Two global realities are straining humanitarian relief. The number of crises worldwide is rising — and they are lasting far longer. Added to that, the humanitarian system is short of funds by a wide margin. Even if most donors doubled their commitments, it might not be enough.
Enter the World Humanitarian Summit, the first gathering of its kind set to kick off in Istanbul on Monday. Organizers from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs have said they hope bringing together thousands of stakeholders — including everyone from heads of state to small private foundations and nongovernmental oragnizations — can galvanize reform.
The first World Humanitarian Summit will draw a record crowd from across the globe to discuss how to reform humanitarian aid. Devex asks thought leaders from across the field what to expect at the summit, and what concrete outcomes might emerge.
WHS will be about funding. The humanitarian system needs more of it: Appeals this year are just 16 percent funded so far. But aid agencies are also promising to reform and revamp their operations, which may increase the value of every dollar spent. One clear example is cash. Studies increasingly show that giving it to those in need boosts health, education and social outcomes, all while empowering individuals and families to care for their own needs.
Yet few expect WHS to be a panacea, or even to herald significant change in and of itself. Instead, the summit is aimed at building momentum within the humanitarian community to modernize and change. Tough questions about cost efficiency and efficacy are being asked for the first time, and many NGOs and U.N. and national aid agencies attending the summit will come with answers about how their own organizations plan to address them.
Here’s a look at what we can expect in Istanbul, and the issues that Devex will be watching.
Elizabeth Dickinson is associate editor at Devex. Based in the Middle East, she has previously served as Gulf correspondent for The National, assistant managing editor at Foreign Policy, and Nigeria correspondent at The Economist. Her writing also appeared in The New Yorker, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Politico Magazine, and Newsweek, among others.
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