ECB focus group meeting in Bangladesh ECB focus group meeting in Bangladesh Photo credit: Sandie Walton-Ellery

Humanitarian capacity-building and collaboration: lessons from the Emergency Capacity Building Project

by Jock BakerJune 2014

When the Emergency Capacity Building (ECB) Project was being designed just over a decade ago, humanitarian agencies faced several significant challenges. Disasters were increasing in frequency, severity and complexity, stretching the response capacities of the global humanitarian system. At the same time, standards for humanitarian response were becoming increasingly rigorous, resulting in increased pressure on agencies to demonstrate accountability and the impact of the assistance they were providing.

One of the findings of the 2005 Humanitarian Response Review, commissioned by the UN Emergency Response Coordinator, Jan Egeland, was that, while links and collaboration between humanitarian actors were limited, it was essential for the humanitarian community to work collectively towards an inclusive system-wide coordination mechanism. Other observers expressed concern that NGOs were increasingly being forced to compete over limited resources and ‘market share’. Competition was seen as discouraging collaboration and the sharing of information and learning. With the overall goal of improving the speed, quality and effectiveness of emergency preparedness and response, the ECB Project aimed to build capacity by encouraging collaboration, particularly at a country level.

This paper documents key milestones and synthesises the main lessons from the initial design phase in 2003– 2004 up to the end of the project in 2013. In addition to contributing to learning about collaboration between humanitarian agencies, it is hoped that some of the tools and guidelines developed during the life of the project can be of use to others. The paper begins with a chronology of the ECB Project, to help understand how it came about. This is followed by a description of the objectives of the project, how it was influenced, what its objectives were and its major achievements and challenges. It concludes with key lessons about collaboration between humanitarian agencies.

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