The main thrusts of humanitarian action for the future could be decided in Geneva. From 14 to 16 October 2015, the lakeside city will welcome more than 500 representatives of governments, international humanitarian organisations and civil society to finalise the input for the World Humanitarian Summit scheduled to take place in Istanbul in May 2016.
The Global Consultation in Geneva will mark the end of an intensive process of regional and thematic consultations conducted across 151 countries in 2014 and 2015. It is particularly significant in the context of the United Nations adopting the new 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.
Assistance and protection needs rising fast
Why do we need to reform humanitarian action? The facts of the problem are well known: as the number and extent of humanitarian crises around the world grow, assistance and protection needs are rising fast. The range of threats faced (armed conflict, climate change, epidemics etc.) is also increasing, and they are becoming more and more global in scope. It is estimated that 80 million people are currently dependent on humanitarian aid, 60 million of whom have had to flee their homes for one reason or another.
Against this backdrop, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a new agenda for humanitarian action to be drawn up. He tasked the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) with collecting innovative ideas in time for the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul. This led to the biggest worldwide debate ever organised on the principles of humanitarian aid, with some 23,000 representatives of governments, international organisations, NGOs and local communities sharing their visions – not forgetting the opportunity for members of the general public to submit their views online.
Five action areas
The proposals received number in the thousands and range from highly specific to fundamental. All suggestions were classified into five priority action areas, each of which will be dealt with in dedicated workshops at the Geneva meeting.
- Dignity: ensuring the dignity of people affected by disasters and conflicts by placing them at the centre of humanitarian action.
- Safety: guaranteeing the protection of conflict victims and the aid workers that help them by adhering strictly to international humanitarian law and searching for political solutions.
- Resilience: maximising people’s capacity for dealing with crises by incorporating into humanitarian action more long-term projects for development and for conflict and disaster prevention.
- Partnerships: developing enhanced synergies between stakeholders, local communities included, centred on the core values of humanitarian action (humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence).
- Finance: diversifying sources of funding and endeavouring to use funds more efficiently to respond to growing humanitarian needs.
Switzerland has taken on an instrumental role with regard to these priorities. Having provided financial and technical support for the consultation process, it will have the honour of co-chairing the planned discussions in Geneva together with OCHA.
Federal Councillor Didier Burkhalter and Manuel Bessler, Head of Swiss Humanitarian Aid, will have the opportunity to recount a number of Switzerland's enlightening experiences from the past few years. These include the SDC's money transfer or "cash" programmes, support given to women's groups all over the world and the discussion on people displaced by natural disasters and climate change under the aegis of the Nansen Initiative.