Gang Karume Augustin is a DRC national and worked for 12 years as the Global Emergency Coordinator for IRC from 1998-2010. This entailed travel all over the African continent to establish new offices or act as temporary staff cover for key posts. He decided to become involved with Rebuild Hope for Africa in 2010 as he saw it as an opportunity to “work with my own people in DRC “. That was 11 years ago. Over that time the organisation has expanded with offices in six of the provinces across DRC. They work on a range of humanitarian needs from cash, NFIs and protection in south Kivu to WaSH in Maniema.
Here we speak with Gang about how he got involved with the Start Network and where he sees the future of humanitarian action in DRC.
How did first hear about the Start Network?
We first heard about the Start Network through the DEPP project “Shifting the Power” in 2015. Although we never received funding from this project, we volunteered our time and funds in attending workshops set up by CAFOD, the major partner in Goma. We soon then got invited to conferences in Nairobi, Geneva and Manila as the Start Network became more interested in how we work. We also got invited to the World Humanitarian Summit in May 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. That is how our connection to the Start Network started. Now we are one of the five hubs that have been selected by the Start Network. Myself and Yves Gunzi from CAFOD have been the driving force behind this. Although we both have full time jobs with our respective organisations a lot of our energy has gone into developing the business case for the DRC hub. Now this has been approved we can move forward and our first job it is to put in place a management committee for the hub development. We need a permanent team to start leading on the DRC platform development. That is where we are now.
What has been the biggest learning during the hub business case development?
“That it is possible to have an initiative that is not lead by the north. This is the first time each single step of a process has been our decision and our thinking. It is our creation. Start Network does not interfere, rather they are there to help us reflect. “
And, what have been the biggest challenges?
One of the biggest challenges moving forward will be the possible problems arising from other humanitarian actors wanting access funds through the DRC hub. The people in DRC are used to the humanitarian fund mechanisms from OCHA and others where you wait until there is a call for proposal and then respond. Up until now many have not been interested in the hub idea as it was not linked to funding but once funding is available then they will start questioning the selection process of National NGOs that will be benefiting from being part of the Start Network membership. It’s not only about money but also, and most importantly, the networking and the expertise. There is a real concern that they may hinder the DRC hub development effort.
The second challenge will be making the DRC government understand that it is their responsibility to fund the DRC hub, rather than relying on international funds.
And finally, there will be the challenge of spreading the word on our existence and what we are doing. Few Country Directors of the Start Network International NGOs on the ground know what the DRC hub is, where it is coming from, where it is today and where it is heading.
There are about 75 national organisations that can work with the DRC hub, and many international NGOs that are already members of the Start Network such as CAFOD, Tearfund, Christian aid, and Trocaire. Now we need to organise ourselves. We need to ensure that all stakeholders, the government, in particular the Ministry for Humanitarian Affairs, and all the potential NGOs understand what is expected from them and how the hub will function.
What would you like to see in 5 years time?
My vision would be a DRC hub that is one voice for humanitarian actors in our country, working closely with the government who is also funding our humanitarian work. The DRC hub will be there to serve as a bridge between our government and the international agencies and humanitarian actors. A hub that mainly relies on national resources in terms of funding and expects external intervention only for large scale unpredicted disasters.