Humanitarian action on a new course

This article sums up the declaration of Ms. Heidi Hautala, Member of the EP Delegation to the World Humanitarian Summit, former Finnish Minister for International Development.

The first ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul on the 23rd-24th May will be a decisive moment for humanity, presenting an opportunity to initiate a substantial reform of the humanitarian aid system. This Summit will not be a traditional intergovernmental Summit but will bring all the various stakeholders around the table to discuss the way forward and to find new ways to tackle the humanitarian effects of the various crisis the world finds itself in today. The number  of refugees is at an unprecedented height since the World War II, humanitarian financing has increased tremendously over the last decade but still falls short of the needs. New and innovative ways of doing and financing are acutely needed.

With the current trend, half of the world’s poor are expected to live in fragile situations by 2030. This Summit provides an opportunity to link development and humanitarian action and to define ways to close the divide between these aid communities to have a better response to situations of protracted conflict. Increased coherence between the policies is incremental to building resilience of the affected communities. 

A crucial topic in the Summit will be adherence to international humanitarian law (IHL). Civilians are being increasingly targeted in conflict situations. It is especially important to develop and establish mechanisms to ensure continued and improved compliance with international humanitarian law principles as well as the implementation of the recent developments of IHL.

It is with great pleasure that I notice the inclusion of the pledge to Leave no one behind as well as the mainstreaming of gender in the Summit documents. To this end we need enforced action to ensure that individuals in positions of vulnerability, especially women and girls with disabilities, receive equal care and assistance and participate in the decision making processes on operative action. It is also very welcome that the principles of humanitarian action - impartiality, neutrality, independence and humanity - feature prominently in the preparatory documents. A human rights-based approach should underlie every action taken.

This Summit will set the starting point for reform but the big challenge will lie ahead with its implementation. A common implementation plan should be developed which incorporates all the targets set in the frameworks for our common future - the Sustainable Development Goals, the Sendai Disaster Risk Reduction Framework, the Paris Climate Agreement as well as the Istanbul outcome. The future of humanity will depend on the actions taken to achieve these goals.