Participants Stress Collective Moral Obligation to End Suffering
ISTANBUL, 24 May — With record numbers of people requiring life-saving assistance and funding drastically short of meeting those needs, leaders today concluded the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul endorsing five responsibilities to improve aid delivery, support refugees, uphold international law, increase financing and prevent the crises generating the largest migration flows in 70 years.
“This unique Summit has set us on a new course,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in closing remarks. “It is not an end point, but a turning point”.
Governments, people affected by crisis, non-governmental organizations, the private sector and the United Nations had come together to support the Agenda for Humanity and its five core responsibilities. “Implementing this Agenda is a necessity if we are to enable people to live in dignity and prosperity,” he declared.
Indeed, he said, humanitarian and development partners had agreed on a new way of working to reduce the need for humanitarian action, while aid agencies and donor Governments had committed to a “Grand Bargain” that placed resources in the hands of those who needed them. Governments had committed to do more to prevent conflict, uphold international law and live up to the promise of the United Nations Charter.
Mr. Ban said he would report to the General Assembly in September on the Summit’s achievements and propose ways to advance the commitments. To be sure, the people enduring conflict today and those working to alleviate their suffering were the true humanitarian heroes. “The World Humanitarian Summit must deliver for you,” he said.
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, President of Turkey, said that, given the commitments participants had made during the two days, strong action, rather than empty words, must now follow. Indeed, no country could remain indifferent to the stark differences among countries, where one could be wealthy while millions of people lived in poverty in a neighbouring State.
“We must share our moral, political and financial obligations and act swiftly,” he said. “Any day that we wait causes the deaths of hundreds and the suffering of thousands.” With that in mind, he expressed hope that the Summit would open the door to a more peaceful world.
The two-day Summit brought together 55 Heads of State and Government and other officials from 173 countries. Hundreds of representatives from the private sector and thousands from civil society also attended, marking a diverse range of actors discussing new ways to alleviate suffering, including by addressing the social, economic and other inequities that could ignite simmering tensions into violent conflict.
In addition, the Summit featured seven high-level leaders’ round table discussions in which Heads of State and Government and representatives of civil society, the private sector, philanthropy and the United Nations announced commitments to improve humanitarian responses.
In three of those round tables held today, discussions focused around broad themes titled: “Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity”, “Natural Disaster and Climate Change — Managing Risks and Crises Differently” and “Women and Girls — Catalysing Action to Achieve Gender Equity”.
Throughout, participants decried that civilians were being indiscriminately killed in armed conflict, that the Geneva Conventions were being routinely ignored, that women and girls continued to suffer sexual abuse in emergency settings and that some 218 million people every year were impacted by natural hazards. Indeed, participants said, the Secretary-General’s core commitments were a collective promise to never overstep the limits of humanity.
Fifteen special sessions were held, in which participants outlined individual pledges to help those affected by disasters and conflict. Seven of the special sessions were held today, covering themes of humanitarian principles, protection of journalists, humanitarian intervention, young people, business, risk analysis and efforts to place people at the centre of humanitarian action. Speakers announced commitments to better engage a range of stakeholders in the search for pragmatic solutions to complex dilemmas. The eight special sessions held on Monday, 23 May, covered religious engagement, migrants, persons with disabilities, education, Islamic social finance, global health, regional action, and a global alliance for urban crises.
The plenary, which was held alongside the other events, closed with an interactive panel moderated by United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson and featured discussion with Maria Verónica Bastias, Regional Coordinator for the Global Network of Civil Society Organizations for Disaster Reduction; Butch Meily, President of the Philippine Disaster Recovery Foundation; Françoise Sivignon, President of Médecins du Monde; and Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Foreign Minister of Turkey.
The Summit’s closing ceremony featured performances by the Kenya State House Girls Performance Group, Syrian Boys Choir and the Adiyaman Temporary Housing Facility Performance Group, as well as Yvonne Chaka Chaka, United Nations Millennium Development Goals Envoy for Africa. A video of Summit highlights was also shown.
Round Table V
The day began with a high-level leaders’ round table titled “Uphold the Norms that Safeguard Humanity”. Moderated by Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, it was co-chaired by Mahamadou Issoufou, President of Niger; Didier Burkhalter, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Switzerland; and Carlos Raúl Morales Moscoso, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala.
Mr. ELIASSON, opening the discussion, said: “International humanitarian law and human rights are under assault around the world.” Civilians were being indiscriminately killed, while summary executions, arbitrary detention, forced disappearances and torture were daily realities. Lives were being shattered by sexual violence. Indeed, more than 150 years of achievements to protect the most vulnerable during conflict were unravelling.
