On 23-24 May the city of Istanbul hosts the world’s first-ever humanitarian summit. About 5,000 leaders from government, business and civil society will gather at the UN’s request to agree more effective ways to address some of the most challenging crises on earth. Why this meeting now? And will it really make any difference to the millions of people affected by natural disasters or conflict around the world?
Last week the OECD, an inter-governmental organisation gathering the world’s richest countries, released its annual figures on how much aid, or overseas development assistance, went to developing countries in 2015. On the surface, there is reason to celebrate: once you take out inflation and exchange rate changes, the overall net amount of aid is the highest ever reported, totaling $131.6 billion after an already record-high couple of years. That’s quite an achievement, particularly for those European donors who last year had to face major unexpected challenges, such as the arrival of migrants and refugees at their doorstep.
Ever since I started working in development I have been struck by how little we talk about its linkages with migration. Most NGOs specialise in either/or. Very few of them have the courage or the capacity to address migration and development together despite the fact that these issues are often two sides of the same coin.
If anything, the growing influx of migrants and refugees into Europe has forced us to start making that link in earnest. Never before have so many people been forced to flee their homes, nearly sixty million worldwide – the equivalent size of Italy’s population.