Opening night

Development Policy13 Jun 2011Sean Lowrie

400 people gathered in an auditorium to hear the opening speeches. Many familiar faces. Waves and smiles. Searching for the forgotten name. How long has it been? You haven’t changed. Many new faces. Open, expectant, like-minded, allies.

Humanitarian award to Bill Garvelink, who tells the story of the events the international community has responded to over the years. He has inspired many people, and has been able to make things happen.

Keynote speech from USAID’s Nancy Lindborg. Humanitarians need to be optimistic people, in order to get out of bed in the morning! Evidence-based interventions are important – do we know what works? Fragility. Shocks. Resilience. Our security is linked to a community of nations that respect human rights. Important to link development and diplomatic. 3 big questions. 1) What do we do about chronic emergencies? Is humanitarian intervention in chronic situations substituting for development? (2) Do humanitarians understand what happens in urban environments? 1 in 6 of the urban half of the world’s population live in slums. (3) How will we ensure global food security?

Keynote speech from Michael Barnett. Humanitarian governance is a sign of moral progress, but who governs and by what authority? Emancipation – domination. Centralisation – decentralisation. Awesome mapping metaphor – what if we improved the map of humanitarianism. Currently we think in Mercator projection, and perhaps it is time to move to the Peters projection. Faith-based groups, emerging donor countries, and Diaspora are significant contributors that are not on our map. Western planning mindset and hierarchical relations dominate humanitarianism. Perhaps market forces may be more effective and democratic. This is not only about efficiency, but legitimacy. Humanitarian legitimacy in the good old days of the 19th Century used to be about acting in the name of God or humanity. Now legitimacy is about expertise and technical knowledge. Is professionalism a new form of governance?

Peter Walker’s big question: who changes in response to the disconnect highlighted by Barnett? The humanitarian system? Or the world around the humanitarian system.

Cocktail reception hosted by Oxfam America. Everybody happy to be with friends and like minded future allies. Noisy. Crowded. Mixing. Not as many people listening to the speech as should! A lot of white people here.