“The Geneva Conventions seem to have been forgotten,” he said, calling on participants to promote respect for international law, enhance protection of civilians, allow unimpeded humanitarian access to those in need and condemn violations of international law. For its part, the United Nations committed to speaking out against those abuses, strengthening the Human Rights Up Front Initiative and working to ensure that perpetrators were held to account and victims compensated.
Mr. ISSOUFOU said all countries must take on commitments to strengthen respect for international humanitarian law and human rights instruments, as well as guarantee that populations in need received humanitarian aid. Niger faced multiple humanitarian issues, including population displacement due to terrorist attacks, and had ratified the Geneva Conventions and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. His Government had arrested Boko Haram militants and would ensure they were tried by the International Criminal Court. “This is something that all countries should do,” he said. The best way to protect civilians was to ratify humanitarian conventions. Political, military and administrative authorities must be aware of pledges made by Governments and of the sanctions provided for under those conventions.
Mr. BURKHALTER said that, while the Geneva Conventions were a success story of the common world, there was a discrepancy between those instruments and facts on the ground. “We must take steps to close this gap,” he said. The Secretary-General’s core commitments were a collective promise to never overstep the limits of humanity. Switzerland would promote efforts to provide the Conventions with a forum for information exchange. He encouraged States to establish national inter-ministerial committees for international humanitarian law and he committed to supporting the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to organizing them. He also pledged to strengthen the protection of medical missions, stressing: “It is outrageous that attacks are being committed against hospitals.” Switzerland was committed to ensuring that humanitarian action was not impeded by terrorist actions.
Mr. MORALES said that Guatemala promoted civilian protection in peacekeeping mandates and through training, including a zero-tolerance policy for sexual abuse. It was important to protect health-care systems and he called for national and international accountability mechanisms to be established. Guatemala would cooperate with the International Criminal Court and had been working on a law to domesticate the Rome Statute. In addition, Congress recently had approved the Arms Trade Treaty and was pushing for measures to address sexual violence. At the national level, it had approved a law against violence against women and femicide, and likewise, sought to promote access to justice for women who were victims of such abuse.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers agreed that upholding humanitarian law was the cornerstone of effective humanitarian assistance, with several underscoring their commitment to the Agenda for Humanity. Rules were being violated, speakers said, urging compliance with international law and accountability under it. For some, that meant respecting Security Council resolution 2175 (2014) on the protection of humanitarian workers and resolution 2286 (2016) on the protection of medical and humanitarian personnel engaged in medical duties. For others, it meant adhering to the Rome Statute.
JOSÉ MANUEL GARCÍA MARGALLO, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Cooperation of Spain, supported the proposal by France and Mexico to limit veto use in the Security Council in cases of the most serious crimes.
ANDRE VALLINI, Secretary of State of France, on that point, pledged that his Government would not to use its veto in cases of mass atrocity.
Many speakers would focus on civilian protection.
MIRO CERAR, Prime Minister of Slovenia, noting that with almost two decades of experience, his Government would continue to provide assistance to countries affected by mines and support activities in the field of human security and children affected by conflict. He pledged to promote protection of civilian property, including schools.
PIETRO PAROLIN, Secretary of State of the Holy See, condemned all violence against women, especially systematic rape used as a tactic of war or terror. The Holy See was committed to promoting the principle that humanitarian assistance must always be guaranteed as a life-saving necessity.
JUSTINE GREENING, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom, in that context, called on States to support the Declaration of Commitment to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.
ABDUSALAM HADLIYEH OMER, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Somalia, said that since 2012, the army, along with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), had taken back 85 per cent of territory held by Al-Shabaab, making it easier to provide humanitarian aid. His Government would work with its partners, including aid agencies and affected communities, to help people recover from humanitarian crises.
The meeting also heard from a number of non-governmental organizations, whose representatives made impassioned pleas to protect civilians and close the “horrendous” gap between discourse and practice. The international humanitarian response was an unsustainable model, which all said must be transformed.
PETER MAURER, President of International Committee of the Red Cross, said he spoke today as the guardian of the Geneva Conventions and because millions of people suffering in armed conflict had no voice. At the heart of all international humanitarian law was the protection of those not participating in hostilities. The “dangerously large” gap between discourse and action around the law must be closed. “Stop targeting civilians,” he said. “And if you see any of this happening, do something.”
