COVID-19 starts to affects aid and civil society

March 20, 2020

The New Humanitarian is providing updates on how COVID-19 is disrupting aid efforts around the globe. As the coronavirus pandemic reaches new corners of the globe, its impacts are beginning to cascade on already stretched aid operations in crisis zones. The New Humanitarian is collecting updates about how the coronavirus is hitting aid responses in vulnerable communities – from refugee camps and disaster displacement sites, to border crossings and conflict zones. Border closures are squeezing relief supply channels in some areas. Elsewhere, lockdowns and quarantines are erecting roadblocks in front of other operations. The rapidly evolving outbreak is pushing aid groups to plan for new responses in communities already facing long-running crises – and forcing a re-think of how the sector operates when resources are stretched on a global scale.
The South Africa based NGO CIVICUS published on 19 March an Open letter urging donors to act to ensure civil society’s resilience against the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter reads in part:

As the global response to the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, ….Funds have been (rightly) redirected from planned activities to COVID-19 responses. Reserves – when they exist – are limited and will soon be depleted. Responding to these extraordinary challenges requires flexibility in how we use our grants.  …

We call on all donors and intermediaries providing essential support for civil society to adopt similar approaches by offering as much flexibility, certainty, and stability towards grantees and partners as possible. 

Here are five specific ways this can be done:

  •   Listen to grantee partners and together explore how you can best help them face the crisis, trusting they know best what is needed in their own contexts.
  •   Encourage the re-design and re-scheduling of planned activities and deliverables and provide clear guidance on how to seek approval for these changes.
  •   Support new and creative ways of creating a culture of solidarity and interaction while adhering to the physical distancing and other precautionary measures. 
  •   Offer greater flexibility by reconsidering payment installments based on actual needs, converting existing project grants into unrestricted funds, or adding extra funds to help build-up reserves or cover unexpected costs.
  •   Simplify reporting and application procedures and timeframes so that civil society groups can better focus their time, energy and resources in supporting the most vulnerable rather than on meeting heavy reporting and due diligence requirements.

CIVICUS will continue advocating for a robust civic space, including measures that enable civil society to mobilise with and for the groups most affected by the Coronavirus pandemic. In these critical times, we must nurture civic space and its resourceful actors by expanding relevance and resilience, not reducing it. We must also be mindful that the present moment could also be used as an opportunity by some actors to further restrict the civic space. …We must do whatever it takes to keep civil society alive, vibrant and resilient.  

The way we will deal with this pandemic will have profound and lasting implications on how we build the future of our world.  This crisis can be successfully dealt with through a global culture of solidarity and civic action, one underpinned by intense cooperation, trust and burden sharing. And your role, as funders and supporters of civil society, is fundamental to this outcome.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/17/two-high-commissioners-issue-rare-joint-statement-re-covid-19/

https://www.civicus.org/index.php/media-resources/media-releases/open-letters/4346-open-letter-donors-and-supporters-must-act-to-ensure-civil-society-resilience-against-covid-19-pandemic

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