It’s been more than 55 years since the world witnessed stark levels of human suffering caused by the destruction of World War II. Governments and people from all backgrounds made commitments to never allow this to happen again.
Today, approximately 125 million people are affected by conflict-related crises and natural disasters, and depend on aid to survive. This motivated UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to convene the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey earlier this week for a two-day conference. This is a high-level event meant to reinvigorate international commitments to humanitarian principles and strengthen the international community’s response to crises caused by conflicts and natural disasters.
More than 5,000 government, private sector, and civil society representatives were invited to draw attention to the issues of today. Gayle Smith, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) led the U.S. delegation to the summit in Istanbul, which included representatives from the White House, Department of State, as well as the United States Mission to the United Nations, and the Department of Defense. Show of Force not only had the privilege to be among the 10,000 World Humanitarian Summit attendees, but also to participate.
At the side-event entitled “The Role of the Media in Humanitarian Crisis,” Show of Force was represented by Executive Vice President, Joshua Bennett. Moderated by Nicolas Moyer, Executive Director of Humanitarian Coalition, and joined by colleagues Caroline Nursey OBE, Executive Director of BBC Media Action, and Hanna Stjärne, CEO of Swedish National Television (SVT), the panelists discussed the ways in which media and communication can improve crisis response and help spark action to meet the needs of people affected.
The panel explored how various forms of media including public service announcements and documentary films, as well as partnerships between organizations, have helped meet the needs of people affected by humanitarian crises. From awareness-raising to bringing violations of international human rights to light, Bennett and his fellow panelists discussed the growing need for media tools that empower individuals to hold the most powerful to account.
Nevertheless, one major issue that stood out in the Summit was the current funding gap needed to address the humanitarian issues on the ground, which is an estimated $15 billion. As a result, millions of people around the world — mostly trapped in protracted conflicts and instability — are falling behind.
The two-day conference ended with mixed outcomes. “The World Humanitarian Summit has been a unique event, in form as well as substance,” Mr. Ban Ki-moon said on the last day. “We have the wealth, knowledge and awareness to take better care of one another. But we need action, based on the five core responsibilities of the Agenda for Humanity.”
As a result of the Summit, 1,500 commitments were made. Four stood out:
- The Education Cannot Wait fund to help provide quality education to children and youth in crises.
- A Grand Bargain that will increase the efficiency and effectiveness of investment in emergency response
- The Global Preparedness Partnership to better prepare twenty of the countries that are most at risk of crisis
- The One Billion Coalition for Resilience that aims to mobilize a billion people to build safer and more stable communities worldwide
The most talked about of these commitments was the “Grand Bargain,” a deal between donors and relief organizations to ensure more flexible funding for greater efficiency in aid delivery. This also included the need to greater affect beneficiaries directly, which in many cases means providing the aid directly to them and not just in-kind. Both donors and civil society hope to find an extra $1 billion for humanitarian relief. Yet less progress was made on ending the man-made conflicts that have helped push global displacement to the highest level ever recorded.
However, social media already garnered the support of thousands of individuals worldwide for the “Education Cannot Wait” fund, presented by UN Special Envoy for Global Education Gordon Brown to better coordinate efforts to drive both support and investment for the education of children and youth affected by humanitarian crises. “Action now has to happen urgently because of the sheer scale of numbers of children impacted,” said Brown. Over the next five years, the ambitious plan aims to reach more than 13.6 million children and youth living in crisis situations, such as conflict, natural disasters and disease outbreaks.
We welcome these commitments, and look forward to following them both in the news and in practice. We also hope to provide you with a call to action to ensure we are all doing our part to empower and protect the 125 million people who are in need of help.