International humanitarian law set limits to the conduct of war, delineating military necessity from humanitarian imperatives. ICRC was ready to engage — publicly or confidentially — to find pragmatic solutions to complex dilemmas. For the Summit to succeed, the outcome must focus on people, not systems. He called on participants to recommit to the global compact of humanity and international humanitarian law, “in your own interest and those of your adversaries. Wars without limits are wars without end.”
AHMAD TARAKJI, President of the Syrian American Medical Society, noting that his organization provided relief to 2.5 million Syrians each year, said that the humanitarian community must acknowledge the cycle of project creation and destruction due to aerial bombings. He called on participants to hold States accountable for respecting international humanitarian law and incorporating local leadership into all phases of crises response.
WINNIE BYANYIMA, Executive Director of OXFAM International, said Governments violated international humanitarian law with little consequence to their diplomatic standing, arms deals or political alliances. States must endorse all five core commitments, she said, stressing that the most importance legacy from the Summit would be a move from impunity to accountability. “This is a long way off,” she said, urging Governments to protect civilians. OXFAM was committed to ensuring that that happened.
HICHEM KHADHRAOUI, Head of Operations of Geneva Call, said his organization engaged non-State armed groups on civilian protection. It would train 16 armed groups on international humanitarian law, with a focus on mine action and child protection. It would collect individual commitments from those groups’ members to adhere to international humanitarian law, promote implementation of guidelines to protect schools and engage groups on the protection of displaced persons. It would report back on those commitments at the Summit’s follow-up meeting. “Engagement with non-State armed groups is essential to strengthening accountability,” he said.
SALIL SHETTY, Secretary-General of Amnesty International, said these were the darkest times since the founding of the United Nations, with international humanitarian norms treated with utter disdain. Without confronting the erosion of international law, crises would worsen, and without accountability, there would be no stopping the downward spiral. States must hold even their own allies to account. “Succeeding generations will judge us for our successive failures in these dark times,” he said. “Let us turn the tides.”
SAM WORTHINGTON, Chief Executive Officer of InterAction, noted that “Compliance breeds compliance”.
ANTHONY LAKE, Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), who had taken over as moderator, welcomed in closing remarks the commitments made to international humanitarian law, humanitarian access, justice and accountability, and the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse. “These are serious commitments,” he concluded.
Also delivering statements during the round table were high-level Government officials and representatives of Belgium, Italy, Nigeria, Madagascar, Liechtenstein, United States, Mexico, Austria, Argentina, Morocco and Chile, as well as the European Union. Representatives from the International Network on Explosive Weapons and the International Development Law Organization also spoke, as did the United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children in Armed Conflict.
Round Table VI
Giving local communities the tools to build back better and boost their resilience were among the essential steps needed in mitigating the deadly and costly effects of natural and human-made catastrophes, Heads of State and Government and representatives of non-governmental, public and private sectors said today at the high-level leaders’ round table on “Natural Disasters and Climate Change — Managing Risks and Crises Differently”. The discussion was co-chaired by Divavesi Waqa, President of Nauru; William Ruto, Deputy President of Kenya; Demeke Mekonnen, Deputy Prime Minister of Ethiopia; and Kamal Thapa, Deputy Prime Minister of Nepal, and moderated by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Mr. BAN, opening the round table, said that, over the past two decades, an average of 218 million people every year had been affected by natural disasters, leading to an economic impact of some $300 billion per year, with the frequency and intensity growing alongside the human and material costs.
Reducing disaster risk had dominated the political achievements of 2015, he said. Those included the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change. “We must now honour these agreements and deliver on their promises,” he said. “That is the first core commitment for this round table. We can reduce risks, but we can never eliminate them. Unfortunately, natural disasters will continue to happen, as we have seen recently in the devastating earthquakes in Nepal and Ecuador. We must prepare for them much more effectively, so we can respond as quickly as possible. These are the second and third core commitments.”
“We must increase investment in community resilience, with the full participation of women, young people and other groups in society,” he said. “This is the fourth commitment. And the fifth and final commitment is to follow the rule ‘as local as possible; as international as needed’. Local action must be driven by local needs, and complemented by regional and international support.”
Recalling visits to Ethiopia and Viet Nam to see the effects of El Niño, he said that the previous week he had appointed Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland, and Macharia Kamou of Ethiopia as his Envoys to address El Niño.
Mr. WAQA said many countries needed assistance in understanding the full range of challenges they faced, which amounted to one of the greatest humanitarian threats in history.
