This year, Concordia is partnering with Americares, a health-focused relief and development organization that saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster.
Building on a long partnering history between Concordia and Americares, this year-long programming partnership will draw on insights and expertise from across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors in order to develop a framework that translates existing global commitments on disaster preparedness to sustainable local policies.
We sit down with Americares President & CEO Michael J. Nyenhuis and Concordia Co-Founder, Chairman & CEO Matthew Swift to discuss what they hope to achieve through this partnership.
Firstly, we’re really honored to have Americares back at the table as a programming partner for 2018 and to have Michael Nyenhuis serving on the Leadership Council of Concordia. This is one of the most important and longstanding programming partnerships that Concordia has. It is very intriguing to be shifting our focus from disaster response to disaster preparedness, which I think is a crucial factor in Concordia’s Global Health & Emergency Response Pipeline. The public and private sectors must be consistently involved in considering terms of preparedness—while the short-term economic cost might be significant, it has substantial long-term savings for when occurrences such as hurricanes or other natural disasters take place. This partnership is a very important step in Concordia’s embracing of both realms—disaster response and disaster preparedness.
In our work, we talk a lot about sustainability and making sure the outcomes we seek last. One-off efforts rarely get us there. Real change requires a sustained effort, ongoing work, and continued focus. That’s why we are excited about our year-round programming partnership with Concordia. Rather than raise an issue once at the Concordia Annual Summit in hopes that those attending will take it up and run with it, a year-round effort affords us the opportunity to work through the issue multiple times during the year. The Annual Summit becomes either a culmination of that work or a kick-off of it. That sustained effort will lead us to better outcomes on issues we raise together.
The lines between the responsibilities of governments, the private sector, and civil society organizations continue to blur. Through corporate social responsibility programs, private companies engage in work that complements or supports the work of nonprofits. Nonprofits fill critical gaps in government services, such as healthcare, in the aftermath of disasters. Governments work to restore basic services and clear the way for companies and nonprofits to pitch in during times of crisis. We all have a stake in the wellbeing of communities affected by disasters, and we are able to carry out more powerful work together.
The Global Health and Emergency Response Pipeline is a very important one for Concordia. This was an obvious pipeline to create because of the fact that within disaster response and preparedness—as well as within the global health arena—this is a sector that is really ripe for public-private partnerships. Concordia has a long history of advocating for, and helping the creation of, public-private partnerships centered around issues such as disaster preparedness and response. This is a subject that we are oftentimes associated with, thanks to our longstanding relationship with Americares, and the results and benefits of our collaboration can be seen with countless examples.
A major obstacle we face is that an increasing number of people in desperate need of help live in insecure and dangerous environments. Today, far more people are displaced from their homes by conflict than by natural disaster. Additionally, the poorest and most vulnerable people often live in dangerous communities that are difficult to serve. As a result, the safety and security of aid workers, health staff, and others who are needed for relief efforts, rebuilding, and to support future development is now a major area of focus for relief organizations like Americares. We can’t just serve people when it is easy. We need to meet them where they are, even if it is dangerous. Preparing staff to work in insecure environments requires additional training, policies, and procedures and this all requires investment.
I firmly believe that what lies ahead are some actionable results where we can strongly make the economic case that disaster preparedness is an incredibly important factor when addressing how we handle major global disasters. When communities are faced with incredible damage, such as that caused last year in Puerto Rico and Texas, it becomes visible that investing in preparedness is incredibly important. This economic argument is going to be the most successful argument within the public and private sectors as we really consider what actions can be taken to better prepare our communities and our people for large natural disasters.