Air Date

May 16, 2024

Featured Guests

Steven Smith
President and CEO, Airlink

Marcia Wong
Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)

Claudine Zukowski
Senior Director, Community Impact, Procter & Gamble


Jennifer Miel
Vice President, Middle East, Central Asia, and Turkiye, U.S. Chamber of Commerce


This year, an estimated 300 million people worldwide will require humanitarian aid amidst conflict, natural disasters, and other emergencies. A strong, united response from the public sector is necessary to effectively address these issues and help affected communities recover.  

During the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 13th Annual Building Resilience Conference, Jennifer Miel, vice president, Middle East, Central Asia, and Turkiye at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, moderated a panel that provided actionable insights for the business community on strengthening humanitarian response. 

Organizations Must Assess Current Risks to Plan Humanitarian Response 

To provide the most effective response during a disaster, both private and public sectors must assess current risks. Marcia Wong, deputy assistant administrator of USAID’s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance, emphasized that response is about influencing, leveraging, and prospecting. 

“There is a [strong] focus to be strategic and as effective as one can be,” she said. “Locally led humanitarian action runs through it all.” 

Claudine Zukowski, senior director of community impact at Proctor & Gamble, described how the consumer products industry constantly evaluates how to respond to crises worldwide and the supplies provided.  

“After [basic] needs have been met…it’s all the other daily essentials that people look to…that give them a sense of normalcy,” she explained. “We work with organizations to…make sure we’re getting those products where they’re needed, when they’re needed.” 

Building Partnerships Ahead of Disaster Can Strengthen Humanitarian Response 

The best time to prepare for a crisis is before it happens. One way to strengthen humanitarian response ahead of disaster is by building partnerships. 

“We spend a lot of time building partnerships and listening to our partners about what is needed,” Zukowski said. “We want to be able to respond and get the resources where they’re needed as quickly as possible.”  

Steven Smith, president and CEO of Airlink, explained the necessity of securing funding for lesser-known disasters and concentrating on areas where an organization can make an impact. 

“There are a lot of great organizations out there that already have systems and structures in place. Invest in those systems,” said Smith. “Major humanitarian events are getting almost no funding and support. It is important to build these relationships in advance.” 

The Private Sector Must Embrace Agility and Collaboration Amid Crisis 

As the threats of climate change and natural disasters increase, organizations must remain agile and collaborate more effectively to support vulnerable populations. 

“We are irresponsible if we are not responding to the people who feel the effects the most, and it is those frontline communities,” Wong said. 

“Shrink the need, talk to these other partners, drive the resources in,” she shared. “There are communities in climate shock—we are trying to swing climate resources to these communities to adapt to the shocks.” 

“If we're going to be in the disaster relief space...we're going to help address as many needs as we can, even in areas where we have no business," added Zukowski.  

Smith said communicating with all stakeholders is key to providing a dynamic response. 

“[We are] not saying what might we do…but what will we do, where will the supplies come from, how can we support,” he said.