CDAC 2021 Annual Online Public Forum: Digital Communication and Accountability: Is technology tipping the balance of power in aid?
Thursday October 07: Public forum session one: 14.00-17.00
Friday October 08: Public forum session two: 08.00-11.00
All times UK time
Effectively engaging communities affected by disaster and crisis is an important part of making sure humanitarian action is accountable to those it serves. The former Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mark Lowcock, has proposed an Independent Commission for Voices in Crisis – and a key part of that proposal is the belief that people, “should have a determinative say over the type of assistance they receive and how they receive it”. Few would disagree, and many have been working hard to achieve this. But, decades after the drive to accountability began, many people served by the humanitarian system still feel excluded from decision-making about the humanitarian services they receive.
Efforts to improve accountability to affected populations have traditionally focused on introducing new systems, processes and standards into the humanitarian system itself. In some ways, this seems reasonable: in the balance of power between humanitarians and affected populations, the scales are tipped vastly in favour of humanitarians. It would, therefore, appear incumbent on humanitarians to work to rectify this. But while this seems reasonable, what if it’s wrong?
Digital technology and increased internet access are likely to transform accountability to affected populations. Though the digital divide remains deep and steadfast, many communities are now able to communicate with others all over the world. Access to social media, video sharing platforms and messaging services show us that communities have always been in continuous communication with one another. Only the behemothic and fragmented humanitarian system, whose growing complexity has demanded an increasingly internal focus, has been in no position to listen.
Until now. The advance of digital communications technologies and increasing access to global platforms are disrupting the traditional power structures in aid. Feedback need not be sought, but can be shared rapidly and – potentially – globally. Humanitarians need not actively listen to communities for those communities to be heard. Digital technologies have the potential to not only radically reinvent the accountability project, but to upend the humanitarian business model and the power imbalances inherent within it. When communities can vocalise their needs and organise their own relief, is there a need for a humanitarian system at all?
CDAC’s 2021 public forum – held in the year of the launch of CDAC’s 2022-2027 strategic plan – will provide a platform in which thought leaders in humanitarian futures, aid technologists, communications and media development organisations and local activists will interrogate ways to ensure the effective, equitable and ethical use of the rapidly expanding technical toolset in humanitarian action. It will look at the ways in which digital technologies can compel the inclusion of marginalised voices and enable locally-led drivers of communication, community engagement and accountability. It will seek to understand how best to expand access and use of existing digital and communication technologies, particularly by those groups that lack visibility and voice. And it will seek a better understanding of the power being realised by communities in their use of digital technology, and how that power can be amplified to influence and reform humanitarian decision making.
Take a look at the full programme, click the link below.
Register for the CDAC 2021 Public Forum: https://hopin.com/events/digital-communication-and-accountability-is-technology-tipping-the-balance-of-power-in-aid