Helen Mealins

Helen Mealins, Rachel Hayman and Dan James of INTRAC meet with staff from Community World Service Asia and ACT Church of Sweden – Oxford, September 2019

As I step down from my role as Chief Executive at INTRAC and hand over to my successor, Jim Emerson, I have been in a reflective mood.

Flicking back through past INTRAC Newsletters and Trustee Annual Reports, I find myself in awe of what INTRAC’s staff, consultants and partners have achieved together in the last few years. The breadth and depth of their work, supporting civil society organisations across the globe to achieve their objectives, is impressive. In 2018-19 alone INTRAC worked to influence policies and practice for a stronger civil society with 53 organisations across 45 countries, teaming with national consultants from Syria, Palestine, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan, India, Kyrgyzstan, Ukraine, Kosovo and Vietnam.

This year, as well as working to extend and support this network of national, committed capacity building professionals, INTRAC is focussed on identifying the behaviours, attitudes and practices that positively support and value Southern agency within development partnerships. One example of how this is being taken forward in practice (with CWSA – Community World Service Asia) is referenced in the 2018-19 Trustee Annual Report (see map on page 7).

I am particularly delighted that, after two years of mostly online discussions and just prior to me stepping down, my INTRAC colleagues and I had the pleasure of hosting representatives from CWSA and ACT Church of Sweden at INTRAC’s office in Oxford. We had come together to refine the design of a programme that will enable national and local organisations based in Asia – through the adoption and implementation of Quality and Assurance processes – to be active and more equal partners in internationally-funded humanitarian responses. Among the “principles of partnership” we established, we confirmed our collective commitment to pay attention to, and advance the delivery of, the localisation agenda. We committed as a group to “walk the talk” and assist CWSA as the leading Southern organisation to realise its vision for this programme.

This is just one highlight from the past few years at INTRAC that I will carry with me. Another was signing up in April this year to the CIVICUS ‘Belgrade Call to Action’ which called on UN Member States to accelerate progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and “take concrete steps to protect and enable space for civil society.” This saw INTRAC stand alongside over 135 civil society organisations, from more than 60 countries representing diverse sectors – education, human rights, health, social development, climate and environment, among others. The resultant draft political declaration of the high-level political forum on sustainable development, convened under the auspices of the General Assembly on 24-25 September 2019, responded directly to the call.

Handing over materials and resources to capacity building providers and civil society institutes working in Central Asia, and being able to thank them in person for their collaboration as INTRAC celebrated 25 years of working in Central Asia, was another highlight. The fact that INTRAC has been able to continue to work in the region following the closure of the office in Bishkek is important.

Being able to share my knowledge about charity governance with consultants working in the non-profit sector in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was particularly special as it provided me with the opportunity to travel to Jeddah and be inspired by some amazing women working there.

I could go on.

Taking stock of all that INTRAC has achieved in relation to its mission, the icing on the cake for me is that as a result of all the hard work, determination and commitment of everyone involved, INTRAC has emerged a more resilient and financially stronger organisation. Thank you for helping us achieve this. As I move to become an INTRAC associate, I hope that – like me – you will continue to support the amazing work that the INTRAC family does in support of civil society.