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An open letter from Mihir Bhatt on the topics not hotly debated

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Mihir Bhatt, Director of the All India Disaster Mitigation Institute (AIDMI), responds to an open letter from Sean Lowrie, part of a correspondence which began following the World Humanitarian Summit consultation in Geneva in October 2015.

Dear Sean,

I am in good health and very happy to see COP21 Paris Agreement focusing even more on two items that I, with AIDMI and many others, campaigned for: one, integration of DRR [disaster risk reduction] and CCA [climate change adaption] in INDCs [Intended Nationally Determined Contributions]; and two, Centrality of Solar Energy in renewable energy sector. My family is fine, but my second son, age 14, is resisting the examination system as the basis to measure levels of his education.

May I take you away from what you say is a hotly contested topic in the international humanitarian system to what I think should be in fact hotly contested? May I list some of these themes and topics?

How humanitarian action aims, sets and achieves sustainable development goals? This question came up at the 15th Delhi Sustainable Development Summit, February 2015. The other key questions that came up included, if the humanitarian system can local organizations integrate climate change actions into national development plans. Say, media pluralism in humanitarian action or for exmaple, social movements and humanitarian action, these are also topic demanding hot debates. Why these topics are not contested or debated was not clear to many at the summit. Where is the discussion on breakthrough technologies - such as nano – architecture, or car-to-car communication or use of liquid biopsy or megascale desalinization in humanitarian action

Humanitarian action is located in between natural and social sciences? How can we say? I was launching ODI’s Good Practice Review 9 at Asia Pacific Practioners’ Forum organized by ADPC in Bangkok in late 2015 where above two and several other questions came up from the participants that I think deserve to be hotly debated. Let me list some more of the questions that came up. How often the international humanitarian system invites and allows local NGOs to contributes to global debates on how to develop and implement new strategies? And contextual intelligence? Where are examples where oral history by and of local actors is captured and used except in some few rare examples such as by Tony Vaux after Gujarat earthquake in 2001 evaluation or Mary Anderson after tsunami in 2004?  The most common question that came up was does humanitarian system support local organizations establish strong, innovative, integrated “triple win” strategies and plans? Does humanitarian system captures and share local experiences? Who is debating these questions in the global humanitarian system?

As you know AIDMI takes out a publication titled (149 issues so far in last 5 years). It is maybe the only fully devoted disaster risk reduction publication that captures voices and experiences from South Asia and reaches out to over 20 thousand readers across Asia and also readers worldwide. Do you know some of the  most commonly asked questions to this publication in 2015? These questions are about improving local actors’ access to finance. International humanitarian finance is far more visible than any other finance, but far less accessible to local actors. There are no need estimates for finance by local NGOs by 2020, or discussions on international finance system for relief. Or how best to access and use humanitarian funds effectively. We still do not know what it costs to offer US$ 1 to a disaster victim in Asia. These are the questions that came up to in 2015.

I hope the debate around localization has the power to inspire curiosity, spark innovation, and help us make sense of our world in need of humanitarian action.

Thank you and best wishes, Sean to you in all you do in 2016.


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