Mr. RUTO provided a national example, saying Kenya had seen its Dadaab refugee camp grow in 2011, when 160,000 Somali refugees had arrived. Since the arrival of the first group of Somali refugees in 1991, a systematic destruction of vegetation and decimation of wildlife through poaching had led to environmental degradation, costing $140 million annually to address damages and leading to the Government’s decision to close the camp.
Mr. MEKONNEN said national challenges had demonstrated a need to scale up efforts in early action and to build resilience at the local level. National efforts had reduced the impact of the current drought. Going forward, the private sector should work with all stakeholders on further disaster risk reduction action. The priority now should be to redouble efforts to implement the Sendai Framework by States and other relevant actors.
Mr. THAPA shared some lessons learned on dealing with climate change and disasters, saying that effective policy, strategy, legal and institutional mechanisms were important steps in ensuring a consistent framework for climate action and multi-stakeholder partnerships. Also important was the mobilization of communities in adaptation and mitigation measures to ensure meaningful results.
During the ensuing discussion, world leaders and other high-level officials reaffirmed their commitments to the Sendai Framework and Paris Agreement, with some making new commitments.
ENELE SOSENE SOPOAGA, Prime Minister of Tuvalu, said the plight of people that had been displaced without countries and across borders must be addressed with urgency. As such, he pledged to seek a United Nations General Assembly resolution establishing a system of legal protection for people displaced by climate change effects and to ensure they were afforded the necessary support and protection of the rights they needed and deserved.
Participants also addressed the interlinked nature of climate change action and development efforts. Some speakers pledged to take all necessary steps to ensure their citizens had the tools to better prepare for climate-related consequences.
LISANDRO ROSALES, Minister Commissioner for the Permanent Commission of Contingencies of Honduras, said that being located in an area that was prone to tsunamis, forest fires, drought and flooding, the Government had taken steps to deal with such hazards. Risk reduction and building resilience were among the efforts being taken as the Government had striven to implement the Sendai Framework, he said, emphasizing that situations such as the effects of El Niño must be dealt with collectively by the international community.
HERY MARTIAL RAJAONARIMAMPIANINA RAKOTOARIMANANA, President of Madagascar, said that over recent years, citizens had experienced more than 50 extreme climate-related events. Efforts to reduce such risks would vigilantly be maintained through the national coordination office, he said, in line with international standards and realities on the ground using early warning systems and other tools. Partners, public and private, would be engaged, as no country could act alone in facing the enormous challenges.
Many speakers agreed, elaborating on that point through examples of partnerships that were producing on-the-ground results. Speakers from the public and private sector also shared their experiences.
ROWAN DOUGLAS, Co-chair of the Insurance Development Forum and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Capital, Science and Policy Practice of Willis Towers Watson, said the perceived barriers and silos between public and private sectors were dissolving. The inaugural meeting of the Development Forum, on the margins of the World Bank Spring Meetings in April 2016, represented a ground-breaking collaboration across the industry. “Never before have the CEOs of our leading stock and mutual underwriters come together in a shared endeavour,” he said. “We have overcome our usual rivalries to address a shared mission with the United Nations.”
Also delivering statements were high-level Government officials and representatives of Samoa, France, Philippines, Turkey, Burkina Faso, Fiji, New Zealand, Pakistan, Australia, Indonesia, Mexico, Mozambique and the Russian Federation, as well as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Help Age International, World Bank Group and the World Customs Organization.
Acting as supporting moderators were Helen Clark, Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP); Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) and José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Round Table VII
The day then moved into a high-level leaders’ round table on “Women and girls: Catalysing action to achieve gender equality”, moderated by Mr. Eliasson, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General. Co-chairing the discussion were Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović, President of Croatia; Michael D. Higgins, President of Ireland; Fiame Naomi Mata’afa, Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa; and Margot Wallström, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden.
Mr. ELIASSON said participants were there to make commitments to advance gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s rights in humanitarian action. States could help end need when assistance addressed the priorities of women and girls. They could build resilience by supporting women’s work as change agents, respond to crisis by ending violence against women and girls, and by providing universal access to sexual and reproductive health. For its part, the United Nations was committed to ramping up action on gender equality and increasing the percentage of women at all levels in its work, from humanitarian action to development, from field to headquarters. It would seek to surpass 40 per cent by 2020 and achieve a 50 per cent balanced workforce by 2030.
