Conference - Volunteering in Conflicts and Emergencies

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Swedish Red Cross Headquarters

Hornsgatan 54

118 21 Södermalm


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Global Conference on Volunteering in Conflicts and Emergencies (ViCE)

Volunteers play critical roles in conflicts and emergencies, and yet we know very little about their experiences and needs, the challenges they face, and what can be done to support them. This conference starts a new global conversation on volunteers in conflicts and emergencies, and invites academics, practitioners, researchers, policy makers and volunteers to be part of it.

Taking place over 3 days, the conference will provide opportunities to explore new data on volunteers in conflicts and emergencies, to identify key issues for future research and to identify opportunities to collaborate and work together to improve understanding and practice.

The conference will draw on findings and experiences from the Volunteers in Conflicts and Emergencies Initiative (ViCE), a three-year research-led development and innovation initiative led by the Swedish Red Cross in partnership with Northumbria University and National Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies in Afghanistan, Honduras, Myanmar, South Sudan, Sudan and Ukraine.

The data of the ViCE Initiative, collected through a listening study methodology, sheds new light on the experiences and challenges faced by local volunteers, and the strategies and mechanisms they develop and adopt to cope with increased risks and vulnerabilities, amid weakened institutional support systems. The findings offer greater understanding of local volunteering in conflicts and emergencies, the changing nature of humanitarianism in contemporary conflicts and emergency settings, and the multiple and overlapping roles of local volunteers as humanitarian and development actors in their own communities.

The research provides a body of knowledge to support and facilitate a volunteer-led approach towards protecting, promoting and recognising local volunteers working in conflicts and emergencies. This conference is designed to start shaping this agenda through a dialogue between academics, practitioners, policy makers, volunteers and other stakeholders.

The conference events have been designed to be participatory, enabling participants to both learn from and discuss the new findings, but also contribute their own analysis, insights and ideas, ensuring that diverse voices help shape a new research and practice agenda around volunteers in conflicts and emergencies.

Entry to the conference is free and pre-registration is required since there are limited seats.

If you have any questions, do get in touch with either Stefan Agerhem at the Swedish Red Cross or Matt Baillie Smith at Northumbria University

Prgramme - Tuesday 12 December 2017

12:00 – 13:30 Registration

13:30 – 14:00 Volunteering in Conflicts and Emergencies – an introduction

Ms. Margareta Wahlström, President of the Swedish Red Cross and Professor Tom Lawson, Faculty Pro Vice – Chancellor, Northumbria University

14:00 – 15:00 The ViCE Report – the main findings of an explorative mission seeking knowledge about volunteering in conflicts and emergencies.

15:00 – 15:30 Refreshment pause

15:30 – 16:30 The ViCE Listening Study – an approach to shed light on the situation of the volunteers working in conflicts and emergencies.

16:30 – 17:00 Summary of the day

13 December 2017

08:30 – 09:00 Registration

09:00 – 09:20 Introduction to the seminars of the day

09:20 – 10:20 A park bench dialogue – listening and responding to perspectives on volunteering in conflicts and emergencies.

10:20 – 10:40 Refreshment pause

10:40 – 12:30 Two parallel sessions

Session 1: The everyday humanitarianism of local volunteers in conflicts and emergencies

What are the practices and dilemmas that volunteers at the local level face on a daily basis? This session suggests that local Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers are at the heart of negotiating between the local context and broader humanitarian principles. As they negotiate this space, their identities, status as beneficiaries, roles as humanitarian actors and the humanitarian principles that guide them, blend together to shape what it means to be a volunteer and defines what they can do in conflict and emergency settings. Recognising and understanding this is critical for establishing the principles and practical measures to ensuring that volunteers can act safely and effectively.

Session 2: Volunteers as victims and their vulnerabilities

Local volunteers are crucial to improving community resilience. However, sufferings and needs of local volunteers often remain hidden and invisible in the celebratory discourses of local volunteering in humanitarianism and development. This session explores the vulnerabilities raised by local volunteers working in conflicts and emergency settings, the risks they face and the complexities of those risks.

12:30 – 13:30 Brown bag lunch

13:30 – 15:10 Two parallel sessions

Session 3: Gendered experiences of local volunteering in conflicts and emergencies

Gender is identified as a key consideration within humanitarian response and development practice.This session introduces the major themes that emerged from the ViCE Initiative regarding gender and diversity. The ViCE Listening Study identifies new proof that highlights the need for multi-scaled gender analysis that addresses the different gender relations of volunteering in specific contexts, and the specific ways these are shaped by conflicts and emergencies.

Session 4: Unpacking the “local” in local volunteering

Local Red Cross Red Crescent volunteers play critically important roles in conflicts and emergency settings where the entire social fabric of local communities has been torn apart. This session explores the concept of the "local" in local volunteering in conflicts and emergencies. It challenges some of the prevailing assumptions about advantages, access, understanding and acceptance of local volunteers in communities where they volunteer.

15:10 – 15:30 Refreshment pause

15:30 - 16:15 The learning of the sessions – participants sharing reflections

16:15 – 16:30 Summary of the day

Thursday 14 December

08:30 - 09:00 Registration

09:00 – 09:15 Introduction to the day

09:15 – 10:45 Round table: Resilient volunteers and resilient volunteer formations

Is the norm for local volunteering in conflicts and emergencies to be working in difficult and challenging conditions without basic support and back-up systems? Many of the volunteers in the ViCE Listening Study and the Ebola Volunteering Review frequently described relying on their capacity as individuals and groups, rather than on the wider infrastructure and systems of their National Society. This round table explores the concept of resilience in relation to volunteering in conflicts and emergencies.

Panel: to be confirmed

10:45 – 11:00 Refreshment pause

11:00 – 12:30 Round table: Local volunteer leadership in demanding situations

Is local voluntary leadership essential for successful volunteering in conflicts and emergencies? Throughout the ViCE Listening Study sessions, local volunteer leadership appeared to be missing. Whilst there is an urgent need for coordination and leadership, particularly when surge capacity is needed, this is rarely discussed in the context of local volunteering in conflicts and emergencies. This round table explores a theme that is often omitted in debates ecnompassing volunteering.

Panel: to be confirmed

12:30 – 13:00 What is next? Ideas about how to proceed and protect, promote and recognize volunteering
in conflicts and emergencies.

13:00 - 13:30 Closing remarks

Margareta Wahlström, President of the Swedish Red Cross.

Conference facilitators

Stefan Agerhem, Initiative Lead – Volunteering in Conflicts and Emergencies, Swedish Red Cross

Jessica Cadesky, Listening Study Team Leader, Swedish Red Cross and

Matt Baillie Smith, Professor, International Development, Northumbria University

Nisha Thomas, Northumbria University.

Bessy Valle Paz, Director Volunteering Development, Honduran Red Cross

Photo: Islam Mardini/Syrian Red Crescent

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Swedish Red Cross Headquarters

Hornsgatan 54

118 21 Södermalm


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