Page 15 - DHCI Magazine
P. 15

                ‘Too important to fail’
In five years, DCHI has grown into a coalition of dozens of humanitarian organisations, related NGOs, academia, and innovative entrepreneurs. The government is represented by the ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs, and the municipality of The Hague. The start of the coalition coincides - not coincidentally - more or less with the publication of the 2016 UN report: “Too important to fail-addressing the humanitarian financing gap”. This report explicitly addresses the fact that the demand for humanitarian aid is rising faster than the available budget. In the report, the High-Level Panel on Humanitarian Financing concludes: ‘The world today spends around 25 billion USD to provide life-saving assistance to 125 million people devastated by wars and natural disasters. While this amount is twelve times greater than fifteen years ago, never before has generosity been so insufficient.’
Unlocking brainpower and networks
The UN report identifies three avenues
worth exploring for solutions: investing more in prevention, broadening the base of contributors to humanitarian aid, including the business community, and making aid more efficient. DCHI board member Mariëlle van Miltenburg is Head Humanitarian Aid at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs. She explains: ‘With more and more crises and proportionately less money, humanitarian organisations and we ourselves are seriously faced with a challenge: how are we going
to deal with this and how are we going to
set things in motion? At the time, former Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Lilliane Ploumen suggested that we look at whether and how we can connect the humanitarian sector to the business and scientific communities in order to unlock the necessary brainpower and networks. Beautiful things could arise from this, was the thought at the time.’ The Netherlands Red Cross then
Dutch Coalition for Humanitarian Innovation
‘Our organisations are set up to relieve acute distress, that is their number one priority. That makes it difficult to invest in innovation as is done in the business world’
  picked up the gauntlet and started looking for partners to launch DCHI with.
Initiators from the humanitarian sector are
- besides the Netherlands Red Cross - CARE Netherlands and UNICEF. They have a seat
on the board, and all three are ‘chef-sache’: the busy CEOs are personally attending to matters. UNICEF’s Suzanne Laszlo: ‘We all saw the urgency at the time, and we still do. Within UNICEF we see each day that there are more needs. Opening yourself up to expertise from outside your own organisation brings
a lot of added value. This means that we
really have to work smarter and collaborate
to be able to meet these needs. We will not succeed if we continue operating the way we were doing before: it has to be smarter, faster, better, and bigger. We simply cannot do this alone: science, industry, governments, and other parties must join forces in order for us to be able to do more.’
Tricky dilemmas
Innovation in the humanitarian sector is thus urgently needed and the will to work on it is certainly there. But putting it into practice is difficult, says DCHI board member Reintje van Haeringen, CEO of CARE Netherlands. We at CARE have been investing in this with the conviction that innovation works better if we all work together. But is everyone jumping at this chance? No, not really. Many people
in the humanitarian sector continue to think: you put scarce money into something and you don’t know what will come out of it.
Our organisations are set up to relieve acute distress, that is their number one priority. That makes it difficult to invest in innovation as is done in the business world. There, a percentage of turnover is used for research and innovation. In our case, this creates a tricky dilemma: do you give the money to people who need it now or do you invest it into something of which you are unsure what it will produce?’

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