World Humanitarian Summit: With a shared agreement on what to fix, we can save lives and end need
16 May 2016 by Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Assistant Secretary-General, UNDP Assistant Administrator, Crisis Response Unit Leader
Many of the statistics around the World Humanitarian Summit are so big they can be hard to comprehend. Most importantly, there is the scale of the humanitarian challenges that led the Secretary-General to convene the Summit in the first place.
It’s the 125 million people needing humanitarian assistance – the highest level since the Second World War. It’s the 60 million people who have fled their homes - half of them children. It’s the fact that armed conflicts last longer than before, and it’s the estimated 218 million people annually who are affected by disasters, with climate change adding further volatility to the mix.
Secondly, there is the Summit itself. Over the last three years, 23,000 people in 153 countries were involved in the consultations. Then, on 23 and 24 May in Istanbul, around 6,000 participants are expected to come together for the Summit itself, including global leaders from government, business, aid organizations, civil society, affected communities and youth, among others.
When the challenges are so overwhelming, and so many people have a role to play in the solution, how do we know where to start? How do 5,000 participants over two days work out how to meet the urgent humanitarian needs of 125 million people?
There is one word that will make a significant difference: coherence. In other words, the humanitarian and development sectors need to find new ways to work together to help people in need. We should be working more effectively across institutional boundaries to help prevent and prepare for crises and to help people recover more quickly and build resilience during crises.
For example, humanitarian actors play a critical role in delivering food, shelter and other life-saving support to people living in refugee camps. We must remain vigilant in protecting humanitarian workers and upholding the legal frameworks that allow them to do their work.
At the same time, development workers can help to create much-needed job opportunities, so that people can support their families again with dignity and get back on their feet more quickly. Development workers can also support host communities, ensuring that local services and job markets are not overwhelmed by the influx of refugees.
They're different approaches, but working coherently together we can have a greater impact on building resilience and helping communities cope with crises. We also need to increase the levels of joint investment in preparedness and risk reduction by humanitarian and development actors. Coherence is also about drawing on long-term development solutions to address the root causes of displacement, conflict and other crises.
There has already been strong inter-agency cooperation between development and humanitarian actors in the lead up to the Summit. We have been working closely together on a firm set of commitments to be made in Istanbul and the collaboration will continue during and after the event.
We must keep in mind that the World Humanitarian Summit will be a beginning, not an end. It should be one step in a serious process of changing the way humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors work together to address common challenges. With a shared agreement on what we need to fix, plus the crucial political will, we can change lives and end need.