Ms. GRABAR-KITAROVIĆ said her youth had been defined by the war in her country, with sexual violence and the stripping of life used as weapons. For some brave women, it had taken years of therapy to admit what they had experienced and then go on to become advocates for women in conflict and post-conflict situations. Most of those who had been left behind were women and girls. As such, she supported a change in mindsets and building a new political culture that aimed to change stereotypes, which were part of neither culture nor religion. States had to create the conditions for human development, so that women were seen as change agents. There needed to be a focus on education and economic empowerment, as well as on political and communal participation. Gross domestic product (GDP) growth was higher when women were involved. “We need to foster ambition,” she said.
Mr. HIGGINS said gender equality was fundamental for every aspect of sustainable development and must be central to all humanitarian action. It was a right, not a gift. Commitments made today must be more than compassionate words on a page. “Gender equality, after all, is not a new challenge,” he said. Inequality was the most prevalent form of human rights violations and he questioned what was natural about excluding half the world’s population on the basis of gender. The world should not have to wait one minute to end violence against women, and yet, it was a goal to achieve by the end of 2030. The “derisory” level of funding made the repetition of such calls necessary. The Agenda for Humanity would not be achieved if States did not end disempowerment, inequality and gender-based violence. While rape was used as a weapon of war and children remained vulnerable to denial of basic rights to health and education, 0.1 per cent of humanitarian funding was spent each year on gender-based violence. Men must show leadership to achieve gender equality.
Ms. MATA’AFA said disasters killed more women than men and affected their lives the most, stressing: “We must see women and girls as powerful agents of change in humanitarian action.” They must be integral to the solutions. For Samoa, 10 per cent of the current Legislative Assembly seats were held by women parliamentarians, the country’s highest level. In the new disaster management strategy, women’s committees were responsible for coordinating preparedness programmes and village response to certain threats. They occupied 42 per cent of chief executive positions in Samoa’s public service. Samoa was committed to ratifying the human rights conventions to which it was not yet party and had nearly finalized its 2016-2020 gender equality policy, which sought to improve women’s status and influence State policy in all areas. It committed to advocate at the regional and global level for policies that empowered women and girls.
Ms. WALLSTRÖM said gender inequality and gender-based violence existed in every society. The world understood that disasters were not gender neutral, and yet, not enough had been done to ensure that aid targeted women and girls. Outlining her “to do” list, she advocated the creation of “military champions” and more seats at table for women. More female ambassadors should be appointed and better data collected on sexual violence in conflict. States should engage religious leaders, defend female human rights activists, create national action plans on Security Council resolution 1325 (2000) and engage civil society, the United Nations and men in that process. When applied to humanitarian aid, questions must be asked around whether women’s and girls’ rights were being fulfilled, whether they were represented in decision-making and how funds covered their needs. Sweden did not fund projects that lacked a gender analysis.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers agreed that more had to be done to empower women, decrying that 1 in 3 would experience violence in their lifetimes, that rape was still used as a weapon of war and terror, and that women were still excluded from the very peace negotiations aimed at saving them from future abuse. Violence against women knew no borders. It was prevalent everywhere, speakers stressed, from homes and board rooms to conflict zones and refugee camps.
JOSAIA VOREQE BAINIMARAMA, Prime Minister of Fiji, in that context, said his Government had made it a priority to end a long history in which women had been treated poorly, citing a range of institutional and cultural barriers to gender equality and a “terrible problem” with male attitudes. Many men committed rape and child abuse, viewing women as servants and routinely resorting to domestic violence. There was an ongoing national debate on whether women were to blame by provoking men to rape by wearing inviting clothing. Clarifying his own position, he declared: “There is no excuse for any man to inflict violence on a woman or to abuse her in any way,” calling those who did so “cowards” and “criminals” that must be prosecuted.
NABY YOUSSOUF BANGOURA, Minister of State of Guinea, said women had been most affected by the numerous political upheavals in his country, as well as during the Ebola crisis, which had given rise to rape, early marriage and female genital mutilation as ways to cope with the grave national situation. In the coming five years, gender equality would be framed by an action plan that would ensure the application of law. A national gender policy would be disseminated, gender-sensitive training rolled out and care centres for victims of gender-based violence or Ebola opened.
MARIE-CLAUDE BIBEAU, Minister for International Development and La Francophonie of Canada, said women would be at the heart of her country’s new international aid and development programme. Noting that Canada would offer multi-year funding for preventing gender-based violence during humanitarian crises for the 2017-2020 period, she urged others to sign on to the Call to Action on Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies. She also announced that Canada would provide $3 million in 2016 for the ICRC appeal to strengthen the response to sexual violence.
