The dust has settled on the World Humanitarian Summit but many of the issues discussed at the conference a few weeks ago still dominate the headlines. The devastating impact of the Syrian conflict on civilians. The endless influx of migrants and refugees into Europe. The increasing gap between funding needs and shrinking aid budgets. Is there really something we can do to improve humanitarian aid despite this worrying picture?
About ten years ago I used to work on a demobilisation and reintegration programme for former child combatants in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The job of reuniting these children with their families and helping them find an alternative to holding a Kalashnikov was already a major challenge in itself. Rarely would it get more complicated than when a global personality would come visit the children in the interim care centres where they were staying or publicly launch a new initiative in their favour...
The first-ever World Humanitarian Summit is over, with mixed results. For those, including me, who were hoping the discussion would tackle some of the root causes of humanitarian crises, like the lack of political solutions to fundamentally political problems, the conference was a missed opportunity. At the same time, the summit turned out to be positively surprising, focusing the attention on issues that are normally sidelined in global discussions or, even worse, labelled as ‘charity’.
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?
My second guest post is by Clinton Robinson, an education expert who has managed to capture an underlying dilemma for the development community in just a few amazing paragraphs. What assumptions do we make when we label countries as ‘developed’ or ‘developing’? Does it make sense to do so in today’s world? Should we just talk about people living in poverty anywhere? After reading his piece I hope you, too, will start questioning the standard language we use to describe how we ‘help’ other communities.