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An end of year message from Christina Bennett, CEO of Start Network

  • by Christina Bennett
  • 19 Dec 19

Blog Post

Dear Start Network Members, Donors, and Friends,

At the end of 2019, I see both concern and promise in equal parts.

Concern because in 2019, we saw the devastating effects of multiple disasters, including Cyclone Idai, which displaced more than 140,000 people and left hundreds of people dead in Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. According to the UN, the world’s eight worst food crises are all linked to conflict and climate shocks. Our analysis suggests that more than half of them could have been predicted and their effects could have been avoided.

Concern also about the marked increase in the number of people driven from their homes from the combined effects of conflict, disaster and political inaction- the number of migrants and refugees across the globe is now an estimated 272 million, 51 million more than in 2010, according to the UN.

And concern that world leaders are not mustering the political courage and burden-sharing that such global problems require, given the underwhelming conclusions of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) 25th meeting on climate change in Madrid and at the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva.

But at the beginning of this new decade, I also see promise. The complex, turbulent and interdependent problems of our sector require new expertise, new approaches and new coalitions. Start Network’s collective efforts and investments in 2019 have seen significant progress in bringing such new thinking to humanitarian action.

We made progress against slow and reactive funding. In February we received the 300th alert to the Start Fund, which enabled agencies in Nigeria to act early in anticipation of election tensions. And now, we are fast approaching the 400th alert, demonstrating how badly needed the Start Fund’s innovative and collaborative approach is in the sector.

In August, Start Network announced a $10m payout for ARC Replica in Senegal, for NGOs to act early to mitigate the effects of drought. This is the largest ever payout to NGOs for early action and one step closer to proving that early action is not only possible, but efficient and effective in its implementation. The funds will be allocated and activities will run from January until June. Throughout this, we will be gathering as much evidence as we can to demonstrate the benefits of an early response.

As part of our localisation strategy, we made progress in channelling more funding directly to local organisations. In June, the Start Fund Bangladesh made its first national disbursement to a local NGO. In August, we developed the framework for the new tiered due diligence process, which aims to lower the funding barriers that exist for smaller, local and national organisations. The framework is now being piloted with 12 organisations, which will become members of the Start Network in DRC, India and Pakistan. We are testing a new approach to tiered funding, opening up the Start Fund to a greater number of organisations. We have also grown our membership, admitting 12 new member organisations from future hub locations in Pakistan, DRC and India.

We continued to develop new financing tools. In April we started the consultation for the Start Financing Facility as a new end-to-end financial solution for the humanitarian system, aiming to provide a single channel for both donors and recipients to access a range of financial instruments mechanisms for different humanitarian crises. The design of this was completed this month and will be shared with members in the new year.

Our DEPP Innovations Labs programme closed in July, however, we are renewing our efforts in community-centred innovation to put the people affected by disaster and crisis at the centre of designing solutions to enduring humanitarian problems.

2019 was also a pivotal year for Start Network as an organisation, as we saw support for our vision and activities grow. In 2019, we diversified our donorship, through new grants to the Start Fund from Jersey Overseas Aid, the German Federal Foreign Office and IKEA Foundation.

In May, we became an independent charity, an important step in realising our vision of a global network of networks. As such we hosted our first Annual General Meeting at this year’s annual Assembly in Doha, hosted by our member Qatar Charity.

At the end of 2019, I am thankful to the Start Network team, which has worked tirelessly toward all that we have achieved this year. And I am grateful to you, the Start Network members, as the energy and engine behind all that we do.

I know I speak for the entire team when I say we look forward to working with you in 2020 and to see the Network go from strength to strength, toward a new era for humanitarian action.

Best wishes for a peaceful and prosperous 2020,

Christina Bennett


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  • by Christina Bennett