By Ben Parker*
LONDON, 10 May 2016 (IRIN) – Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending the upcoming World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul and Russia is refusing to be bound by the results of a process it says failed to include its views.
A Russian statement, obtained by IRIN, says any outcomes of the summit would not be legitimate grounds to change the UN’s emergency aid setup.
In the strongly-worded statement circulated to member states of the UN last week but not previously reported in the media, Russia says “with great disappointment” it has concluded that the World Humanitarian Summit has left the views of UN member states “on the sidewalk” in “alarming circumstances”.
Summit spokesman Herve Verhoosel told IRIN in an emailed response that the conference was always designed to be more inclusive than just a meeting of states: “This is the result of three years of consultations, which have repeatedly stressed inclusiveness.”
Verhoosel said Russia had been involved in two regional consultations and had had numerous opportunities to put its points across. Member states “have a great opportunity to come together to effect change”, along with other stakeholders, he said, adding that outcomes can be discussed by member states at the UN’s formal processes later this year.
Summit organisers had better news yesterday when they were able to announce that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will attend. Merkel is the first leader of a G7 country to confirm so far. While the leaders of Central African Republic, Kuwait, Lebanon, Netherlands, and Niger, among others, have been confirmed, dozens more have yet to be publicly announced.
The Russian mission to the UN told IRIN via email that Deputy Minister of Emergency Situations Vladimir Artamonov will lead the summit delegation, which will also include officials from the ministry of foreign affairs. (In diplomatic terms, sending a deputy minister to attend a high-profile summit signals very limited enthusiasm.)
Russia also said it will not feel bound by the so-called “core commitments” devised by the summit organisers, which it said implied “far-reaching obligations”.
The five core commitments are: reducing and preventing conflict, upholding humanitarian law, making sure fewer people are “left behind”, reducing risk as well as bigger and better financing.
Verhoosel said the core commitments were based “on issues raised by thousands of people” and are “anchored in existing inter-governmental and legal frameworks”.
The Russian statement says the way the preparations have wrapped up and given “preference to some stakeholders at the expense of others” are “absolutely inadmissible”.
The format of events at the summit would diminish the role of the governments “deemed to play a decisive role in conduct of the humanitarian assistance”, the statement continues.
Last week emergency medical agency MSF decided to pull out of the summit, partly because powerful governments, including Russia, were not being held to account for the harm caused to civilians in today’s conflicts.
The two-day summit, due to start in Istanbul on 23 May, will assemble 6,000 people from governments, aid agencies, affected communities, civil society and the private sector.