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news | September 23, 2016 | Libya | Emergency

Strengthening humanitarian response in times of conflict

Panel discussion at the Civil Initiatives Libya's Benghazi centre. (ACTED, 2016)

On the occasion of World Humanitarian Day, celebrated on August 19 every year, Civil Initiatives Libya’s Benghazi centre commemorated the day on August 28, in partnership with Peaceful Change Initiative and a number of local civil society organizations. The event brought together both local and international organizations working in the city of Benghazi.

Since 2014, Benghazi has witnessed an armed conflict which has led to the displacement of thousands of families and widespread damage to the city’s infrastructure. The healthcare, education and environmental sectors have all been hit particularly hard as a result of the ongoing clashes. Local and international NGOs have been providing emergency relief and humanitarian aid to address the most immediate needs of the city. However, there has been limited coordination between these organizations and this has affected the scope and impact of their interventions.

The goal of this event was to bring together all those who are engaged in humanitarian work in Benghazi to discuss what efforts are being taken to address the conflict, how these actors can partner together to strengthen their work, and to remember those who gave their lives in the line of humanitarian duty. The event also aimed to establish a plan for humanitarian response in Benghazi for the upcoming year.

World Humanitarian Day stickers (ACTED, 2016).

One of the main features of the event was a panel discussion. Included in the panel were representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Libyan Red Crescent, the Boy Scouts and Girl Guides of Libya, the Libyan Humanitarian Relief Agency, Bena Organization and the Volunteer Work Team. These organizations were given the opportunity to present the work that they had done in the past two years, followed by a discussion of the successes and challenges they faced.

This was followed by a commemoration of the Military Engineers, the Libyan Red Crescent, and No to Mines (a local demining CSO), who risk their lives in order to protect civilians, and honour those members of their organizations who were killed in this line of work. During this commemoration, military engineers emphasized the importance of neutrality in humanitarian response, and confirmed that they work to help all Libyans regardless of political views.

The participants were comprised of local organizations and activists working in the humanitarian field, and a series of recommendations were proposed by the attendees following the panel discussion. It was agreed that more training is needed in the fields of humanitarian administration and communication, as well as a better mechanism for the monitoring and evaluation of the humanitarian goods and services that are provided. Another point that was agreed upon was the need to focus on psychosocial support and post-war rehabilitation.

The main take-away from the event was that more coordination is needed between local organizations in order to avoid duplicating work, as well as coordination and trust-building with international organizations. It was unanimously agreed upon that a committee should be established in order to organize and oversee the work of humanitarian actors.

Rami Musa, the manager of the Civil Initiatives Libya training centre in Benghazi (funded through EuropeAid and SIDA), spoke about the importance of bringing together humanitarian actors in conflict areas. “Collaboration among humanitarian actors can increase efficiency and enhance overall performance, a regular cooperation and opening communication channels can benefit actors, exchanging ideas and share information as well as a collective action.”