First we listen: my picks for the ACFID Conference on Day One

Sophie Jenkins

17 Oct, 2019

For myself and my colleagues at Mary MacKillop Today, the ACFID Conference provides a vital opportunity to take a step back from the day-to-day in order to engage more deeply with current debates, ideas and approaches in the sector. For me it represents a wonderful opportunity to connect with a range of actors united around a common purpose.

In light of growing calls for genuine action on climate change globally, and particularly during the recent Pacific Islands Forum, I am eager to hear directly from Pacific leaders who live and lead at the ‘front-line’ of this issue. I look forward to both the International Keynote from former Prime Minister of Tuvalu, Enele Sopoaga MP, and the First We Listen: In Conversation with Pacific Leaders panel discussion to deepen my understanding of Pacific perspectives, particularly regarding the role the Australian aid and development sector can play in generating meaningful dialogue and genuine action on this urgent issue.

These reflections should also provide an important perspective as we head into the afternoon panel discussion, Clarity or Chaos? Development Co-Operation in a Time of Contestation. The use of foreign aid as a tool for advancing Australia’s geopolitical priorities is not a new phenomenon yet is increasingly becoming a central issue for the Pacific region. Representing an organisation working in the Pacific, I will be listening with interest to the Panel’s perspective on how the current geopolitical climate will shape Australia’s priorities and intent in the region into the future.

As always, the afternoon concurrent sessions offer a diverse array of engaging speakers, topics and formats, making it very difficult to decide which to attend! Ultimately, my pick is - When disability rights movements lead: rethinking approaches to sustainable development. Mary MacKillop Today’s work in Papua New Guinea has a strong focus on disability inclusion and we are continually exploring how our work can best align with, learn from and support the goals of disability rights movements that are active in our program areas.

Increasingly our sector is recognising the value of engaging disability rights advocates. These voices are vital in ensuring our efforts address rather then reinforce the barriers faced by people with disability. Yet often these organisations are relegated to an advisory role, sharing their vital knowledge and experience at key intervals with little formal decision-making authority within program governance. I was therefore drawn to this session to understand the perspectives of individuals within disability rights movements on how these actors can be central to processes of change and importantly, decision-making, in human rights, development and humanitarian action.

As always, the ACFID Conference program for 2019 is bursting with new ideas and important debates. I look forward to the opportunity to meet, learn from and share with other members throughout the Conference and the side events.

As a Co-Convenor of the Papua New Guinea Community of Practice, I will also take this opportunity to invite all delegates with an interest in PNG to come along to our lunch-time meeting on Thursday 24 October. I am also involved with the Pawa Liklik NGO Forum hosted by the Kokoda Track Foundation on Tuesday 22 October, and would encourage representatives of small to mid-sized NGOs to come along to learn and share during this exciting event! Further information and tickets are available on the KTF website:

  • Sophie Jenkins
    Sophie Jenkins

    Sophie Jenkins is the Partnerships and Performance Group Leader at Mary MacKillop Today overseeing the delivery of ‘Learning for Life’ programs in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji and Peru, while managing organisational learning, effectiveness and compliance. Sophie has held several positions with Mary MacKillop Today (previously Mary MacKillop International) since 2014 before which she was engaged with a range of organisations focusing on gender equity in Australia, Canada and India. Sophie holds a Masters of International Development, Forced Migration and Refugee Studies from the University of New South Wales and is currently a Co-convenor of ACFID’s Papua New Guinea Community of Practice. 

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