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The present paper is devoted to drawing an outline of a plan for participating in international humanitarian response. Some of the most important documents that can guide one’s participation in humanitarian response are internationally accepted competencies and standards for humanitarian responses. The Core Humanitarian Standard [CHS] (n.d.) offers guidance in the form of nine core standards that should be applied to humanitarian response participants (organisations and individuals), and that is supposed to facilitate quality improvement and assessment activities.
CHS (n.d.) includes the measures of appropriates, effectiveness (including time effectiveness), lack of negative effects and presence of positive ones, communication and feedback requirements (including complaints), and coordination as well as continuous learning and improvement of quality, staff support, and appropriate human resources management, which is separated from general resource management that is also a requirement.
CHS (n.d.) is not exhaustive, however; it is meant to be basic, which is why other codes of standards, for example, that by Australian Council for International Development [ACID] (n.d.) can be used as well. ACID (n.d.) code is also based on effectiveness and timely nature of the response, but it also highlights the importance of equality promotion and protection of vulnerable groups and offers more detailed practical guidance.
Similarly, the Consortium of British Humanitarian Agencies [CBHA] (2012) suggests a more comprehensive framework for the specific competencies that are required for humanitarian response participation, and it focuses on individuals and their roles, not on all the possible participants. Some sources offer a creative approach to the topic; for example, the Australian Medical Assistance Team [AMAT] (2011) has developed Seven Sins of a medical response (p. 10). These and some other sources will be used to inform the present paper and create the outline of my plan for humanitarian activities participation.
Humanitarian Response Participation
The aim of a humanitarian response consists of helping a population to survive a disaster and recover from it (Malich, Coupland, Donnelly, & Nehme, 2015; The Sphere Project, 2011). The advantages of an international response consist of increased resource availability, and major disasters often require responses of such level, which highlights their importance (Philips & Markham, 2014). As a result, participation in an international response entails special responsibilities and requirements, some of which will be mentioned here.
One of the primary aspects that AMAT (2011), CBHA (2012), and other manuals emphasise as a requirement for humanitarian response participation consists in acquiring the information that will be necessary to the participant. An informed action would ensure timely, effective, and appropriate activities, which are required for humanitarian response (CHS, n.d., Philips & Markham, 2014). The necessary information involves the knowledge of the political, cultural, and economic specifics of the country that is to be visited as well as sufficient proficiency in the skills that will be required of me.
The knowledge in the field of humanitarian activities is similarly important. Also, it would be necessary to define the specific role that I would want to undertake, which should be based on my skills and competencies, and the needs of the response (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, n.d.b). Depending on my participation in a particular organisation, additional requirements might be imposed by it (CHS, n.d.; Malich et al., 2015).
From the point of view of the organisation of my participation, it is necessary to take into account multiple aspects of travelling, accommodation, and communication. I would need to consider all the aspects of international travelling (in particular, visas) and plan for my future return, consider the expenses and create an approximate budget, gather the essential baggage and documents, and align my plans and goals with those of the response.
Personal safety is of great importance for a humanitarian response participant (CBHA, 2012; Malich et al., 2015). I would need to check my immunisation and insurance and provide for other aspects of comfort and security like personal items, communication means, and so on. The mental health issue is noteworthy: the events of a humanitarian response are known to trigger problems like burnout, depression, anxiety, and stress, especially in people with a history of similar difficulties (Cardozo et al., 2012).
While I have always considered myself a mentally stable person, I realise that I might need help during and after the response; in fact, humanitarian organisations are typically aware of it as well, and it may be suggested that the human resources management requirement of CHS (n.d.) entails psychological assistance.
In certain cases, drawing a will might be required. Naturally, the family preparation would be an important part of this aspect: I would not leave for a dangerous mission without explaining my decision to my family.
As pointed out by CBHA (2012), personal safety is also a good means of leading by example and ensuring that other stakeholders do the same. Indeed, the communication with the team members is of importance: ACID (n.d.), CBHA (2012), and CHS (n.d.) highlight the need for creating the dialogue and ensuring cooperation on every level of humanitarian response. In other words, even if I am not in a leadership position, I will need to influence others and motivate my colleagues through our communication.
The specifics of a response framework are likely to be influenced by the type of the disaster (Malich et al., 2015), and there are multiple articles, codes of standards and ethics, and other resources that delineate particular competencies for specific types of participants depending on their roles and skills (Ripoll et al., 2015). As a result, making one’s participation in humanitarian response, an informed one appears to be an achievable activity.
Participation in a humanitarian response requires a lot of planning and consideration that are necessary to ensure the participant’s safety and enable him or her to provide as much help as possible. Fortunately, there are multiple sources that can guide the preparation (Ripoll et al., 2015), including (but not limited to) international core competencies and standards, and they may be used as preparation manuals.
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