I.The World Humanitarian Summit — reshaping humanitarian action in a changing landscape
The United Nations (UN) Secretary-General has called the first ever World Humanitarian Summit to take place on 23-24 May 2016 in Istanbul. The summit is as a response to an unprecedented increase in the number of people affected by conflicts and natural disasters, including the highest number of displacements since World War II. The summit presents the global community with a unique opportunity to establish an international consensus reaffirming the principles of humanitarian aid and strengthening humanitarian action. The summit will bring together governments, donors, implementing organisations, the private sector and representatives of affected populations who, where needed, should commit to more effective ways of working together for the common objective of saving lives and alleviating suffering. As a result, the summit will influence, and possibly even change, the current humanitarian modus operandi to better serve people in need.
The European Union (EU) and its Member States are major humanitarian donors. Together, they constitute a key policy-setter with global operational experience. They are expected by many stakeholders to contribute to the success of the summit. This Communication, building on the European Consensus on Humanitarian Aid, sets out the Union’s vision for reshaping humanitarian action and proposes recommendations that should be endorsed by the summit. The underlying message is to build and reinforce partnerships among a multitude of actors. It is only through linked and coordinated action that the global community can respond to the escalating and multifaceted crises and disasters that demand humanitarian assistance.
b)A changing humanitarian landscape
Humanitarian crises have increased in number, complexity and severity over the last 25 years. In 2014, there were more than 400 politically-driven conflicts that affected the lives of 50 million people. Over 40 of these conflicts involved conventional warfare or terrorism.
Many were ideologically inspired and had dramatic regional repercussions with knock-on effects on access to humanitarian aid, the protection of affected populations and the security of humanitarian workers. The lack of willingness among some actors to find political solutions means that these crises become protracted, generating needs for humanitarian assistance for years if not decades.
Natural disasters — some related to climate change and linked to mega trends, such as water scarcity, urbanisation and demographic pressures — affect the lives of 100 million people each year.
Many of these disasters recur before communities have time to rebuild.
Social and economic fragility fuels humanitarian crises. Since 1990, the proportion of extremely poor people living in fragile states — where governments are unable or unwilling to provide either basic services or social equality — has increased. This means that today over 250 million people are either already affected by, or exposed to, humanitarian crises.
These trends, and their interdependence, have led to unprecedented human suffering and record humanitarian needs. In mid-2015, nearly 79 million people in 37 countries are in need of humanitarian assistance, including over 59 million displaced people.
The humanitarian system is being challenged to do more, for more people, and at greater cost. Given the scale of today’s crises and disasters, funding to cover humanitarian needs cannot keep up, despite record contributions by donors.
But the humanitarian landscape has changed not only because of multiplied challenges. It is also evolving because a greater number of more diverse actors contribute to humanitarian efforts. This brings additional resources, but also changes the way the humanitarian community plans, coordinates and responds. Consequently, the UN-coordinated system has to adapt to remain relevant and add value. Despite progress resulting from the 2005 humanitarian reform and the 2011 Transformative Agenda, the system still often falls short of expectations on leadership, coordination and accountability. Above all, it can no longer be perceived as a small group of organisations and donors driven by ’Western values’. The summit should thus recognise and embrace the diversity of humanitarian actors, while reconfirming humanitarian principles and addressing shortcomings in humanitarian action.
II.Key recommendations for the World Humanitarian Summit
A wide spectrum of humanitarian actors participated in the preparations for the summit and shared their ideas on improving humanitarian aid. This Communication builds on these discussions. It recommends a global partnership to reinforce the world community’s solidarity with victims of conflicts and disasters, using humanitarian principles as a starting point and advocating for concrete improvements in the humanitarian system. The recommendations are complementary and interrelated and have a single aim: to enable the humanitarian community to work together towards its common objectives of saving lives, preventing crises and disasters, and enabling recovery.
1.A global partnership for principled humanitarian action
`)Reaffirming the values underpinning humanitarian aid and committing to action
The values of dignity, integrity and solidarity are universal. They are at the core of all cultures, regardless of geography, ethnicity or religion. The humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence are a concrete expression of these shared values. They are also an operational necessity helping to provide access to assistance, to protect the most vulnerable and to ensure the security of humanitarian workers.
However, as comprehensive solutions to crises remain elusive, these basic values are being increasingly disregarded. This is reflected in the increasing breaches of international humanitarian law, including the universally ratified Geneva Conventions, and the inability of States and the international community to hold perpetrators to account.
Most humanitarian work takes place in conflicts in the context of a fragile political environment and weak socio-economic development. Solving conflicts that cause human suffering is not the task of humanitarian responders. Nevertheless, humanitarian actors need to understand the political and socio-economic environment in which they operate. While it is clear that humanitarian aid is neither a political, military nor a peace-building tool, humanitarian actors must work with others — and bring to their attention the atrocities of humanitarian crises — to enable them to take appropriate action.