EXPERT VIEWS-What's come out of the World Humanitarian Summit?

by Alex Whiting and Megan Rowling | @AlexWhi | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Wednesday, 25 May 2016 13:37 GMT

A girl plays outside a tent at a makeshift camp for migrants and refugees at the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece, May 22, 2016. REUTERS/Kostas Tsironis

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U.N. and aid officials from around the world react to first World Humanitarian Summit

ISTANBUL, May 25 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The first ever World Humanitarian Summit generated some 1,500 commitments by governments, aid agencies, businesses and others to improve their response to people affected by conflicts and disasters.

But the absence of many of the world's most powerful leaders disappointed aid officials and led sceptics to question whether enough political will exists to end conflicts - one of the biggest drivers of humanitarian need.

So what did the summit, which ended in Istanbul on Tuesday, achieve? Here are some reactions:

BAN KI-MOON, UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY-GENERAL

"It is a bit disappointing that some world leaders could not be here - especially those from the G7 countries, except Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

"Divisions between the members of the Security Council have prevented progress in recent years, not only on critical issues of war and peace, but on even humanitarian affairs.

"That is why I make a special appeal to leaders of the nations that are permanent members of the Security Council to take important steps at the highest level. The absence of these leaders from this meeting does not provide an excuse for inaction. They have a unique responsibility to pursue peace and stability, and to support the most vulnerable.

"It's not the resources - if there is political will, if there is political commitment, then we can handle this matter."

WOLFGANG JAMANN, SECRETARY GENERAL, CARE INTERNATIONAL

"A lot of smaller initiatives have been launched - like the establishment of NEAR, a new local NGO consortium - and we are positive about the funding commitments made in the 'Grand Bargain' with increased and more flexible funding.

"However, the political dimensions of the demand for humanitarian assistance haven't been tackled sufficiently, and in particular the prevention and mitigation of conflict.

"Failure to address this at the summit - which was likely given the failure of key leaders to attend - was exacerbated by the failure to lay out a pathway to make progress in the future."

HELLE THORNING-SCHMIDT, CEO, SAVE THE CHILDREN INTERNATIONAL

"As the first ever World Humanitarian Summit comes to a close in Istanbul, one of the big successes has been on education for children affected by conflict. Participants have recognised that in an emergency, education cannot be an afterthought and have taken concrete steps toward ensuring children don't miss out on years of schooling."

SARA PANTULIANO, MANAGING DIRECTOR, OVERSEAS DEVELOPMENT INSTITUTE

"The commitments made at the summit have fallen short in substance and ambition and there is little clarity about how pledges that have been made will be taken forward and turned into reality.

"There have been exciting initiatives launched on the fringes, but it has been a missed opportunity to tackle the major problems at the heart of the formal humanitarian system that are so desperately needed.

"With all the talk about putting people at the centre of humanitarian action, there has been little to suggest the main players will put aside their institutional interests for those of people struggling to survive in crises."

MARIE-CLAUDE BIBEAU, CANADA'S MINISTER OF INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT AND LA FRANCOPHONIE

"The path is clear, and it's up to us now to go out and walk the talk. We have heard many commitments, pledges and a real desire to reform, innovate and work better globally.

"The World Humanitarian Summit has been a huge lift for the humanitarian community and our job is to ensure real change on the ground."

WINNIE BYANYIMA, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF OXFAM INTERNATIONAL

"The first World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul successfully brought together a dynamic mix of people who made progress on improving the humanitarian system - but ultimately it was world leaders who dodged their responsibility to protect civilians from the ongoing suffering of wars and natural disasters.

"Governments have continued to only pay lip service to accountability - their actions on international humanitarian law and gender equality fail to match their words. The 40 or so world leaders who did attend were overshadowed by conspicuous absences, itself revealing the lack of global political will to make the necessary changes for the people who need them most."

ELHADJ AS SY, SECRETARY GENERAL, INTERNATIONAL FEDERATION OF RED CROSS AND RED CRESCENT SOCIETIES (IFRC)

"Some of the outcomes of the summit, including the 'Grand Bargain', the increased recognition given to local action and local actors, and the emphasis placed on putting communities at the centre of our work, should help strengthen our response.

"Ultimately, the success of this summit is determined by what happens next; by our ability to translate these ideas and momentum into actions that improves the lives of the world's most vulnerable."

(Reporting by Alex Whiting and Megan Rowling, editing by Alisa Tang. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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