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“This digital solution from Romania will truly make a difference” – German Embassy in Bucharest and Code for Romania / Commit Global presented the project of a global platform

The German Federal Foreign Office is funding the Code for Romania / Commit Global's project "Digital Infrastructure for Humanitarian Aid" to build a global platform with €1.35 million. Today, 28 May, at the residence of the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Bucharest, H.E. Dr. Peer Gebauer, presented the project in partnership with Code for Romania / Commit Global.

The event was attended by about 70 representatives of Romanian authorities, international organisations, embassies, companies, NGOs and public institutions. Germany reiterated its commitment to support and expand this important initiative, recognising the transformative potential of the Digital Humanitarian Infrastructure project in revolutionising the way vulnerable populations receive aid.

Author: Commit Global

Fast access to humanitarian aid is crucial in a crisis situation. Therefore, the German Federal Foreign Office is funding the project “Humanitarian Assistance Digital Infrastructure” of the NGO Code for Romania / Commit Global with € 1.35 million to build a global platform.

This project was presented today at the residence of the German Ambassador, H.E. Dr. Peer Gebauer, in collaboration with the NGO Code for Romania / Commit Global. Guest speaker Dr. Raed Arafat, Secretary of State and Head of the Department of Emergency Situations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, shared valuable insights and emphasized the importance of such initiatives in today’s world, followed by Mr. Andrei Țărnea, representative of the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The event was attended by around 70 representatives of Romanian authorities, International Organizations, Embassies, companies, NGOs, and public institutions. Germany has reiterated its commitment to support and scale this great initiative, recognizing the transformative potential of the "Humanitarian Assistance Digital Infrastructure" project in revolutionizing how aid is delivered to vulnerable populations. The project is already being deployed in other critical areas around the world: Armenia, in response to the refugees leaving Nagorno-Karabakh; in the Republic of Moldova, on the prevention of natural hazards and population preparedness for disasters; in the Middle East, for prepositioning the ecosystem in the region through Lebanon and Jordan and initial phases of setting up in Central and Latin America to support in crises; in Africa, through one of the strategic partnerships signed with Pan-African Alliance for Citizenship covering East, Central, North, West and Southern African countries. With the support of the German Federal Foreign Office, humanitarian intervention will continue to transform globally.

The German Ambassador Dr. Peer Gebauer praised the project as an impressive example of how digital solutions can be used to improve humanitarian efforts, stating, “Germany is proud to support the development of the ‘Humanitarian Assistance Digital Infrastructure’ with € 1.35 million. The improved access to humanitarian aid by building a globally connected digital infrastructure will have a great effect. Those in need will be able to receive help more quickly and efficiently, as seen in the project’s pilot phase that supported Ukrainian refugees at the beginning of the Russian war of aggression against Ukraine. I would like to thank State Secretary Dr. Arafat and his team, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and all representatives of International Organizations and civil society for their joint efforts. I am deeply impressed by the work of Code for Romania / Commit Global. Their effort shows how, through intelligent software solutions and the commitment of all stakeholders involved, humanitarian aid can be better coordinated, and lives can be saved. This digital solution from Romania will truly make a difference.”

“We were born out of a disaster with the mission of strengthening the capacity of our first responders, but we ourselves became first responders when disaster hit”

Bogdan Ivănel, founder and president of Code for Romania / Commit Global, emphasized the importance of the project in today’s world: “First of all I want to thank Your Excellency for hosting this event and for all your strong support in the past years. Equally I want to thank the two other speakers, Mr. Arafat, who has been our most important institutional partner and anchor in Romania in the past 6 years, with whom we built and deployed technology that literally saves lives.

As well as Mr. Tarnea, representing the one institution in Romania, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, with whom our path forward is tied as Technology for Good coming from Romania reaches more and more places around the world.

Almost a decade ago Code for Romania was born out of one of the tragedies of modern Romania: The Devastating fire at Club Colectiv. The vision was a Romania more prepared for such disasters, a country made safer by a stronger civil society and effective first responders.

The means to do that were entirely non-standard for a civil society organization at that time: building technology. 

We were not the first organization in the world attempting to do that, but we rapidly became the most successful. Why? Because we did it differently. Me and the team that started the organization came from outside the technology world - a team of social scientists determined to channel the power of technology for social good. 

This kept us safe from the 2 types of hubris that way too many engineers experience: that good technology can be built by engineers alone and that technology by itself can solve problems. 

This meant that we built an organization anchored strongly in civil society and hosting more researchers, designers and project managers than engineers. 

