Pamela, Conflict Studies and Human Rights, Mines Action Canada, Columbian Campaign to ban the Landmines, Project Support Officer
Of the many things I have learned so far in my virtual placement, it is the importance of making the most out of a bad situation to overcome the obstacles that adversity presents. Resilience and adaptability have never been more important than now. This applies to not only institutions and organizations, but also to ourselves as individuals, so that we may acclimate to the challenges we currently find ourselves waist-deep in and, further, to prepare for the ones that are yet to come.
As I reach the halfway mark of my virtual internship, I have already learned much about the daily challenges of NGOs, each of which is heavily affected by current realities and past legacies of the nations in which they are based. Particularly, I am amazed at how the Colombian Campaign to Ban Landmines (CCBL) is confronting the unique challenges associated with a public health crisis while navigating distinctly tense contexts. Through my flexible position as general support for all matters involving project management and communications, I obtain exposure on how projects that have been painstakingly planned, budgeted, and approved are changing in real-time due to the complexities associated with, firstly, the COVID-19 pandemic and, secondly, the mounting hostilities between the Colombian government and its opposition. The contingencies arising from these, results in a very complex state of affairs that affect the CCBL’s reach. However, as part-time assistant for the Projects and Monitoring team and part-time assistant for the Victim Assistance/ Development and Community Liaison team, I am able to observe (and participate) the ways that my organization is working through these difficult times and unpredictable circumstances. For example, by creating, modifying, and implementing tools and strategies for mitigating the effects that these circumstances have on the outcomes of humanitarian projects.
Though I am based at home, nearly 5000 kilometers away from my colleagues at the CCBL, it is nonetheless exciting to see how the organization adapts despite the new challenges it faces. When it cannot implement existing strategies, the organization modifies said strategies, adapts the application of existing strategies according to the new disruptive contexts, or it creates new strategies altogether, the last of which interests me the most about my placement. Nevertheless, all of the foregoing actions are very complex and important as each method is crucial to ensuring that none of the beneficiaries of CCBL’s work, particularly the survivors of explosive artefacts and individuals who are predisposed to the effects of explosive artefacts, get left behind. Even when difficulties prevail, organizations like the CCBL still sound the alarm for those whose voices are silenced during tough times, leading me to my final point.
Humanity is currently at a point where, because of the effects of this pandemic, it can more easily identify and assess critical flaws in the social, health, and other systems that people heavily depend on during both times of crisis and times of normalcy. There is always room for continual improvement of monitoring/reporting strategies, feedback mechanisms, accountability practices, data and information management, and knowledge translation in the kinds of social networks fed, to varying degrees, by civil society: human rights networks, community assistance networks, humanitarian resource networks, communications networks, government victim assistance networks, and so forth. This time is an opportunity for unmatched and unprecedented growth. This is a chance for our industries and sectors (and ourselves) to innovate and grow in ways that we may not have seen otherwise, at least not at this pace. Notwithstanding the tensions and hardships felt across the planet, this period of history could be a testament to how individuals, communities, organizations, and societies are resilient but also responsive.
The experiences we live now are merely products of events that are out of our hands, but what we take from these experiences is entirely up to us. Personally, I hope to make the most out of the next 1.5 months by continuing to volunteer my energy efficiently and enthusiastically to assist my colleagues towards the CCBL’s mission and to contribute in the small ways I can to the betterment of civilian stakeholders affected by armed conflict in accordance with my mandate.