UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey on Monday May 23rd2016.
The summit gathered under one roof, people with vested interest in improving the global humanitarian system, including more than 65 Heads of State and Government as well as leaders from the public and private sectors.
The chief host, the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, was ably surrounded by relief activists and international celebrities to urge the global community to shape a different future for the world.
The UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon in his opening address reminded the sea of humanity that the gathering – the first ever such summit – was occasioned by the unprecedentedly strained global humanitarian action.
“I proposed this Summit four years ago out of concern for rising humanitarian needs and declining political will. Today, the urgency has only grown,” the Secretary-General began.
It would be recalled that the United Nations estimates that a record number of people – 130 million – currently need aid to survive. More people have been forced from their homes than at any time since the end of the Second World War.
Mr. Ban described the Summit as “a 21st century United Nations gathering,” adding that its ‘Agenda for Humanity’, the document he recently issued to guide discussions and action, is based on three years of consultations with 23,000 people in more than 150 countries.
Furthermore, Ban urged world leaders to share the responsibility of helping people and close the gap in humanitarian funding.
“We need to provide more direct funding to local people and communities and fix the persistent humanitarian funding gap andinvesting in building stable and inclusive societies.
“We declare we are One Humanity with shared responsibilities. Let us resolve, ourselves, here and now, not only to keep people alive but to give people a chance at life in dignity.”
He also called on the international community to help reduce the number of internally displaced people by 2030 and drew attention to the necessity of increasing humanitarian spending in order to reduce the risk of potential humanitarian crises.
“I urge you to commit to cutting in half the number of internally displaced people by 2030 and to find better long term solutions for refugees and displaced people.”
Governments and humanitarian agencies agreed on a grand bargain to cut the cost of administering aid by nearly $1 billion a year, and make sure that more of that funding goes to help people in crisis.
At the summit, 21 donor countries and 16 aid organisations agreed to decrease overheads and help fill an estimated $15 billion annual funding gap in order to provide it to more than 125 million people who are in urgent need.
It’s expected that the new approach will create ‘a virtuous circle’, drawing in more resources from a wider range of donors.
According to the UN Secretary General, the deal would enable improved humanitarian response to conflicts and natural disasters.
at the launch event in Istanbul.
At the launch event in Istanbul, Mr Ban said the deal “should lead to faster action, better engagement with people affected by crises, more funding for national organisations, greater efficiency and more accountability.
“These are all fundamental to improving support for the people we serve,” Ki-Moon said.
Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, supported the bargain because it would provide 25 percent of humanitarian funding directly to local and national agencies by 2020.
“There is recognition of those who are on the frontline. They’re in places where there is no doctor, no school, where women have to walk the last mile to the water point, often paved with danger.”
The UN chief underlined that the world is looking to them for commitments to five core responsibilities:
- Prevent and end conflict
- Respect rules of war
- Leave no one behind
- Working differently to end need, and
- Invest in humanity.
“We are here to shape a different future,” Mr. Ban concluded. “Today we declare: We are One Humanity, with a shared responsibility.”
Governments and humanitarian agencies represented at the summit agreed that they would assess required needs in the case of a disaster and provide supplies accordingly without relying on an outside analysis.
Earlier in his remarks to the opening ceremony, UN General Assembly president, Mogens Lykketoft said that expectations are high for the Summit. “People around the world are demanding that we move beyond fine words; that we build on the generosity we already see; and live up to our core responsibilities,” he said.
“Now is the time to end the conflicts at the root of the current crisis; to ensure adherence to international humanitarian law and accountability for violations; to make the humanitarian system more efficient and more effective; [and] to stand up for those we are leaving behind,” the Assembly president said, also underscoring the need to secure the extra $15 billion required to meet humanitarian needs – just one cent out of every $50 of today’s global economy.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed hope that the Summit would lead to ‘auspicious outcomes’ for hundreds of millions of people struggling to sustain their lives under great distress.
“Pain knows no colour, race, language or religion,” Mr. Erdogan said, and informed the Summit that it was with that in mind that Turkey carried out its aid and development projects in more than 140 countries around the world, hosting more than three million refugees from Syria and Iraq.
“We will never close our doors or our borders to people,” he insisted. “We as leaders and responsible individuals of the international community can only succeed if we work under common principles and goals.”
The President also stressed that Turkey would not stop pursuing “blood-shedding dictators” and will ensure that crimes against humanity do not go unpunished.
Prior to these remarks, survivors of humanitarian catastrophes – both human-made and natural – spoke to the audience in emotional addresses, recounting their ordeals and how they overcame them with the desire to now support others.
Victor Ochen, a former child solider from Northern Uganda, spoke about growing up with violence everywhere around him. At the age of 13, he chose a different path, forming a peace club in his refugee camp to discourage children and young people from joining the armed forces. “Peace comes from within,” he said. “Be human and act human.”
The US, Britain, Germany, France and Japan, who supported the bargain, will follow its implementation.
According to World Vision International head, Kevin Smith, the bargain will not solve all the problems related to the aid system, butit is “a serious and realistic way forward.
“Making change will cost, but staying the same will cost more,” he added.
On the lighter side, the historic summit kicked off with a soulful poem by Malian singer Inna Modja. It also featured creative performances and inspiring words by renowned stars, including Forest Whitaker, Ashley Judd and Daniel Craig, among others.