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Event Details

Breaking the Mould Conference
Disaster Interventions, Climate Change, Community Resilience and Humanitarian Aid when Empowering Local Communities

Wednesday, 1 August 2012 to Friday, 3 August 2012


Calman Learning Centre, Durham University, Durham, UK

Keynote Speakers:

Baroness Valerie Amos, Head of OCHA

Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, General Secretary Sarvodaya, Sri Lanka

Prof Vishanthie Sewpaul, KwaZulu Natal University, South Africa

Prof Abye Tasse, University of Nouakchott, Mauritania

Conference Flyer

Breaking the Mould Conference Programme

Societies are facing increasing levels of risk and uncertainty in disaster situations. This makes delivering humanitarian aid in disaster situations a complicated and controversial subject. Whilst there are numerous examples of good practice that relief workers can point to, there are also countless instances of exploitative and/or inappropriate interventions that those receiving aid have to contend with. This conference asks whether it is time for a paradigm shift in the manner in which aid is delivered and who can be legitimately involved in such work. What are the agendas that donors should respond to if they are trying to empower local recipients? What can be learnt from research and practice in this regard? The following issues will be explored during the conflict:

Getting back to normal
Decisions about changes to be made in communities following disasters are complicated. Crucial to the matter is which actors are involved and why. Restoring situations to their previous state may be the desired outcome for some, but is it always appropriate? Can reconstruction processes provide opportunities for positive change? This theme explores the processes and actors involved in answering these questions including the relationships between local residents, NGOs and state players.

Forming egalitarian partnerships with disaster survivors
Donor-recipient aid relationships have frequently been criticised for disempowering local people. This theme investigates the challenges involved in forming partnerships with disaster survivors which avoid oppressive social relations and respect local cultures, governance structures and ways of working.

Internationalising institutions and professional practices in aid situations
The diverse actors who respond to disasters include UN agencies, INGOs, other institutions, informal groups and individuals. Some of these actors employ social capital to achieve their goals within networks based on non-contractual relationships that can be local or global. This theme explores how institutions and professional practices ‘internationalise’ in disaster situations and the significance of such actions for local residents, humanitarian agencies and the professionals involved.

Hazards, risk and resilience in disaster prone communities
There has been an increasing focus on risk assessment, disaster-preparedness and resilience. This theme considers how international and local actors assess risk, and build capacity and resilience through all phases of disasters.

Climate Change Disasters
Over-reliance on fossil fuels has led to environmental degradation, energy insecurity and populations movements. This theme explores two concerns: how nation-states respond to climate refugees seeking humanitarian responses; and how renewable energy approaches can contributed to preventing climate change disasters.

‘Indigenous’/locality specific ways of helping in disaster situations
Local practices can be overlooked in disaster situations. This theme explores the contribution of existing local knowledges, values and rituals, including spiritual, religious and other belief systems in helping disaster survivors cope with the immediate aftermath and longer term healing.

'Best practices' in disaster interventions
Disaster interventions have sometimes lacked regulation and thorough evaluation. It is therefore difficult to be sure of their quality in terms of lasting benefits for local people. This theme considers examples of 'best practice' in disaster interventions and how the strengths they exemplify can inform other work.

Knowledge Exchanges and Transfers in Disaster Interventions
Different academic disciplines offer specific expertise in disaster interventions. However, there is limited opportunity for academics, policymakers, practitioners and local residents to share knowledges and develop new ones in egalitarian partnerships. This theme examines situations where this has been attempted (successfully or not) in the hopes of improving knowledge exchanges and transfers.

Researching across borders
Conducting effective evaluations and other research about international disaster interventions often calls for research across borders. This theme explores issues and challenges which arise during such processes, how these have been addressed, and examples of effective research.

Accountability in disaster responses
There is increasing recognition that responses to disasters include a range of significant actors -INGOs, NGOs, states, religious bodies, civil society organisations, groups and individuals working through informal networks, who mobilise social capital. These may operate in the local area where the disaster took place or on a wider geographical basis, including international mobilisations of resources and people. This theme explores the range of actors who contribute to disaster responses ,their relationships with each other/residents and asks, Who holds them accountable?

Those wishing to present should send abstracts of no more than 300 words to Pamela McKenney at by 4th May 2012.

  • Full Residential Package (GBP 350.00)
    Full Residential Package includes bed and breakfast accommodation for 3 nights from Tuesday 31st July at Collingwood College, lunch and refreshments during the conference and the Conference Dinner on Wednesday 1st August at Durham Castle. Also included is a choice of visit to one of the following: Durham Cathedral/Durham Castle/Palace Green Library Exhibitions on Wednesday 1st August.
  • 3 Day Delegate Package - Wednesday to Friday Inclusive (GBP 100.00)
    Day Package includes attendance at the conference for three days, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to include lunch and refreshments each day.
  • Day Delegate Package - Wednesday 1st August (GBP 50.00)
    Day Package includes attendance at the conference on Wednesday 1st August including lunch and refreshments. You will also have the option to book through your registration onto this package, for the Conference Dinner at Durham Castle for £40.00 per person
  • Day Delegate Package - Thursday 2nd August (GBP 50.00)
    Day Package includes attendance at the conference on Thursday 2nd August including lunch and refreshments.
  • Day Delegate Package - Friday 3rd August (GBP 50.00)
    Day Package includes attendance at the conference on Friday 3rd August including lunch and refreshments.