World Humanitarian Summit

Taking the long view of people’s needs

As humanitarians, we are increasingly called to address long-term needs. Our experience shows that disasters and armed conflicts are long-term experiences for people and play out in vulnerabilities before, during, and after any major crisis. Protracted conflict, chronic crisis, extreme climate vulnerability and extended situations of displacement require a long view from affected States, humanitarian organizations and their donors. It is, therefore, important to prioritize forms of investment that meet humanitarian needs and protect development gains by increasing individual, community and national resilience. This shift towards greater focus on resilience requires active support and investment that is predictable, sustained and flexible. It will also require us to adapt to changing contexts, in particular urban settings, and be much more innovative in the way we seek to reduce, prepare for, and respond to disasters and crises.

A. Strengthening community resilience

As rightly urged by Mr. Ban Ki-moon, the humanitarian sector can no longer simply respond to crises but must also, within the limitations of humanitarian principles, contribute what it can to substantially reduce humanitarian need. Supporting communities to become more resilient to future shocks is central to this approach.

Resilience can and must be built at various levels, from the individual to the community, from the locality to the nation. It is multi-faceted, drawing on social cohesion, a healthy natural environment, economy and community, knowledge and education, solid infrastructure and social services, as well as specific disaster risk management activities. It is more a process than an end state, and one that must be owned and driven by communities themselves.

As such, it is very clear that no one organization – or the humanitarian sector at
large – acting alone can provide the full support necessary to ensure that all communities reach their greatest potential for resilience. We must work in partnership and in a connected way. We must also work on a much more ambitious scale than we have in the past if we hope to address today’s trends towards uncontrollable and spiralling humanitarian need.

As affirmed by the 32nd International Conference of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, our central vehicle for building those partnerships and achieving that scale is the One Billion Coalition for Resilience (1BC) convened and facilitated by the IFRC.

The goal of the 1BC is that, by 2025, we will mobilize one billion people to take action to strengthen their resilience. The 1BC is based on the belief that, given the right support, vulnerable groups everywhere will work together and care for their own and for others. It is conceived as a network of coalitions and tools connecting individuals, communities, organizations, business and Governments to build on, strengthen and expand existing initiatives for community resilience. Individuals and institutions that are members of the 1BC will be supported by tools to connect to one another, to kick-start initiatives, and to benefit from the networks and expertise of others.

The 1BC is built upon five platforms: a digital eco-system for public engagement; a business continuity platform; a civil society organizations partnership platform; an advocacy platform, and an operations platform. These platforms will facilitate the necessary connections, information and tool sharing, and provide the foundation for us to collectively engage one billion people. By mobilizing the potential of our collective networks, our ability to work at scale, and coordinating our shared resources, we will work towards a world where people are safer, healthier and can thrive, even in the face of adversity.

On the occasion of that anniversary, the Movement undertook a series of dialogues on the experience of applying the Fundamental Principles. These conversations revealed that the Principles require a constant and continuous effort and can sometimes be very challenging to consistently follow. For instance, in some circumstances, actions that would seem required by one principle (such as the restraint required by the principle of neutrality) may appear to be in contradiction to what would seem required by another (such as the urge to action spurred by the principle of humanity). It is important therefore to always carefully balance these principles, to use them as an ethical compass and an operational framework guiding our action in a way that is tailored to the specific contexts we operate in. Nevertheless, their ongoing relevance to our work was unequivocally affirmed.

It is important to recognize that not all actors driven by solidarity and a humane spirit to help people in need necessarily align their efforts under humanitarian principles. Family members, neighbours, local authorities, civil society groups, faith-based groups, diaspora members, corporations and many other spontaneous and formal responders have always mobilized to respond to human suffering. Many actors operate in support of varied objectives, be they political, social or economic. Within this welcome diversity, it remains critical to recognize the particular place of neutral, independent and impartial humanitarian organizations – actors that abstain from activities that might be seen as political or antagonistic by part of the population.

In this context, the World Humanitarian Summit offers a further opportunity to reaffirm the particular place of humanitarian principles and the respect for all those who help people in need.

What we pledge to do

  • We pledge to work with partners to build up the One Billion Coalition for Resilience with the goal of supporting one billion people to take action to strengthen their resilience by 2025.

What we call for

  • We call on all actors working to support resilience to unite their efforts, connecting their networks and providing mutual support.
  • We call on all actors working to support resilience to engage communities and their local leaders to achieve lasting impact. At-risk communities and local actors must be key drivers of change and their voices must be at the core of decision-making processes that draw on local knowledge, capacities and ongoing feedback mechanisms.
  • We call on States to build the legal and institutional environment for risk-informed laws, policies and practices, and integrate disaster risk reduction into national poverty reduction strategies, sustainable development plans and climate change adaptation plans.
  • We call on donors to achieve the goal for one per cent of overseas development aid to be allocated for disaster risk reduction and ensure that sufficient funds are allocated to the most vulnerable countries and communities.

B. Supporting people in protracted conflict

Many millions of people are experiencing armed conflict for large periods of their lives. We are assisting people in places where they have seen violence and conflict for 40 of the past 60 years. The increased duration of conflict and other complex crises, and their far-reaching consequences, has long been challenging the assumption that humanitarian response to conflict and violence can ethically or effectively be short-term in nature.

This is especially true for chronic or low-intensity conflict areas, where the context may change overnight and violence may flare up, causing immediate suffering and creating new needs. These new needs often add to already fragile situations that see people impoverished and vulnerable, and where gains are quickly undone by new violence. Over time, the cumulative impact of long-term conflicts and violence, which degrade essential services and make coping mechanisms less effective, can gravely exacerbate the humanitarian consequences of even low-intensity situations. Such situations present enormous challenges, and not only for humanitarian organizations. Heightened security risks drive away Government and development actors, which are indispensable in providing longer-term sustainable services.

