E-Conference!? Technology for the good!

Before the E-Conference I thought that technology was used more for the bad, than for the good. This event learned me that you can use modern technology for the good! I learned a lot about the field experiences from others and how to deal with the different strategies. I learned especially from the cases in Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo and on how to apply International Humanitarian Law. We came to know each other, shared our learning experiences and learned how our colleagues deal with challenges. These were some of the comments from Humanitarian Aid workers of the ACT Alliance network who participated in an E-Conference on Humanitarian Assistance & International Law. See video:

Humanitarian Assistance and International Law
On the 25th May 2010 members from the ACT Alliance had a kick-off with the seminar Humanitarian Assistance & International Law (HAIL). This 2-week seminar will deal about the four principles of HAIL; 1. Humanity, 2. Neutrality, 3. Impartiality and 4. Indepedence. Main purpose of the meeting is to link theoretical principles with the reality of the work in the field. The 24 participants coming from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin-America will share 'best practices,' 'challenging cases' and 'possible scenario's ' on how to apply HAIL during interventions where Humanitarian Aid is needed after natural disasters and armed conflicts. The seminar is an initiative of ICCOenKerkinActie and the ACT Alliance, facilitated by the Hendrik Kraemer Institute.

The E-Conference
As a preperation for this 2-week seminar the Hendrik Kraemer Institute facilitated (led by Aart Verburg and Simon Koolwijk) an E-Conference in February - March, 2010. Main objective was to 1. Identify cases and issues for the seminar, 2. Share experiences about the application of the 4 principles of HAIL in the field and 3. To get acquainted, to build trust and a good atmosphere amongst the participants. The electronic conference lasted 6 weeks. Web 2.0 tools used for the virtual seminar were skype and d-groups. During the first week the participants introduced each other through the d-group (a listserver mail) on their function, favorite literature and expectations for the e-conference. The second week one of the participants from Angola introduced a case. For 2-weeks similar experiences and questions were shared by e-mail discussions, and it was finalized with a skype conference meeting. Since we had to deal with time spans in different parts of the world, three tele-conference meetings of one-and-half hour with 6 participants each were held per day. This phase was followed by a second case coming from the Democratic Republic of Congo. Again using the same rythm and procedures.

BenefitsParticipants gained the following benefits from the E-Conference
1. Humanitarian Aid workers learned and got to know about each other's practical experiences in the field in applying International Humanitarian Law;
2. It helped to identify burning issues and learning questions for the face-to-face seminar in May-June 2010;
3. It created a group atmosphere amongst the participants and created a feeling of facing similar situations in providing humanitarian assistance in the field. This paved the way to an easy and successfull start of the face-to-face seminar.


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