The 2018 NGO Seminar on International Disaster Relief was held on December 18th, organized by the China Charity Alliance and the Research Center for Risks Governance and Innovation of the Beijing Normal University. According to presentations given at the seminar, Chinese NGOs have participated in relief work for more than 20 severe disasters and emergencies internationally since 2011, including the Nepal earthquake in 2015, the Phuket boat capsizing and the Tham Luang cave rescue in 2018.
The April 2015 Nepal earthquake was the largest for Chinese NGOs in terms of their personnel and resource contribution. Staff and volunteers from more than 23 social organizations carried out a wide variety of relief work on the ground, from rescuing people, sanitizing water and distributing supplies to providing care. Many organizations have since stayed to help the local areas recover in the long term, and a few of them have registered a local office.
However, it is still the early stages for Chinese NGOs participating in international disaster relief. The seminar concluded that there are three key aspects for improvement. First of all the NGOs themselves need to increase their organizational capacity. The rescue teams hardly ever meet professional standards for conducting disaster relief and thus put themselves at risks. Secondly, coordination between NGOs is seriously lacking. A mechanism should be established for communication and sharing resources between NGOs when carrying out relief work. The third aspect is the absence of government regulations regarding NGOs’ role in international disaster relief. Although a draft of the “Foreign Aid Management Law” was released in 2018, it did not make clear whether the regulations apply to NGOs.