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End of year message from the Start Network Director

  • by Sean Lowrie
  • 19 Dec 17

Photo ©ActionAid - Transforming Surge Capacity in Nepal

Blog Post

Dear Start Network Members

I am finishing this year with a profound sense of urgency and purpose. Our turbulent world, with escalating dimensions and dynamics of humanitarian crises, needs more and better capability to manage and respond to crisis risks. Climate change is presenting significant risk to us all, regardless of our country of origin. Populism is emerging and some traditional donors of humanitarian action in western industrialised countries are becoming ambivalent to foreign aid. The space for civil society is shrinking around the world, just at the moment when people need to collaborate to manage the risks to our fragile existence.  

Still, in a time of growing crises and instability, the Start Network has had a significant year thanks to your efforts and vision. We are ending 2017 in a great position – able to deliver more responsive and faster humanitarian crisis response at scale. A turbulent world needs us to make the most of that position in 2018. 

In 2017 we launched the Bangladesh Start Fund as the first step in creating a global network of financial mechanisms. We launched disaster preparedness labs in four countries. The anticipation window of the Start Fund generated a year of experience. We designed a drought financing facility and continued to engage with the global efforts to improve risk financing. We continued to learn from our efforts to build disaster preparedness in 11 countries with hundreds of partner organisations, and from our efforts to respond to the European migrant crisisWe learned from our mistakes too.  

These achievements are significant but esoteric. What matters is that our efforts actually help people, and they do… like Analyn.

On Christmas Day 2016 Typhoon Nock-Ten hit the Philippines and devastated communities in its path, inflicting unimaginable hardship on vulnerable people like Analyn. Analyn is a widow who single-handedly takes care of four children, the eldest of whom was born with particular needs, leaving Analyn with little opportunity to find employment. The only source of income the family has was through Analyn’s daughter, who works as a waitress. After the typhoon, all that remained of Analyn’s house, that once was made of bamboo and roofed with the nipa palm leaves, was a concrete slab. In response to the Typhoon, the Start Fund was activated, as was a unique collaborative roster of disaster response experts enabled by the Start Network’s disaster preparedness work. Analyn’s house was re-built by skilled carpenters from her local community and she received a shelter repair kit. We can be proud that the Start Network is providing comprehensive protection for Analyn and people like her around the world.

The Start Network actions in 131 emergency events in 55 countries has not only helped more than 7 million people – it has also resulted in a shared belief that the Network has important experience to share, and that it must continue in taking its experience to scale around the world. 

In November 2017 the Assembly agreed a design for the future of the Network, and in 2018, Start will take the next steps on its journey. A Network development plan will clarify how Member NGOs will collaborate in implementing the Network design. With catalytic support from the Ikea Foundation, an independent charity will be launched on 1st July 2018 to support the transformation of the Start Network into a global public good. Start Network Member agencies will participate in the world’s first replica insurance scheme in partnership with Africa Risk Capacity. We will begin to explore a single network-wide due diligence system, and create the infrastructure for expanded Membership from southern NGOs in a major contribution to the humanitarian system efforts to create a more locally-led response to crises.

Today more than ever, solidarity and collaboration is vital.  NGOs must work together to have any chance of rising to the systemic challenges of the age. By delivering humanitarian assistance, NGOs demonstrate that there is kindness in human nature. This solidarity can give us a foundation upon which we will find ways to collaborate and change.

We must be realistic about the challenges and the stakes at play; and optimistic that we have the creativity, courage and technology to rise to those challenges.  People working in NGOs around the world are hard working and inspirational.  Start Network Member NGOs do world-changing things every day.  It is your commitment to making the world a better place that gives me the confidence that we can do what is required of us. The Start Team is another reason I have confidence - a brilliant and creative group of people.  Thank you in particular to the Start Team for your hard work this year.

May I wish you all compliments of the season and best wishes for the New Year.  I look very much forward to collaborating with you in 2018.

Sean Lowrie

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  • by Sean Lowrie