National governments gathered in Istanbul this week to work on the first World Humanitarian Summit, an outgrowth of last year’s international climate change conference and the UN’s new Sustainable Development Goals. Over 60 leaders came together, including 50 heads of state and government to rework and codify international humanitarian operations.
Said David Miliband, chairman and chief executive of the International Rescue Committee, in a speech at Georgetown in April:
“The most significant problem is the fact that the expectations of those who receive the aid cannot be met within [the current humanitarian aid] framework [steered by the UN, the International Red Cross and Red Crescent, and large international nongovernment organizations]. One of the most important dilemmas in the field of humanitarian aid is the general sense of dissatisfaction in regions that receive aid.”
Recent estimates cited by NPR suggest that 125 million people across the world need humanitarian aid.
This number approaches 2% of the entire world population. About 60 million have been displaced, either by natural disasters brought on by climate change, or by violence—which some have traced back to roots in climate disturbances, as in Syria. Nancy Lindborg, president of the United States Institute of Peace (a congressionally funded agency) summarized the sense of the meeting that the world has gotten better at dealing with the former but not the latter.
The Humanitarian Summit participants avowed support for the UN Secretary-General’s Agenda for Humanity and its five Core Responsibilities. They agreed on the following points:
- The need to use prevention to reduce and end conflicts
- Sustained engagement to reach political solutions, and
- Greater investment in peaceful and inclusive societies.
The graphics presented here summarize the means to implement these goals. Leaders also acknowledged that the goals can only be achieved with sustained political and financial resources.
The Humanitarian Summit concluded with majority agreement on a Grand Bargain. The bargain includes countries, agencies, and large NGOs providing more money and directing more resources to local governments and NGO local branches. Like the current UN agenda, it also involves an effort to end humanitarian need in the coming decades. Download the Secretay-General’s full summit report, “One Humanity, Shared Responsibility,” here.
Turkey’s role has special importance because the nation volunteered to sponsor the Humanitarian Summit, despite a change in leadership and recent public dissent about government actions. Turkey’s aid status falls between traditional Western humanitarian donors and emerging groups in Brazil, India, and China.
The nation has a powerful reputation for extensive cooperation with local organizations in a way that the usual Western organizations cannot emulate. It also shelters more than 2.7 million refugees from the Middle East and North Africa—more than all 28 nations in the European Union.
The NPR report notes also that the EU lags far behind on its share of humanitarian aid. Turkey has spent $10 billion on the crisis so far. Turkey will hold a follow-up meeting of LDC in Antalya at the end of this month.