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Two years after Yolanda: Intl groups cite case studies of effective advocacy practices

27 November 2015, Manila, Philippines – Working with local and national leaders in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) ensured that the needs of vulnerable communities were at the heart of the recovery and rehabilitation efforts, said a group of international humanitarian organizations today.

At the launch of their joint paper, Influencing in Emergencies, Save the Children, ActionAid, World Vision, Christian Aid, and Oxfam representatives shared how during the Haiyan humanitarian response, advocacy work is necessary to reduce risks in emergencies, address vulnerability of affected communities, and promote good practices.

An accountability report for donors and communities, the joint report presented case studies and interviews with stakeholders to emphasize that humanitarian response should go beyond the usual aid distribution. The report showed that investing in advocacy work warrants a greater impact on the lives of affected communities.

According to Influencing in Emergencies, creating a positive policy environment for advocacy work can help bring change in behaviour, practices, policies, and systems. For Save the Children, this helped them on their push for the passage of the Children’s Emergency Relief and Protection Bill (HB 5285).

“Save the Children believes there is a need for new, strengthened national legislation to improve care and protection of children affected by disasters and to build on best practices and lessons learned during recent emergency responses,” said Ned Olney, Save the Children Country Director. Save the Children worked with other child-focused organizations and champions in Congress and in the Senate to push for the passage of the bill.

For its part, World Vision worked on improving the relationship between local government units and communities to ensure the accessibility and quality of services related to disaster risk reduction and management. The aid agency conducted its Citizen Voice Action (CVA) initiative in 10 Typhoon Haiyan-affected areas in Leyte, Iloilo, and Aklan. The CVA seeks to empower stakeholders on the need to monitor and check on government progress in preparing for and responding to disasters.

Through CVA, various improvements on the operations of the Local DRRM Offices have been implemented. Local ordinances mandating personnel of Barangay Development Councils to undergo annual training and refresher courses on safety and disaster prevention and mitigation have also been introduced, reviewed and approved.

“World Vision has continued educating communities on how to check on the government effectively and at the same time, citizens realize that they have shared accountability with the government to ensure resources are used responsibly,” said Josaias Dela Cruz, World Vision National Director.

Aside from the protection of vulnerable sectors like children, among the major humanitarian priorities was the restoration of livelihoods of almost six million workers affected by Haiyan. Oxfam and ActionAid worked to advocate the rights of coconut workers, and called for the enforcement of land reform policies and the inclusion of women in community recovery.

“Even before Haiyan, Oxfam has been working with our partner Fair Trade Alliance in pushing for the rights of 3.5 million coconut farmers across the country. After the typhoon, we were successful in bringing our calls at the national level by involving the coconut farmers themselves in lobbying for the Coconut Farmers Trust Fund,” said Rhoda Avila, Oxfam’s Rights in Crisis Humanitarian Policy Officer.

Avila shared that Oxfam supported the 1,750-kilometer long historic march of 71 farmers who walked from Davao City to Malacanang for 68 days. The march ended with a meeting with President Aquino himself, who committed to support the establishment of the trust fund which will allow the farmers to use the interest from the coconut levy funds established during the Marcos era.

At the local level, ActionAid ensured that Haiyan-affected women would be involved in livelihood activities through the Tikog Planting Project, where women used tikog stems to weave mats, bags, wallets, and slippers.

“This initiative empowered women to start working and contributing to their communities,” said Joyce Laker, ActionAid Country Programme Manager. “We partnered with the National Rural Women Coalition which implemented advocacy initiatives as well as livelihood and women’s empowerment projects, providing beneficiaries with a full-spectrum package of programs.”

Through the collection of stories, research, and interviews in Influencing in Emergencies, the report underscored how strategic advocacy work is integral in every humanitarian response.

“Through advocacy, spaces for participation can be created to ensure that the voices of the most vulnerable are heard and that they are able to influence decision makers on issues that matter to them,” said Olney. //

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