As part of its contribution to the localization of aid agenda, Oxfam and the Moscow State Institute for International Relations (MGIMO-University) convened a conference yesterday to support greater cooperation between Russian civil society and the government.
The conference was attended by more than 100 civil society leaders, students, campaigners, practitioners and policy makers from 10 countries, alongside delegates from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) and government officials. The aim was to discuss trends and challenges of the current state of humanitarian assistance.
Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation together with the hosting institutions opened the conference, and the debate was joined by the members of the Russian Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergencies.
Oxfam was represented by staff and partners from Serbia, the UK, the United States, Russia, Lebanon, Colombia, Yemen, Iraq, Kyrgyzstan and the Netherlands. Alongside experts from the university, they discussed crucial issues like inequality in the humanitarian system, the importance of international humanitarian law, refugee rights, how to address gender in humanitarian responses and states' duty to support locally-led, accountable, impartial and effective responses that save and protect lives and promote sustainable peace efforts.
Nahuel Arenas, Humanitarian Director for Oxfam America, said: “With the Russian Federation playing an increasing role in humanitarian assistance globally, this conference is an opportunity to share expertise and best practice with others, learn from them and raise concerns. Only by working together can we help make the system of provision of humanitarian assistance more transparent, more inclusive and focused on people's rights, and ultimately more effective."
Jamal Al Jawahiri, Executive Director of the Iraqi Alamal Association, said: “Women, especially youth, must be empowered to fully participate in peace, security and development. Cultural norms must be challenged to ensure peace is sustainable and we work to build just societies.”
George Ghali, from the Lebanese NGO Alef, said: "The Syrian refugee crisis and the ongoing war have overstretched the current international bodies responsible for refugee protection and durable solutions, and have opened up a greater role for local NGOs. The current state of the humanitarian system offers a golden opportunity for civil society to engage in substantive reform and allow for a truly empowered and locally-led process."
Oxfam works in more than 80 countries worldwide to raise civil society voices, tackle the causes and consequences of poverty and injustice, and deliver life-saving relief and recovery to people in crisis.