian Refugee Council.
Since 2017, he has worked full time for GLOW Consultants, a private development sector company, which specialises in monitoring and evaluation services in the field of disasters risk management, humanitarian assistance, education and protection. In 2018 he was asked by Humanitarian Advisory Group (HAG) to help with the evaluation of the Start Network’s Disasters and Emergencies Preparedness Programme (DEPP) in Pakistan.
Here Saeed shares some of his reflections on the achievements and challenges of this project, his observations on its continuing legacy and his suggestions on how these efforts could be further improved.
Could you share with us some of the main achievements of the DEPP programme in Pakistan?
There were two main achievements that stood out. The first was the local training that was provided as a result of the programme. This enabled staff of the participating NGOs to be better prepared to deal with crises and in a position to provide a timelier response. The second was the surge capacity. Working with National Humanitarian Network (NHN) the DEPP programme helped develop a roster of personnel that could be called upon in an emergency. It enabled the project to have its reach and access far beyond the participating NGOs and were able to cover the whole country. This database is still very active.
Were there also challenges?
The two main challenges I observed were firstly the ability of the organisations to lead on this process when they were also trying to meet their own registration requirements enabling them to operate in the country; and secondly not knowing what disaster was going to strike next which left organisations with a lot of uncertainty affecting their ability of knowing where to focus supporting surge capacity. This is true for any country so is a universal challenge. The recent emergence of COVID-19, snow-fall emergency as well as the locust attack are some examples which were not even foreseen when DEPP team were planning for future emergencies. This is why it is so important to consider all kind of emergencies.
What has happened since the project ended in 2018?
The fact that the surge capacity continued after the programme ended is a brilliant success story. This was clearly seen when responding to the September 2019 Mirpur (Kashmir) earthquake or the January 2020 snowfall emergency in Balochistan. Using this roster of personnel, the humanitarian community in Pakistan were able to mobilise and respond rapidly. These were very localised emergencies but had significant impact on peoples’ properties and livelihoods. The emergencies were not large enough for the big actors to intervene, so it was left to the smaller local organisations to respond. The human resource gap was met by this roster, and I believe the Start Fund also provided financial support. Providing a pool of trained personnel that are available to implementing agencies so that swift responses can be made is exactly what this roster was developed for.
Any take-away thoughts for Start Network?
The Start Network is very focused on NGOs and I believe they could achieve much more if they also developed networks with the private sector. The private sector can help quickly with the needs assessment, situation analysis, monitoring and evaluation of activities conducted by NGOs. These private sector organisations offer better value for money, quick decision making and increased mobility. From a capacity building perspective, these private sector organisations such as GLOW Consultants, have a pool of qualified and trained staff who are local and can be mobilised quickly. Engagement of the private sector can help to provide specialised training to these staff, so they are better equipped to meet the needs of NGOs and other stakeholders. One example is the current evolving situation with respect to COVID-19 where GLOW field team recently underwent specialised training to ensure they are better prepared to deliver required services in a safe manner.
The Start Network supported the humanitarian response to the Mirpur earthquake through the Start Fund award to Acted (Alert 361). We also recently funded ACF to respond to the winter storms (Alert 399).