Indigenous data in effective humanitarian responses
Keywords:humanitarian, crisis intervention, decolonisation, Indigenous knowledge, localisation, innovation, sustainability
In the international humanitarian landscape, crisis interventions are deployed based on a long-standing working culture that presupposes that local authorities are usually overwhelmed during a crisis and unable to mobilise local capacity. Thus, external human resource mobilisation is necessary. However, this may only be true in various instances, such as natural disasters, where rapid response is needed to extinguish further harm to human life. In most cases, there are no mechanisms to make prior assessments that can inform decision-makers about the kind of international assistance needed in the local context.
This is because existing data for the availability of resources is produced mainly by international aid agencies and their governing political institutions. This database of knowledge, which leans heavily on a post-colonial Anglocentric viewpoint about ‘best practices’, is used as the baseline to assess the ability of potential partners to mobilise their resources, while failing to include the capacity of local agents to determine what capacity exists in a particular context, what they are already capable of delivering and how best to support their response system (United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction [UNISDR] 2008).
However, as access to digital communication devices and other globally useful technology in resource-constrained rural settings continues to emerge, this may soon change. This paper explores the ways in which Indigenous and local knowledge should contribute to the exploration of intelligent and sustainable solutions that are well-suited within the local context to mitigate and understand humanitarian crises before, during and after they occur, and how to curate, analyse and use local data and knowledge systems to create innovations that are sustainable and adaptive to the priorities of the local population.
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