A Voice for Collaboration

Aidex September 2015Collaboration was the theme of this year's edition of AIDEX. (Image source: AidEX)When AidEx – the leading event for the humanitarian aid and development community – launched in Brussels five years ago, the goal was to provide humanitarian procurement professionals with a one-stop-shop for sourcing the products needed to assist communities in crisis or conflict

Since then the two-day exhibition and high-level conference has evolved significantly, broadening its focus from the immediate needs of emergency response, to encompass solutions and services designed to enable the sustainable, long-term development of the world’s most disadvantaged regions.

Because preparedness isn’t just about having the right equipment to deal with a disaster. It’s about taking steps to mitigate the worst possible impacts ahead of time – whether that’s installing prediction equipment, or supporting local resilience and capacity building.

The increased affinity between the humanitarian and development sectors has been hailed as long-overdue. Reflecting on lessons learnt from devastation wreaked by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, Claus Sorenson, former Director-General for the European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection (ECHO) department, noted last year that “we need to hold hands across the humanitarian and development divide, regardless of issue.”

Bridging divides is what AidEx is all about. With “Collaboration” as its theme for 2015, the event seeks to bring together a myriad of perspectives from across the humanitarian and development sectors, whether public, private or non-profit, to work towards common goals.

This is as true in the conference sessions as it is on the exhibition floor in Brussels, where this year, international organisations such as the Red Cross EU, the European Commission and the UNHCR will have the chance to meet and mingle with private sector companies producing humanitarian equipment of all shapes and sizes.

When it comes to aid and development, truly effective collaboration starts with listening to the voices of those closest to the action. That’s why, in 2014, AidEx decided to branch out and bring its award-winning conference format to Nairobi, Kenya – the natural hub for the East African aid and development community and a city which drives the delivery of aid to nearby Somalia, Sudan and Ethiopia. The event was a success and was repeated for a second time on 9-10 September this year.

Holding such an event in Africa gave the conference a local flair, with speakers and attendees – mostly Kenyan – able to discuss different ideas of collaboration based on their personal experience on the ground nearby. Much of the discussion centered around how to ensure that the fast pace of Kenyan economic and social development does not widen the gap between the wealthiest and poorest members of society.

As Nigel Tricks, regional director for Horn, East and Central Africa at Oxfam highlighted: “The poverty issues in Kenya, although improving, are not improving in the context of the “haves” and the “have-nots”. The problem is so huge that NGOs can’t fix it alone. We can only do this by working with government and the commercial sector.”

This recognition of the importance of cross-sector collaboration is symptomatic of a wider trend amongst the international aid and development community. Ahead of the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit taking place in Istanbul next year, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban-Ki Moon, has called for greater solidarity between the various actors involved in global humanitarian action, to build “a more coherent approach in the achievement of our common goals.”

Fostering this sentiment of solidarity is something AidEx believes in strongly. Because it is only by moving beyond siloes, sharing experiences and lessons, and stressing similarities, rather than differences, that we will be able to make an impact for those who need it most. We look forward to putting this into action at AidEx 2015 and we hope to see you there.

Alain Charles Publishing, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London, SW1W 0EX, UK
T: +44 20 7834 7676, F: +44 20 7973 0076, W: www.alaincharles.com

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