SARAH SEWALL, Under-Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights of the United States, along similar lines, said her Government would commit $12.5 million in the fiscal year 2016 to the “Safe from the Start” initiative.
KRISTIAN JENSEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Denmark, said his country was supporting the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) with a grant for women and girls in Syria and had joined the Call to Action on the Protection from Gender-Based Violence in Emergencies.
JULIA DUNCAN-CASSELL, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection of Liberia, said her Government would ensure that the constitutional review guaranteed and institutionalized women’s participation in governance and international affairs. Her Government was committed to drafting an act on domestic violence and a gender equity bill, as well as revising its social protection policy to protect women and girls from all forms of violence.
BINETA DIOP, Special Envoy on Women, Peace and Security of the African Union, said the organization had adopted a “basket” of progressive policies on women, including the Maputo Protocol and Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality. She urged strengthening accountability on the protection of women and girls, including on access to sexual and reproductive health. It was also important to identify the survivors of sexual and gender-based abuses.
MAITHA BINT SALEM AL SHAMSI, Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates, added that her Government was enhancing education for girls and boys in refugee camps in Yemen, Palestine, Jordan and Iraq.
JULIENNE LUSENGE, Director of Fonds Pour Les Femmes Congolaises, noting that she had been forced to move because of war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, said humanitarian action should support the development and implementation of programmes that involved women. Providing women resources would ensure that they could make it to conferences such as the one today. She pledged to mobilize resources for women’s groups so they, in turn, could influence humanitarian policies in their countries.
QAZI AZMAT ISA, Chief Executive Officer of the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund, committed his organization to advancing gender equality and empowerment. The Fund would ensure that women participated in humanitarian assistance. It would never compromise on its pledge to gender inclusion, ensuring that 50 per cent of all of its interventions benefitted women, holding itself accountable through the collection of gender-disaggregated data and using pro-women examples from religion and indigenous culture to counter misogynist practices.
WOLFGANG JAMANN, Global Chief Executive Officer of Care International, said his organization would bolster partnerships with women’s groups on the issue of climate change. It also would commit to triple its funding for women-led groups.
KATHLEEN CRAVERO-KRISTOFFERSON, President of the Oak Foundation, announced that 10 per cent of its budget would be spent on groups that empowered women and girls.
Also delivering statements during the round table were a Head of State, as well as high-level Government officials and representatives of Madagascar, Australia, Finland, Philippines, Turkey, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Guatemala, Japan and Spain. Representatives of the World Bank Group and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies also spoke.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-Women), and Babatunde Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA, also served as co-moderators of the discussion.
Special Session on Humanitarian Principles
The special session on “Humanitarian Principles” was moderated by Sorcha O’Callaghan, Head of Humanitarian Policy at the British Red Cross. Panellists were Manuel Bessler, Head of Swiss Humanitarian Aid; Hesham Youssef, Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs at the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC); Fatima Gailani, President of the Afghan Red Crescent Society; Pierre Krähenbühl, Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA); Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council; and Noha Yahya, Executive Director of the Humanitarian Forum Yemen.
During the interactive discussion, speakers addressed current challenges and growing concerns. A representative of InterAction, speaking on behalf of 64 non-governmental organizations, said that it was only because of the humanitarian principles that those groups could operate. Otherwise, he said, humanitarian groups would depend on Government armed forces, which would hinder access to areas of conflict to reach those most in need.
In a similar vein, a representative of the Action Contre La Faim said her organization had committed to reinforcing respect and understanding of the humanitarian principles through the channelling of donor funds and adapting organizational strategic plans to support training for all staff and to sensitize local communities and relevant actors.
Government representatives also shared their perspectives, addressing some of those concerns. A representative of Canada was committed to providing timely and effective humanitarian assistance. Deeply concerned that providing such assistance in situations of conflict was becoming more dangerous, she said the international community must support the efforts of humanitarian workers and ensure their safety. International humanitarian law must be upheld and perpetrators held accountable. Condemning attacks against medical personnel and facilities, she said such practices must end immediately. “We must ensure that those who protect the vulnerable are themselves protected,” she concluded.
A representative of Germany said national initiatives for humanitarian assistance were rooted in the principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality and independence, enshrined in General Assembly resolution 46/182. Agreeing that people working in the humanitarian, development, stabilization and peacebuilding field had to work together, she said the Summit had to send a strong signal of respect for those principles.
Representatives of WFP, Humanitarian Exchange and Research Centre (HERE)-Geneva and Sphere Project were also among the session’s participants.
