Humanitarian-relief organizations brainstorm on better cooperation
Seattle Times staff reporter
They're sheltering refugees from Congo. They're trying to solve the global AIDS crisis, and providing humanitarian relief in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This weekend, leaders from 10 international humanitarian organizations are adding another item to their agendas — communicating with each other. They're gathering in Seattle to discuss crises around the world, but they also hope to talk about cooperating more.
The CEO Leadership Forum is sponsored by the University of Washington's Marc Lindenberg Center for Humanitarian Action, International Development and Global Citizenship. It began last night and continues through tomorrow.
Its aim is to learn from past mistakes, especially those Lindenberg witnessed in his last decade of humanitarian work in such countries as Rwanda, Bosnia and Somalia.
Lindenberg was a longtime activist and former dean of the UW's Daniel J. Evans School of Public Affairs. He died last year after spending decades encouraging humanitarian groups to collaborate.
"Humanitarian-relief groups were so busy dealing with crisis all over the world that they didn't have a chance to take a step back and think about what types of challenges they shared," Elaine Chang, acting director of the Lindenberg Center, said. "They had no way to come together, so they could really think creatively and work together."
The group ultimately hopes to launch the "Better, Safer World Campaign," an organization aimed at unifying international aid efforts.
Planners hope the forum will continue Lindenberg's work.
This year's meeting brings together leaders of major international organizations, such as Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere (CARE), Doctors Without Borders, International Medical Corps, International Rescue Committee, Mercy Corps, Oxfam America, Childreach, Save the Children USA, World Concern and World Vision International.
"The public expects us to share, to support each other, to discover more ways to work together," Mercy Corps' CEO Neal Keny-Guyer said. "To me, this is about a renewed commitment to partnership."
He said the recent conflict in Iraq has taught nongovernmental organizations that working together is vital. Mercy Corps and several other groups set up a joint information center, which served as a database for humanitarian-aid groups in Iraq.
The leaders also will be talking about the challenges their groups face. For example, many nonprofit groups in Iraq are fighting to maintain their independence from the U.S. military there.
"We understand the importance of coordinating with the military, but we cannot be coordinated by the military," said Peter Bell, head of CARE. "We must be independent and impartial, and help people in dire need regardless of religion, race or politics."
Mary Spicuzza: 206-464-3192 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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