In 1988, EZE, Germany along with Centre for Research on New International Economic Order (CReNIEO) and United Evangelical Lutheran Churches (UELCI) had facilitated a consultation with selected NGOs to respond to a severe drought situation in Orissa. To address to the immediate situation and to follow it up with long-term measures, a collective of selected Non Government Organisations was formed in 1988, which was named as ‘Orissa Drought Action Forum’–ODAF in short. Over the next five years, the focus broadened from drought to development and enabled the Forum to address the issues of sustainable development through a guided vision and long term strategy towards a secure sustainable livelihood. To be in sync with the vision mission, the collective was renamed as ‘Orissa Development Action Forum’ in 1996; the acronym ODAF remained unchanged. It was formally registered as a society in 1997. It obtained the FCRA-registration in the year 2002. Now it has a membership of 12 NGOs.
As of July 2017 Orissa Development Action Forum (ODAF) completed 29 years of its existence since its inception in 1988.ODAF is a collective of NGOs who had come together to address drought and later on evolved to address sustainable development issues through a long term systematically designed with people’s participation - apeople’sdevelopment plan. Then EZE, laterEEDand now Bread for the World- Protestant development Service (Brot fur die welt - BfdW) all these organistionshas been a constant supporter and had sustained in accompanying ODAF’s work in promoting several sustainable development processes and approaches that are people centred.
The composition of ODAF is characterised by a diversity of Partner NGOs with regard to their respective worldviews and concepts as well as developmental praxis and organisational realities. During its 29 years of existence ODAF contributed to the development with a reasonable degree of commonality and coherence between the members and approaches to sustainable development.
The forum Partners are relatively independent and have their own vision and mission. Some members are multi-funded and therefore they are engaged in various programmes. ODAF had laid out a 23-point criteria, which ensures the members to, by and large, relate to the stated vision and mission of ODAF and a self-imposed code of conduct.
As for as ODAF concerned several spaces and opportunities were created by EZE at the National level to initiate dialogue to form several Drought Action Forums, Dialogue Group, Complex Forms of Cooperation, Common forum and Issue based Forums, Dialogue between South African Civil Society after the liberation from racial discrimination, interface with German Parliamentarians and their visit to the working areas of EZE supported remote regions. Till 2002, there were 24 such forums initiated by EZE leadership in India. ODAF took the leadership to facilitate the Govindpur Forums from I to IV events and form the Forum of Collective Forms of Cooperation (FCFC) in 2002 to 2005. In the formation of Water and Democracy initially played a joint role on issues related to water and democracy in the context of privitisation of water resources which is a common good. Apart from these efforts ODAF also played a crucial role in the formation of a network that addresses Climate change and Climate justice issues and participation in UNFCCC-COP meetings from the perspectives of eco-system victims of global warming and climate change. But these initiatives are a small beginning to voice out and ventilate the issues of the marginalised and victims of dominant development paradigm. ODAF needs to hold the grip of the struggle for justice and peace not only in BfdW-EWDE funding areas but globally, because the root causes of the issues of poverty, injustice, gender justice, issues related to children, agriculture – food security and food soverignity, health and education, climate and eco-justice is no more localised but global. FMSF with EZE/EED/BfdW support still continues to play a role of facilitator in capacity building in the areas of Finance Management (SOP) and Reporting (OIO) and sharing information on Government Policies, Acts, Bills and Amendments that are important to Civil Society and ODAF is one of the partner in building capacity to NGOs on Finance Management. ODAF as a forum did take supportive leadership in the joint initiatives of EZE, EED and now BfdW-EWDE. ODAF was part of four external evaluation in the year 1997, 2004, 2010 and 2013.
The given momentum and the political and economic situation bulldozed by MNCs, International Financial Institutions and the Governments of developed world have been continuously forcing the so called democratic countries, particularly India to align with their global agenda of capital and market driven globalism project with a neo liberal economic conspiracy. This Armageddon process have directly impacted and affected the livelihood resources of millions of people whose economy is based on effective management of natural resources through sustainable practices.
Keeping in mind the above changes, ODAF looks forward to continuously face the challenges and critic the policies that are displacing people from their habitats and deny the right to live and access to their livelihoods through anti people, anti environment, anti democratic, anti development and market forces.
ODAF through demonstration and strengthening sustainable practices and establish at certain level direct democracy and facilitate participatory democracy to achieve the real people's rule through local self governance mechanism and create conducive instruments of decision making for, with and by the people.
Regarding programme thrust, ODAF activities continuously changed and moved closer to the vision and mission, stated objectives and the strategies to combat and initiate People Centered Sustainable Development Processes, focusing on Sustainable Livelihood.
Constantly through forum activities, Capacity Building Programmes were initiated to cope up with the emerging trends and the context in the changing scenario of the impact and onslaught of globalization.
The stake holders and the clientele also change from focusing economically marginalized to socially and culturally marginalized communities - the Adivasis, Dalits, Fisher folk and the Farming communities. We also envisage change in the geographic location due to inevitable conditions that followed due to natural disasters- cyclones, recurring floods in the context of climate changeand persistent dominant development.
ODAF is engaged to strengthen the individual member NGOs capacity in the areas of empowerment, alternative education process, sustainable practices of natural resources management-agriculture, forest, water, energy, land management towards food and income security and decentralized energy option using renewable natural resources - solar, water and biomass on alternative market mechanism.
One important dimension of ODAF future orientation will be its cooperation with movements and other forces in networking, lobbying and alliance building to critique the dominant development paradigm, work towards national and state polices that are favourable to the poor and demonstrate best practices of sustainable development and strive for building sustainable communities.
To further the process of empowerment of the Indigenous communities with focus on control and management of resources which is key to sustainable livelihood, Odisha Adivasi AdhikarAbhijan (OAAA), a collective of different people’s organisations and peoples’ networks in the areas of intervention of ODAF was facilitated in the year 2001. Since then it has been mobilizing communities to voice and demand the rights of the Adivasis and the mother Earth; relating to land, water, forest, bio-diversity and other livelihood resources and safeguard their language, spirituality, identity and culture. ODAF acknowledges the work of several staff members of member organizations who continue to struggle in remote areas for the cause of people’s development; some of them sacrificed their lives due to malaria and so on. The former Chairman of ODAF called the staff of ODAF as the development patriots and the soldiers of transformation. And, it is the People, the CBOs and the members of OAAA, who need special mention here that the existence of ODAF is meaningful due to their work and support.
ODAF will continue to engage to work among the indigenous people towards building sustainable communities. We would like to be reminded that the ODAF network almost completing 25 years of its existence sailing through good and bad times while continuing to share joys and sorrows with humbleness, shared values, wisdom, dignity and integrity. The past 25 years has been a long journeyof learning and enrichment for ODAF as well asOAAA
to re-strategize and recalibratetowards a just and sustainable society while ODAF actions of the past and in the current period is an educational engagement, ODAF needs to continue their work in the future too as we see the relaities today and in the future will be become more challenging to a collective like ODAF to sustain the values, development process and transformative approaches for replication and scaling up to reach to a larger community.