Special Session on Protecting Journalists and Promoting Independent Reporting
The Special Session on “Protecting Journalists and Promoting Independent Reporting in Crisis Situations” was moderated by Karen Allen, Foreign Correspondent for BBC News. Panellists were Irina Bokova, Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); Christophe Deloire, Secretary-General of Reporters Without Borders; Zaina Erhaim, freelance journalist in Syria; Tanit Koch, Editor in Chief of Bild; Habibou Bangré, freelance journalist in the Democratic Republic of the Congo; Bryn Mooser, Co-Founder of RYOT, United States; Babita Basnet, President of Media Advocacy Group, Nepal; and Mazen Hayek, Spokesperson of the Middle East Broadcasting Corporation.
Discussions centred on the conditions in which reporters worked and the dangers they faced, whether being targeted for or prevented from doing their jobs. In crises and conflict situations, some faced dangerous consequences, from imprisonment to being killed, speakers said.
Ms. ERHAIM said that as a female Syrian journalist, she could not enter areas controlled by the Government or by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), leaving her with a choice of going to rebel-held areas or illegally leaving the country. Outside Syria, she said, she was treated as a terrorist at foreign airports. Further, some non-governmental organizations were using Syrian female journalists to further their own agenda. Among several recommendations, she suggested that the Government of Turkey could open borders to Syrian journalists.
Mr. DELOIRE provided several examples of the negative impact of restricted press freedom, saying that if journalists could do their jobs in Ethiopia, fewer Ethiopians would be fleeing that country. Similar situations existed in Egypt, Turkey and other countries where journalists were stopped from reporting stories or jailed for doing so. To address those shortfalls, a concrete mechanism must be established, such as a Special Representative of the Secretary-General to oblige countries to fulfil their commitments to guarding press freedoms, he said.
Ms. BOKOVA said freedom of expression and of information were human rights that were essential for dignity, rule of law and good governance, and the free flow of ideas and information saved lives before, during and after crises. To address pressing concerns, UNESCO was leading the United Nations Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity to create safe environments for their important work. However, progress had been made — the General Assembly, Security Council and Human Rights Council had adopted a total of eight related resolutions in recent years. Further, countries, including Pakistan and South Sudan, had taken steps to protect journalists.
A representative of Afghanistan said her Government had adopted several media-related laws alongside regulations guaranteeing freedom of expression and commissions covering several forms of media. Over the past year, more than 1,000 journalists had been registered, including female reporters; however, targeted violence against journalists persisted.
Representatives of Spain, France and Turkey also participated.
Special Session on Transforming Humanitarian Action with Young People
The special session on “Transforming Humanitarian Action with and for Young People” was chaired by Mr. Osotimehin, Executive Director of UNFPA and moderated by Ahmad Alhendawi, Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth. It featured presentations by Chloe Reynaldo, a 16-year-old youth speaker from the Philippines; Victoria, a youth and human rights advocate in El Salvador; and Ehab Badwi, a youth speaker from Syria.
Mr. OSOTIMEHIN, opening the discussion, said that more than 600 million people aged 16 to 24 lived in fragile, conflict-affected settings, while those aged 10 to 24 comprised more than one third of displaced persons worldwide. Young people must be on the frontlines of humanitarian action. From Syria to Sudan, Nepal to Nigeria, young people were rolling up their sleeves to increase humanitarian effectiveness and introduce innovation. “We simply cannot afford to leave young people behind,” he said.
Ms. REYNALDO said she was a survivor of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. While she had gone without electricity for two weeks, others had lost it for months. Girls who had wound up in safety centres had faced sexual and other abuse. Gender-based violence, including rape and human trafficking, often occurred during and after humanitarian emergencies. She had learned that she could be a change agent in humanitarian settings and urged Governments to sign the Global Compact for Young People.
VICTORIA said women and girls in El Salvador were expected to stay home to cook and clean. Gang members viewed them as sexual objects to be chosen as wives. They did not receive assistance to attend school, and even if they did, the threat of abuse was so high that attendance was a risk itself. At school and shopping centres, girls went to the bathroom in groups of three to avoid gangs. Three women were killed every two days and authorities rarely investigated, as they were often forced to cooperate with gangs. “Listen to us and involve us in decision-making,” she said on behalf of thousands of young Salvadorians.
Mr. BADWI said his volunteer work with the World Organization of the Scout Movement had shaped his personality. When war had erupted in Syria, he had been among the first to volunteer with the Syrian Arab Red Crescent to help people in need. “I learned the importance of humanity and persistence,” he said, describing his subsequent work in Côte d’Ivoire to advance children’s education, in Turkey to help Syrian refugee children and in Germany to help migrants integrate into society. He had also participated in the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth.
