Our Perspectives


Six reasons you should care about (yet) another International Summit

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women at marketLebanese women sell clothes at the UNDP-supported Marj market in the village of Marj in the Bekaa Valley, east of Lebanon. The project helps support communities who are hosting Syrian refugees. Photo: Dalia Khamissy/UNDP

In this blog series leading up to the World Humanitarian Summit, UNDP experts and practitioners share their experiences and views on responding to conflict and disasters.

On May 23rd, world leaders will come together for the first ever World Humanitarian Summit. I know that sentence won't necessarily make you want to read on. I get it.

But here are six reasons why this summit deserves your attention.

1. Because the scale of the humanitarian crisis is no exaggeration

We have the highest level of humanitarian needs since the Second World War. More than 60 million people have had to flee their homes--the majority women and children. And the average length of displacement is now 17 years.

Conflicts are more complex than ever before and, according to some estimates, the cost of conflict and violence now accounts for more than 13 % of the total global economy. Climate change adds extra volatility to the situation.

In response, requests for humanitarian funding jumped twelvefold in just 14 years, to US$24.5 billion. Yet, last year, the world was only able to meet just over half of that need.

2. Because it's fixable

We know what should be done to address the problem and it's feasible.

First and foremost, we need political solutions by Member States. We want to get firm commitments from governments that they will work to put an end to conflicts.

We need to end humanitarian need, rather than delivering more aid. We have to prevent conflicts and disasters, not just manage them.

Humanitarian, development and peacebuilding actors must find new ways to work together, rather than competing for funding or working in isolation. Donors must commit more funding for work to predict, prepare for and prevent crises and it must be flexible, multi-year financing.

3. Because now more than ever, we need to treat refugees and displaced people with humanity

After the devastating attacks in Brussels, some people are trying to make the argument that treating refugees with dignity leads to terrorism. This is wrong.

The Secretary-General said the Summit is about putting humanity back at the heart of global decision-making. And he warned that we are witnessing the erosion of 150 years of international humanitarian law and called for "an uncompromising pursuit of protecting civilians."

4. Because it's your money that's being spent

Perhaps you don't live in a country that is hosting millions of refugees right now. But your government is more than likely funding UN agencies, non-governmental organizations, or local governments that are working on these crises or carrying out development programmes. So if you pay tax, you have a financial interest in how this money is being spent.

5. Because this isn't the only global challenge

Global financial resources are finite and we have to choose how we spend our money. If we simply wait for crises to erupt and then respond, humanitarian needs will continue to grow exponentially and we will never be able to meet the costs.

But if we find a better way to tackle these humanitarian challenges, it will allow us to invest more in other global challenges, such as climate change.

6. Because it's linked to the 2030 Agenda which is, quite literally, the plan for the future of the planet

You may have heard of the new Sustainable Development Goals, calling for countries to end all forms of poverty, fight inequalities and tackle climate change, while ensuring that no one is left behind.

If disasters and conflict keep wiping our development gains and taking us back to square one, we will never achieve these Goals, and there is no 'Plan B' for the people and the planet.

An original version of this post appeared on the World Post.

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