The result: over 60 vital digital solutions that have been making Romania safer and more functional, an infrastructure for good - Infrastructura Binelui - as we like to call it. I am happy to have in the room today both some of our biggest supporters and funders and many of our partners from Romania’s civil society.

We were born out of a disaster with the mission of strengthening the capacity of our first responders, but we ourselves became first responders when disaster hit. Twice in the last 4 years we built and deployed together with the Department of Emergency Situations the digital infrastructure needed by Romania to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and the refugee crisis.

Those were the moments when we realized that the solutions we have been building in Romania are needed everywhere around the world and that nobody is providing them.

This is how Commit Global was born.

The fact that we live in a time of systemic crises is not a matter of perception anymore.

It increasingly feels like a race we cannot win and yet we consistently underuse and misuse the most effective scaling mechanism of today: technology. We have seen it scale businesses, we have seen it scale profit, we have seen it scale crime and we have seen it scale autocracy. If we are to win the race against the global crises we have to see it scale the power of the good guys, of our civil society and first responders. 

We have shown in Romania that well designed, well built technology deployed with attention to the needs of those on the ground can save lives, and not only can it save lives, but it saves and protects lives at scale. Through Commit Global, we took the model to a global level to match the crises of today.

The vision behind Commit Global is a vision of a shared global Humanitarian Infrastructure. 

Why shared? Because we do not have the resources to continue to work in silos. Each country for itself, each NGO for itself, each UN agency by itself. We simply do not have the financial resources and enough know-how to go around. Commit Global is an attempt to distill the know-how and capacity for digital response in the humanitarian field in one organization designed to serve all the others, building an economy of scale and effectiveness at much lower costs.

In a world where our response capacity is stretched to the maximum and very often have to choose between saving lives in Sudan or saving lives in Ukraine, technology is the one resource that can be shared among multiple stakeholders and among different geographies. 

The same case management system for the chronically ill can be used by UNICEF and Save the Children and by every other big or small charity that does similar work around the world. A secured evidence collection system can be used by International Courts, social workers or post disaster data collectors. We don’t need and we shouldn’t build the same digital infrastructure 70 times or 300 times and maintain it 300 times when we can build and maintain it once and deploy it to all the organizations that need it.

This is the 5th gear that has been eluding us for so many years in the fight with the global crises.

The advantage is not only lower costs, but less vulnerability, common standards, common data models and single entry points for the beneficiaries no matter whose services they access. The by-products are more traceability, accountability, transparency and respect for public money.

This is the vision that brought us and The German Federal Government together. A method and vision born in Romania is being taken to the global level by our partnerships and through the support of the German Foreign Ministry.

It is both financial and logistical support that makes sure this global digital infrastructure is up to the highest standards and free to use by civil society and government agencies around the world. 

And thanks to the German support we already see the results. Much of the infrastructure is already being redeployed right now to places as varied as Moldova, Armenia, Cyprus, Lebanon, Mexico or Jordan, to name just a few. 

Local branches of the Red Cross and of UN agencies, INGOs, public institutions and local civil society organizations are given free access to this global humanitarian infrastructure as we speak, scaling their reach, effectiveness on the ground and capacity to help millions instead of thousands. 

Most importantly, the example of Germany is followed by other countries that are joining the coalition of strategic partners behind Commit Global, understanding that we shouldn’t continue to duplicate efforts at a cost that we cannot afford, because as long as we continue to dilute our resources working in silos, civil society and our first responders will be left behind in the race for digitisation with all of us as victims. 

Making technology a tool for good is our mandate, but should be all our missions. 

However dedicated we might be, we can’t achieve something so ambitious without equally audacious and visionary partners. 

So we count on Germany, but we also count on all of you. 

It is up to us. Together.”

“The support that Germany is giving is a proof of the validity of what Code for Romania did until now.”

Dr. Raed Arafat, Secretary of State and Head of the Department of Emergency Situations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, shared valuable insights and emphasized the importance of such initiatives in today’s world: “Good morning everyone. Mr. Ambassador, first of all, thank you for inviting us and thank you for organizing this excellent meeting in my opinion, and very timely also, because looking around us we can see what the world is facing. We are facing crisis after crisis, emergency after emergency, whether it is related to climate change, whether it is related to human injuries like we would say in wars and so on, and yes, we need tools to be able to serve and work with the population that needs our help.

The Ukrainian response was one of the best examples. Romania really had a whole of society approach, a full whole of society approach during the Ukrainian crisis, and here where the civil society became part of our response and an extremely important partner in the way we worked with the Ukrainian refugees. And what Code for Romania did was to offer us a platform of one-stop shop for everyone that was designated for the Ukrainian refugees, and it made our life much easier, I would say, not our life as providers, but their life as people who are in need and who want to know where they can get everything, whether it was housing, whether it was specific type of aid, whether it was various materials that they needed, everything was there, even for us, for the government, we were requesting those who want to donate this or this or this, please, you can do it on this platform, they did it.

