– We have arrived at the point of no return. At this very moment the world is witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since World War Two. We are experiencing a human catastrophe on a titanic scale: 125 million in dire need of assistance, over 60 million people forcibly displaced, and 218 million people affected by disasters each year for the past two decades.
More than $20 billion is needed to aid the 37 countries currently affected by disasters and conflicts.
Unless immediate action is taken, 62 percent of the global population– nearly two-thirds of all of us- could be living in what is classified as fragile situations by 2030.
Time and time again we heard that our world is at a tipping point. Today these words are truer than ever before.
The situation has hit home. We are slowly understanding that none of us is immune to the ripple effects of armed conflicts and natural disasters. We’re coming face to face with refugees from war-torn nations and witnessing first-hand the consequences of global warming in our own backyards. We see it, we live it, and we can no longer deny it.
These are desperate times. With so much at stake, we have only one choice to make: humanity. Now is the time to stand together and reverse the rising trend of humanitarian needs. Now is the time to create clear, actionable goals for change to be implemented within the next three years that are grounded in our common humanity, the one value that unites us all.
This is why the United Nations Secretary-General is calling on world leaders to reinforce our collective responsibility to guard humanity by attending the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit.
From May 23rd to the 24th, our leaders are being asked to come together in Istanbul, Turkey, to agree on a core set of actions that will chart a course for real change. This foundation for change was not born overnight. It was a direct result of three years of consultations with more than 23,000 people in 153 countries.
On the basis of the consultation process, the United Nations Secretary-General launched his report for the World Humanitarian Summit titled “One Humanity, Shared responsibility.
As a roadmap to guide the Summit, the report outlines a clear vision for global leadership to take swift and collective action toward strengthening the coordination of humanitarian and crisis relief.
Aptly referred to as an “Agenda for Humanity,” the report lays out ground-breaking changes to the humanitarian system that, once put into action, will promptly help to alleviate suffering, reduce risk and lessen vulnerability on a global scale.
The Agenda is also linked to the Sustainable Development Goals, which specifically maps out a timeline for the future and health of our world. Imagine the end of poverty, inequality and civil war by 2030. Is it possible? Undoubtedly so. Most importantly, the Secretary-General has called for measurable progress within the next three years following the Summit.
As such, the Summit is not an endpoint, but a kick-off towards making a real difference in the lives of millions of women, men and children. It’s an unprecedented opportunity for global leaders to mobilize the political will to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. So, how to take action?
The Agenda specifies five core responsibilities that the international community must shoulder if we expect to end our shared humanitarian crises. These core responsibilities offer a framework for unified and concentrated action to Summit attendees, leadership and the public at large. Once implemented, change will inevitably follow.
1. Prevent and End Conflict: Political leaders (including the UN Security Council) must resolve to not only manage crises, but also to prevent them. They must analyse conflict risks and utilize all political and economic means necessary to prevent conflict and find solutions, working with their communities – youth, women and faith-based groups – to find the ones that work.
The Summit presents a unique opportunity to gain political momentum and commitment from leaders to promote and invest in conflict prevention and mediation in order to reduce the impacts of conflicts, which generate 80 percent of humanitarian needs.
2. Respect Rules of War: Most states have signed and implemented international humanitarian and human rights laws, but, sadly, few are respected or monitored. Unless violators are held accountable each time they break these laws, civilians will continue to make up the vast majority of those killed in conflict – roughly 90 percent. Hospitals, schools and homes will continue to be obliterated and aid workers will continue to be barred access from injured parties.
The Summit allows a forum for which leadership can promote the protection of civilians and respect for basic human rights.
3. Leave No One Behind: Imagine being forcibly displaced from your home, being stateless or targeted because of your race, religion or nationality. Now, imagine that development programs are put in place for the world’s poorest; world leaders are working to diminish displacement; women and girls are empowered and protected; and all children – whether in conflict zones or not – are able to attend school. Imagine a world that refuses to leave you behind. This world could become our reality.
At the Summit, the Secretary-General will call on world leaders to commit to reducing internal displacement by 50 percent before 2030.
4. Working Differently to End Need: While sudden natural disasters often take us by surprise, many crises we respond to are predictable. It is time to commit to a better way of working hand-in-hand with local systems and development partners to meet the basic needs of at-risk communities and help them prepare for and become less vulnerable to disaster and catastrophe. Both better data collection on crisis risk and the call to act early are needed and required to reduce risk and vulnerability on a global scale.
The Summit will provide the necessary platform for commitment to new ways of working together toward a common goal – humanity.
5. Invest in Humanity: If we really want to act on our responsibility toward vulnerable people, we need to invest in them politically and financially, by supporting collective goals rather than individual projects. This means increasing funding not only to responses, but also to crisis preparedness, peacebuilding and mediation efforts.
It also means being more creative about how we fund national non-governmental organizations – using loans, grants, bonds and insurance systems in addition to working with investment banks, credit card companies and Islamic social finance mechanisms.
It requires donors to be more flexible in the way they finance crises (i.e., longer-term funding) and aid agencies to be as efficient and transparent as possible about how they are spending money.
Our world is at a tipping point. The World Humanitarian Summit and its Agenda for Humanity are more necessary today than ever before. We, as global citizens, must urge our leaders to come together at the Summit and commit to the necessary action to reduce human suffering. Humanity must be the ultimate choice.
*Herve Verhoosel is the Spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS), to be hosted in Istanbul on May 23-24. He was previously leading the Roll Back Malaria office at the UN in New York and was also Head of External Relations, Advocacy and Communication.
Before joining WHS/UN and RBM, Herve Verhoosel was a consultant for the International Crisis Group and George Soros’s OSI Foundation. Prior to that, Verhoosel worked for ten years in advocacy, external relations and communications. He also served as Spokesman for a member of the Belgian Government.