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Disaster Relief

From delivering aid to ending need: reflections on World Humanitarian Summit

by Alina O'Keeffe, Aid & International Development Forum

  •  May 27, 2016
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With an increasing number of people affected by humanitarian crisis and insufficient resources to ensure effective action, there is a compelling need for profound change in approach to humanitarian response and the system behind it.

125 MILLION people in need of humanitarian assistance
60 MILLION people forced from their homes
37 COUNTRIES affected
$20 BILLION needed

With growing anticipation to reach consensus on what reforms need to be put in place, the humanitarian community gathered in Istanbul, Turkey at the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) on 23-24 May. The global scale of the gathering and variety of stakeholders signified the urgency to address the pressing challenges before the humanitarian community.  

With 9,000 participants from 173 Member States, including 55 Heads of State and Government, hundreds of private sector representatives, and thousands of people from civil society and non-governmental organizations, this was the largest event in over 70 years of United Nations.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon called to commit to five core responsibilities as part of his report One Humanity: Shared Responsibility and Agenda for Humanity. He noted

“The WHS had truly been a unique opportunity for the global community to take responsibility to place people first: to secure their safety, to uphold their dignity, and to provide opportunities for a better future.”

ONLY 0.4% OF OFFICIAL DEVELOPMENT ASSISTANCE SPENT ON DISASTER PREPAREDNESS IN 2014.

It was recognised that humanitarian assistance cannot fulfil the needs of over 130 million people in need of aid in sustainable way and humanitarian crises can no longer be viewed in isolation from broader sustainable development efforts. A new coherent approach is required to shift focus from delivering aid to ending need.

It means creating ways to address root causes of the crisis and initiate whole systems change towards reducing displacement, supporting refugees and migrants, ending gaps in education and fighting to eradicate sexual and gender-based violence.

TODAY, 43% OF PEOPLE LIVE IN FRAGILE SITUATIONS. BY 2030 THAT NUMBER IS ESTIMATED TO CLIMB TO 62%.

One of the key priorities is to end conflicts, which is cause of over 80% of all humanitarian needs. Addressing current political and military unrest in over 37 countries requires global leadership and fit-for future humanitarian action.

Yet international medical organisation Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has pulled out of the WHS before it took place, as a result of lost confidence that the gathering will have positive impact on addressing the weaknesses in humanitarian action and emergency response in conflict areas.

To ensure accountability in Agenda for Humanity, the WHS put foundation for “Commitments to Action”, a new platform for all commitments made, whether individual or joint, to be publicly accessible in order to ensure accountability.

Summit achievements and updates on initiatives and partnerships launched at the Summit will be reported by the Secretary-General at the United Nations General Assembly in September. An annual update will review progress made in implementing what was committed against the Agenda for Humanity.

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