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World Humanitarian Summit: Committing to action

The World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), held in Istanbul on 23-24 May, marked the first time the humanitarian sector has come together on such a large scale. UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, conceived it as a way to draw attention to growing global humanitarian crises. This unprecedented event represents an opportunity to strengthen our collective responsibility to prevent conflicts, respond effectively to emergencies and disasters and to bring about sustainable change in marginalised communities. The commitments made in Istanbul provide a compelling agenda for a collaborative global approach based on addressing the root causes of humanitarian disasters.

The global humanitarian system has never reached more people in so many places, but the current scale and complexity of the different crises have proven it insufficient. The distribution of aid has been one of the most debated issues in the humanitarian sector. According to the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien, less than 2% of all funding goes directly to local NGOs despite the fact that they take the majority of the risks – something All We Can has actively sought to redress in our unique approach to partnership work. Participants of the summit gave emphasis to an integral approach which considers preventing and resolving conflicts, addressing climate change, upholding human rights, and building inclusive societies. The summit called states to develop humanitarian policies at home as well as to support local and national responders on the frontline and to improve the use of cash and flexible funding.

An important outcome of the summit was the ‘Grand Bargain’, a package of reforms to humanitarian funding. Thirty representatives of donor and aid agencies proposed 51 commitments to make emergency aid finance more efficient and effective. The Grand Bargain commits to a target of 25% of humanitarian funding going directly to local NGOs by 2020. This initiative also proposes using cash, in conjunction with clear and accountable processes of distribution, to help deliver greater choice and empowerment to affected people and to strengthen local markets. Should the commitments of the Grand Bargain be respected, people affected by disasters in the Global South will play a more active role in reconstructing their lives and deciding their own future. 

Including people receiving aid in the processes of making the decisions that affect their lives needs to be a priority for the humanitarian sector. All We Can’s work through local partner organisations, which are already rooted in the communities they work with, has enabled women, men and children to reconstruct their lives and protect themselves against future risks. Where no local organisations are active, All We Can channels its support through specialist international organisations. For example, All We Can’s partnership with Medair in Jordan focuses on improving opportunities for livelihoods for refugees, assisting children and promoting good health practices. Providing support for emergency relief in humanitarian crises is essential, but All We Can also believes that long-term development, delivered by local partners who know the communities they work in, is the most effective way of bringing about sustainable change in marginalised communities.

Jason Snuggs, All We Can’s Humanitarian Aid Manager, said, “This summit is a historic moment as it shows that world leaders are aiming to address humanitarian issues in a more coherent and holistic way. All We Can is pleased to hear the focus is on enabling people in disaster struck regions to have more decision making power in their own lives and this is something All We Can embraces through its commitment to working with communities at a grass-roots level. This summit provides opportunities for governments and NGOS to find better ways of working together in the future. The challenge now is to ensure these opportunities are taken and commitments honoured.”

Find out more about All We Can’s humanitarian aid work here 

About the Author Valeria Llano-Arias

Valeria Llano-Arias is the Advocacy Coordinator at All We Can. She has been researching and working on international development and environmental issues for over ten years. She is passionate about cycling and enjoys learning more about communication for development and social change.

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