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New partnerships, new perspectives: blog from Beijing

Written by Sara Pantuliano, Lilianne Fan

This week represents a milestone for the Humanitarian Policy Group following the launch in Beijing of ‘Crisis, Recovery and Transitions’, a course targeted at mid-level and senior career professionals from the humanitarian and development sector. 

The course marks the beginning of a new and exciting partnership with the National Institute of Emergency Management (NIEM) at the Chinese Academy of Governance (CAG), the country’s primary public administration training and policy research institute, which trains up to 10,000 officials a year.

The course brings together leading academics, policymakers and practitioners from the Asia-Pacific region. Overall, it represents a significant development in HPG’s strategy of forging new partnerships with non-Western actors to foster more effective and inclusive humanitarian action.

As colleagues – some familiar, but many new – prepare for the final day of the course the scene is a vivid reflection of how the humanitarian landscape is evolving. The diversity of actors participating in the course and discussions on the role of the military, the private sector and regional organisations in responding to crises in the region is a case in point.

In many ways the course is a product of a recognition of the increasing importance of the role that non-traditional actors are playing in humanitarian response – a development too significant to ignore given the likely impact on the principles and practices that have for years underpinned the traditional humanitarian system. The Asia-Pacific region displays particularly important aspects of this as it is not only the site of a range of humanitarian crises, but also an area where national entities, regional bodies and civil societies are playing an increasing role in responding to them.

The syllabus mirrors these developments: the emerging humanitarian roles of Asian countries; the contributions that the private sector and national militaries can make when disaster strikes; the response of South-East Asian states to Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar; and the role of national, regional and international bodies in responding to emergencies. Speakers included Ross Mountain, former Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General (DSRSG) in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Peter Leahy, former Chief of the Australian Military; Dr. William Sabandar, former Special Envoy to the Secretary-General of ASEAN on Post-Nargis Recovery; Dr. Jemilah Mahmood, founder of Mercy Malaysia and Research Fellow at King’s College; and Prof. Mark Evans, Director of the Australia and New Zealand School of Governance (ANZSOG). Participants also had the opportunity to learn about the emergency management system in China from a range of scholars at NIEM-CAG. A particular highlight of the course was a guest lecture by Prof. Lan Xue, Dean of the School of Public Policy at Tsinghua University and a highly respected advisor to the State Council and the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

There is an exciting atmosphere here in Beijing in the wake of the 18th Congress of the CPC, which ushered in a new leadership. As China makes this transition, the course provided a unique opportunity to better understand how disaster management is integrated into a wider process of governance reform, and how China is developing its role as an international humanitarian actor.

In our discussions with colleagues here in Beijing it is already becoming clear that engaging with China and other key actors in Asia will be critical in order to contribute to shaping the evolution of an international humanitarian system that embraces difference and sustains diversity.

This week represents a significant contribution to that debate.


The Advanced Course on Crisis, Recovery and Transitions is held in partnership with the National Institute of Emergency Management at the Chinese Academy of Governance, with support from the Australia and New Zealand School of Government (ANZSOG) at the University of Canberra and the Post-war Reconstruction and Development Unit (PRDU) at the University of York.