So I think that the integration of our work on a platform and the connection with those who are the beneficiaries was extremely important. So now I see that we have Germany with whom we have excellent cooperation in the field of civil protection, with agreements signed between Romania and Germany recently, and I would say that the support that Germany is giving is a proof of the validity of what Code for Romania did until now. We know also that they now have their base in the Netherlands, there is support coming from France, they are working with Lebanon, they are working with Jordan, so from this point of view I think that we are seeing already the success story going on and support from Germany will make this even more possible in the future.

So cutting things short, it's extremely important to have tools for us as emergency services, and it's extremely important to have them before the disasters take place, we should not be working on this during the disaster, we should be only adapting the tool to what is needed during the certain crisis. This is why I think that the funding is very important to build up the basis for those tools and then to be able to adapt them for every situation and use them. So thank you again Mr. Ambassador, thank you, and I wish you all the good luck, and of course we are partners, we will work together in anything that is needed for the future.”.

“The transformative role of an endeavor like Commit Global. It literally is the last step that allows us all, government, civil society and private sector to come together and actually tackle those challenges of the future today.”

Mr. Andrei Țărnea, the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative, also stated “Thank you very much. Your Excellency, dear Ambassador, thanks for hosting us, ambassadors, dear friends, the world is changing, you all know this, it does get more, to quote a famous American author, even more agglomerated and even more humid. When it becomes more dry, as a side effect of climate change, it becomes a world that is difficult to inhabit, for both man-made reasons and natural reasons that are inseparable to what we do to this planet.

All those things are known to you, but the world is changing also in a different way. Technology is changing society in ways that are so profound that no dimension of our work or life remains untouched. Thus, governments, civil society, and the private sector need to adapt, and we are slow to do that, we are bad at doing that in fact.

Code for Romania is not bad at doing that. There are parts of our civil society where specific sets of skills, knowledge, and a different way to look at the challenges come together. That's what we, as a government, lack.

We may have the talent, we may have the persistence, we may have the stubbornness sometimes, or the political will, or the votes, to actually do those things, but we lack that sort of mix of factors that allow us to be effective and, as Mr. Arafat said earlier, do it before disaster strike, disaster or the need, because Code for Romania does operate in the disaster management sector, but it's not their only area of action. Thus, we get to the main point of the reason why the Minister of Foreign Affairs just recently, a couple of weeks back, signed a cooperation agreement with Code for Romania and, more importantly, with Commit Global, to provide what we can bring to the table. We can bring to the table the network of Romanian embassies, our support in their global quote expansion, but in fact it's literally offering them the next, the first steps to opening the door, the rest is their work.

Why am I emphasizing this? Because there is an important element in this cooperation that needs to be underlined. This is not governments taking over NGOs. It's extremely important for organizations like Code for Romania to remain independent, to remain non-governmental organizations.

We are recognising the importance of support brought by the government of Germany or the Netherlands, the Hague is hosting the headquarters of Commit Global, we've seen tremendous positive response. I've heard this first and foremost from you, but also from our ambassadors in Latin America, in the Middle East, soon in North Africa and Asia. Those are important dimensions, to tap into that set of resources and to join efforts, but maintain the credibility, the flexibility and the specific nature of that talent mix that civil society does have and we lack.

And thus, keeping this entire endeavor authentic, our role here is to recognise their work, adapt to the needs of our society by using the best suited tool, whether it's about election monitoring or support for independent journalism or support for intervention in migration crisis or in refugee crisis or environmental disasters or war situations, whether civil war or cross-border wars. We've seen that with DOPOMOHA and the work that they've done to put together extremely rapidly a platform to support Ukrainian refugees streaming into Romania by the millions, but there's a lesson there. It wasn't from zero, it already had a DNA that I'm sure Bogdan is going to talk about in terms of infrastructure of skills, people and code, actual code to be made available for such an endeavor.

And that's I think the transformative role of an endeavor like Commit Global. It literally is the last step that allows us all, government, civil society and private sector to come together and actually tackle those challenges of the future today. So I'm very grateful for your work and for what your colleagues are doing in Romania but also now across continents and I can only reaffirm the support of the Romanian government and the Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in this important work.”.

Commit Global, the world’s first global non-governmental civic technology organization aims to provide an accessible global digital infrastructure so that government, international, and civil organizations can offer faster and more coordinated support in the wake of humanitarian disasters. Through previous projects, more than 20 million people have already received assistance.

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