MOHAMMED BIN ABDULRAHMAN BIN JASSIM AL-THANI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Qatar, host of the 2015 World Humanitarian Summit Global Youth Consultation, said “young people are the primary agents for change”.
Mr. ALHENDAWI said the new Global Compact for Young People in Humanitarian Action had been the result of a long global consultation process. Its first action was about service delivery to those aged 15 and older. The second was about participation and the third aimed to strengthen young people’s capacity to be effective humanitarian actors. The fourth action was about resources, while the fifth focused on the use of age- and sex-disaggregated data in humanitarian settings.
During the interactive discussion, participants from Government, business, philanthropy and the United Nations endorsed the Compact, agreeing that the skills, talents and perspectives of world’s 1.8 billion young people had to be tapped in order to make humanitarian action more effective.
JUSTINE GREENING, Secretary of State for International Development of the United Kingdom, said her Government viewed young people as a “huge opportunity to do a better job”, announcing that it had signed on to the Compact. Accountability was also essential. The revised Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC) gender and age marker, which previously had been used only to track gender data, would now track different age groups.
BÄRBEL KOFLER, Commissioner for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs of Germany, announced a commitment to improve systematic engagement with young people in all aspects of her country’s humanitarian action.
PER HEGGENES, Chief Executive Officer of the IKEA Foundation, said young people were at the heart of its work. The Foundation’s €135 million humanitarian loan focused on developing children’s play. “We need well-motivated young people to help in this conflict-ridden world.”
CHIARA MIO, President of the Benetton Group's Sustainability Committee, supported the Compact, notably from a belief that girls should be able access health care, especially for their sexual and reproductive health. Benetton was among the first companies to recognize the responsibility of business to have an opinion about the big issues of the day.
Representatives of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and UNICEF also spoke, as did representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Reach out to Asia and the World Organization of the Scout Movement, and the Mayor of Istanbul.
Special Session on People at the Centre
The Special Session on “People at the Centre” was chaired by Jamila Raja’a, civil society and peacebuilding activist, Yemen. Panellists were Ms. Wallström, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Sweden; Ms. Byanyima, Executive Director of OXFAM International; Manu Gupta, Chair of the Asia Disaster Risk Reduction and Response Network; Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF; Kaan Terzioğlu, Chief Executive Officer of Turkcell; and Mr. Ruto, Deputy President of Kenya.
During the discussion, speakers focused on commitments that would mark a major shift in humanitarian action to truly empower affected people as the driving force of any humanitarian response. Representatives of civil society and affected communities shared their concerns. Speakers stressed hope that the Grand Bargain would be truly people-centred.
Mr. RUTO said action must match people’s need and called for a shared responsibility for humanity and urged all Summit participants to commit to putting people at the centre.
Ms. WALLSTRÖM said that from a donor perspective, a change in mindset must take place to put people at the centre. Humanitarian actors were accustomed to acting quickly, which could risk fuelling conflict drivers to the detriment of solutions to a crisis. Getting caught up in technicalities must also be overcome and the mandate-focused nature of aid efforts hampered system-wide accountability, she said, expressing hope that the Grand Bargain would contribute to that much-needed change in mindset.
Ms. BYANYIMA said she wanted to hear commitments from all stakeholders at the Summit to increase funding of local actors and prevent past mistakes. “It’s time for us to trust first responders and people affected by crises with their own future,” she noted.
Mr. LAKE said finding new ways to hear and heed was not only a moral responsibility, but a practical one in shaping effective programmes and services.
Mr. TERZIOĞLU, sharing his private-sector perspective, said that on 23 May at the Summit, Turkcell had signed the GSMA Humanitarian Connectivity Charter, which aimed at channelling the power of mobile technology to assist those affected by humanitarian emergencies. Recalling that his grandfather had been a migrant, he challenged participants to ask themselves if they were also related to someone who had left their country of origin.
During the ensuing discussion, a representative of civil society in Burundi said that thousands of people in the country were suffering. Pointing out that the United Nations had promised to protect them, she said “no one should leave this room without remembering Burundi”.
A civil society representative from Haiti asked that women were included in post-crisis recovery programmes. Youth must also be included. The participation of those and other underrepresented groups must also play a role in prevention efforts.
Also participating in the session were representatives of the Red Cross Lebanon and Ground Truth Solutions. A representative of civil society in Sudan also spoke.