Business networks & partners come together to improve disaster resilience

Geneva, 16 May 2022 – Private sector representatives from 14 countries have come together at the eighth Humanitarian Networks and Partnerships Weeks (HNPW) to share experiences and best practices about the role of local businesses in preparing for, responding to and recovering from disasters. Almost two dozen business leaders, members of the OCHA / UNDP Connecting Business initiative (CBi), met in-person for the first time in two years at the annual humanitarian conference hosted by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, at the International Conference Centre Geneva (CICG).

The fight against the climate crisis and localization of humanitarian response, both among HNPW’s nine areas of common concern, were identified by CBi partners and Member Networks as key issues where local businesses can help make a difference in people’s lives.

Humanitarian action is all about bringing people together. When a disaster strikes, first responders are the local communities, the local businesses. For OCHA, the private sector is one of our most important partners to collectively respond better and quicker, said Edem Wosornu, Chief of OCHA’s Response Support Branch.

At CBi’s public event on localization, “Act local, think global: humanitarian action and the private sector”, representatives from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Alliance for Risk Management and Business Continuity (AGERCA, Haiti), the Asia Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management Sri Lanka (A-PAD SL), and the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), insisted on the need to channel more humanitarian funding toward local businesses.

COVID-19 has brought a renewed sense of urgency in the need to support local and national actors. When countries went into lockdown, in many cases there were only local actors to deliver assistance,” explained Marcos Neto, the Director of UNDP’s Sustainable Finance Hub. But local businesses need support, they need to be involved in decision-making processes of humanitarian response, and they have the means to deliver assistance in accordance with humanitarian principles.

CBi also hosted a public session on the climate crisis, “Feeling the Heat, how local businesses respond to the climate emergency”, highlighting examples of climate action from the Fiji Business Disaster Resilience Council (FBDRC) the Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TÜRKONFED), The Madagascar Private Sector Humanitarian Platform (PSHP), and UNICEF.

Jemilah Mahmood from the Sunway Centre for Planetary Health urged local businesses to get involved in the protection of planetary health: Trust is key. Businesses are most trusted and have the capacity to nudge political will. With that trust, come responsibility and power.

Discussions are still ongoing at HNPW, with over 6,000 participants ranging from United Nations agencies to non-governmental organizations (NGOs), academia and the private sector working on key topics in today’s humanitarian field and how better to partner to address them. 

CBi will hold a final online public session on Wednesday 18 May, “Acting before crises hit: anticipatory action and the private sector”, in partnership with the International Federation for the Red Cross (IFRC) and the Anticipation Hub, focusing on the role of how businesses can support the ongoing shift to more effective, efficient, and dignified humanitarian response through anticipatory action.

The CBi Member Networks and business leaders represented at HNPW included: Plateforme Humanitaire du Secteur Privé de Côte d’Ivoire (PHSP Côte d’Ivoire), Fiji Business Disaster Resilience Council (FBDRC), Alliance pour la Gestion des Risques et la Continuité des Activités (AGERCA, Haiti), The Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KADIN), Madagascar Private Sector Humanitarian Platform (PSHP), Centro Nacional de Apoyo para Contingencias Epidemiologicas y Desastres (CENACED, Mexico), The Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF), Asia-Pacific Alliance for Disaster Management Sri Lanka (A-PAD SL), The Turkish Enterprise and Business Confederation (TÜRKONFED), The Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI). Prospective networks were also represented, including Consejo Hondureño de la Empresa Privada (COHEP, Honduras), the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA), the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS) and Hombro a Hombro (Peru).

A joint initiative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), CBi supports private sector engagement before, during and after disasters. Since CBi’s launch in 2016, its Member Networks have responded to more than 100 crises and assisted around 18 million people. Read more in the 2021 CBi Annual Report.

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