What's the next step for humanitarian actors?

The European Commission has been providing aid to the Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan since 2000. Photo by: H.Veit / UNRWA

The international community needs to change the way it responds to disasters.

While the challenges vulnerable countries are facing have been increasing, the capacity of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries to respond has been shrinking, IRIN News reports.

“Given the increased scale of needs and vulnerability, we need a radical shift in attitude and working practices to integrate anticipation, disaster risk reduction, preparedness and resilience into our programs,” Ross Mountain, director-general of Development Assistance Research Associates, said at the recently concluded Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference & Exhibition.

Below are some of the trends, challenges and issues that conference speakers said humanitarian actors need to address to be prepared and respond better to future disasters.

  • Growing youth population: With one in five people falling in the 15-24 age bracket, the international community should not underestimate the youth’s capacity and engage them in humanitarian aid. 

  • High unemployment rates: The world needs to create jobs, particularly in the manufacturing sector. 

  • Mixed migration: Many refugees are hidden in large groups of migrants, making it harder for agencies to help them. 

  • Climate change: Changing temperatures and rainfall patterns could result in increased incidences of malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever, river blindness and sleeping sickness. 

  • Politicization of aid: A growing trend among traditional donors is to link humanitarian assistance to political, military or anti-terrorism goals. 

  • New players: The international community needs to engage nontraditional donors and nongovernmental organizations, such as those from the Arab and Muslim worlds, better and in a more respectful manner. 

  • Local ownership: Tap local NGOs and civil society organizations in disaster response. 

  • Innovation: Find new ways of responding to crises. 

  • Humanitarian vs. development aid: How can humanitarian actors be better prepared when the lines have grown increasingly blurred?

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About the author

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    Aimee Rae Ocampo

    As former Devex editor for business insight, Aimee created and managed multimedia content and cutting-edge analysis for executives in international development.