NPOs are critical resources in reducing risks associated with disasters and climate change

Dear Editor,

In the wake of the fourth anniversary of the devastation brought by Hurricane Dorian, and in light of the ongoing recent surge in tropical storms in the Atlantic, The Organization for Responsible Governance (ORG) feels it is crucial to acknowledge the pivotal and enhanced role that can be played by robust and sustainable local non-profit organizations (NPOs) in building the resilience and capacity of our citizens and communities.

We firmly believe that empowering these organizations and the communities they serve is vital for creating a more prepared and responsive society in the face of these growing threats, the increasing frequency of natural disasters, and the pressing challenges posed by climate change.

ORG’s dedication to this belief is evident through initiatives like “Active Citizens Bahamas,” which provides grassroots citizen engagement training to thousands across our islands.

We hold that helping foster greater public participation and its many civic benefits is an integral component of The Bahamas preparedness efforts. Active citizenship has been shown to significantly contribute to national Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR).

Active and engaged citizens are crucial in ensuring shared responsibility and transparency in disaster planning and implementing risk reduction activities.

When citizens are actively involved, decision-makers can better grasp and respond to community needs, risks, and solutions.

Additionally, engaged citizens have greater trust, buy in and compliance with disaster and health protocols, like evacuations and safety precautions.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian, ORG allocated significant resources to support the national rescue, relief, and recovery efforts.

Our team members actively participated in response coordination, monitored and evaluated international NGO interventions, engaged in fundraising, and provided social support to displaced communities.

This experience gave us valuable insights and developed recommendations for future disaster responses.

One notable observation was the resilience and agility demonstrated by local civil society and the private sector in mounting immediate emergency responses. The ability of this local sector to mobilize rapidly underscored the significance of their role in disaster situations.

The involvement of over 100 international NGOs in the Hurricane Dorian relief and recovery efforts introduced new dimensions to disaster response, including relevant disaster management expertise and advanced coordination systems.

This collaboration enhanced information exchange and coordination, ultimately improving the international response.

However, historical challenges in integrating and effectively communicating among government agencies, private sector entities, and civil society continue to limit our local capacity to prepare and respond.

Local Bahamian Civil Society and NPOs have long been instrumental in providing direct services and support to communities affected by recent hurricanes.

These organizations, whether well-established or emerging, have played a vital role in saving lives, gathering and distributing relief goods, providing shelter, and offering trauma counseling to those in need.

Their contributions were invaluable and showcased the potential of a robust local civil society.

However, the true impact of local civil society and NPOs in The Bahamas remains uncharted, mainly due to limited integration into overall communication, planning, and monitoring during relief and recovery efforts.

Many local groups have reported difficulties during the Hurricane Dorian relief effort, in accessing information and coordination systems managed by international NGOs and the government.

This contributed to logistical challenges, miscommunication, and access to potential funding, all of which inhibited the scope and scale of services that local NPOs could offer those in need.

Looking forward, to address these challenges and prepare for future crises, a more inclusive and proactive approach can be adopted to involve local NGOs in disaster preparedness and response planning.

A model like the Voluntary Organizations Assisting with Disasters (VOAD), used in the United States and other jurisdictions, to prepare and coordinate NPOs before crises, can provide valuable insights into opportunities for coordination and communication among Bahamian not-for-profit organizations.

Furthermore, providing training in disaster management and securing access to human and financial resources can empower local NGOs to play a meaningful role in engaging communities in disaster preparedness and providing response aid.

This was the driving force behind ORG’s recent eight-month free training series for NPO leaders.

ORG brought together 109 NPO leaders from communities across the archipelago to participate in training geared to facilitate more effective collaborations.

Over these intensive months, participants engaged in eight comprehensive training sessions hosted by ORG, ensuring their NPOs are equipped to work synergistically on matters of national importance.

The structured training covered pivotal subjects crucial for the growth and impact of NPOs in today’s dynamic environment.

ORG provided functional training in areas that would benefit the operation of NPOs, including fundraising and honing leadership and communication skills to master project management.

To develop critical skills needed to operate, in times of crisis or otherwise, the NPO leaders explored formal models of organizational collaboration and grounding their work in a human rights framework.

Additionally, the training emphasized the importance of monitoring and evaluation, ensuring transparency and efficiency in all endeavors.

These skills are foundational for groups to better collaborate in their direct missions and prepare to collectively respond to crises like hurricanes.

Collaboration between government, international, and local NGOs is essential to effectively manage complex scenarios such as disasters and climate change adaptation.

Working more intentionally across sectors can facilitate knowledge transfer and capacity-building, ensuring that local organizations are prepared for future disasters.

Transparent fundraising and donor management practices are also crucial for building public trust and securing international partners and funders.

Adopting more universal practices, before and during crises, like clear communication systems and standards for accepting and reporting donations can help address fundraising transparency and accountability issues.

In conclusion, the devastating impact of recent hurricanes has underscored the need for clear and structured local organizations that can work alongside government, the private sector and international NGOs to build public trust and participation in order to effectively respond to disasters.

With support local civil society and NPOs can bring even more significant socio-economic value to The Bahamas.

Integration into disaster management plans, and provision of dedicated resources, and empowerment through training and knowledge transfer will surely enhance the capacity of our communities and islands to manage the risks associated with disasters and climate change adaptation.

In The Bahamas, the role of NPOs has never been more paramount. Their potential to make lasting, positive changes in communities, build the capacity and growth of citizens, advocate for necessary reforms, and foster the unity and resilience necessary to manage through unprecedented natural and economic crises is unbounded.

ORG will continue to dedicate time and resources to facilitate the inherent power of this critically important local sector.

We encourage government, private sector, and the international donor community to work together to create an environment of strong partnership where local NPOs can flourish and achieve their potential in serving our citizens and communities.

Together, we can build a more resilient and prepared nation.


The Organization for Responsible Governance

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