As a consequence, humanitarian actors have had to adjust their approaches in order to carry out activities that combine life-saving assistance and longer-term responses that support people’s livelihoods, rebuild essential infrastructure, and create safer environments. For example, in cities such as Aleppo or Kabul, in addition to the delivery of emergency medical care or food parcels, the ICRC has worked to keep sophisticated and inter-connected municipal and even national systems, such as energy, water, and sewage systems, running and meeting the needs of hundreds of thousands of people. By investing in critical infrastructure and skilled human resources, the ICRC helps to prevent reversal of development gains. In line with the Movement’s complementary approach, the ICRC often cooperates extensively with the National Society whose volunteers are an indispensable force for carrying out both immediate relief actions and long-term strategies for resilience.

There is no question that this combined approach to meeting both immediate and holistic needs is a more responsible and cost-effective way to work, but it is not without challenges. In particular, in many situations, we are confronted with competing needs and a limited budget. Further, it can be difficult to find the right partners where insecurity and the lack of predictable funding impede other humanitarian, development or investment organizations from ensuring their own presence and it is not always possible to work directly with them in a principled way.

What we pledge to do

  • We pledge to continue to mount context-specific responses in relation to protracted and chronic conflicts by addressing immediate needs from a long-term perspective, to the extent possible.
  • We pledge to adapt programme planning and implementation processes to better reflect our combined approach, notably by improving evaluation and reporting on the qualitative outcomes of our work rather than outputs.

What we call for

  • We call on donors to offer multi-year financing in the context of protracted conflicts in order to match the long-term investment made by humanitarian actors.
  • We welcome the efforts of international financial institutions and development actors to increase development investments in these contexts, as the continuation of basic services and infrastructure is a critical element of reducing the effects of conflict and mass displacement. We call on States and development actors to ensure that the most vulnerable have access to critical services and are appropriately targeted by these interventions.

C. Ensuring health for all, especially in crises

Pandemics, epidemics and other global health threats are emerging at worrying levels and frequency. The recent Ebola epidemic for example, with approximately 30,000 cases and more than 11,000 deaths, highlighted the shortcomings of existing national and international systems for surveillance and response. It also, and most importantly, brought to the forefront the key role local health workers and volunteers play in ensuring that households have access to health services, referral and follow up within their own communities. They are well placed to assist communities to identify local solutions to critical health problems in complex settings, contributing to local and community resilience. Such approaches cover the resilience continuum from preparedness, response, and recovery to long-term development.

Moreover, adequate access to basic health care and life-saving commodities and services is still distant for many individuals, households and communities.
2011, the Movement and other international and national professional health organizations have worked, as part of the initiative entitled “health care in danger,” to raise awareness of the issue of violence against patients, health care workers, facilities and transport. This initiative aims to prevent violence, to ensure safe access to and for the delivery of health care through the implementation of practical measures and customized operational responses at national and local levels in armed conflict and other emergencies.

Although much progress was made in the past decade in achieving health-related Millennium Development Goals, far too many communities have been left behind and the health divide has widened in many parts of the world.

In many areas of armed conflict, access to health care is in danger as parties to conflict have transformed hospitals and clinics into combat zones. In Afghanistan, for example, the ICRC registered in 2015 a 50 per cent increase of incidents against health staff and facilities, compared to the previous year. That means one incident every three days, without considering how many incidents go unreported. In an effort to stop this phenomenon, since

Beyond these security-related constraints, moreover, are self-imposed restraints by many donors that avoid the risks inherent in funding basic health care interventions, from vaccination to maternal care, in areas of protracted conflicts. In light of the stunning concentration of global mortality in these contexts, however, this approach fails to appreciate the significant risk of inaction.

There is no health without mental health – yet mental health care and psychosocial support is often under-resourced, stigmatized and, where available, highly institutionalized and lacking community focus. We see a particular, growing need to address the psychological consequences of armed conflicts and violence. The latter is linked to populations enduring protracted conflicts, extreme violence, displacement, disappearances of loved ones, etc. It is also a matter of supporting the helpers (volunteers and staff working in harsh environments).

What we pledge to do

  • We pledge to continue our initiative to protect patients, health care workers, facilities and transport, and ensure access for all to life-saving health interventions, as formulated in resolution 4 adopted at the 32nd International Conference.
  • We pledge to strengthen the use of a variety of risk communication and health promotion approaches to reach, influence, enable and engage different segments of the affected communities as well as our partners to promote and sustain behaviour and social change actions and enable greater community ownership of any community health initiative.
  • We pledge to innovate using locally informed intelligence in our community-based health approaches to provide life-saving interventions and promote healthy skills and practices in places with acute or protracted crises.
  • We pledge to document, study and share effective delivery strategies in places of acute or protracted crises.
  • We pledge to develop capacities and ensure opportunities for financial and technical resources to strengthen the health care continuum – from community through to national level.
  • We pledge to strengthen community-based mental health and psychosocial support programmes and take action to address discrimination and the protection needs of people with mental health disorders.

What we call for

  • As a matter of priority, we call on States and all relevant stakeholders to implement a range of measures that seek to protect wounded and sick persons and health care services in armed conflict and other emergency situations in accordance with IHL and national legislation.
  • We call on donors to sustain risk communication and community engagement preparedness initiatives, including through the long-term empowerment and capacity development of local actors.
  • We call on all relevant stakeholders to support the vital role of community health volunteers/workers in ensuring that households have access to health services, referral and follow up, including in such support opportunities for training and in- creased financial and technical resources.
  • We call on all relevant stakeholders to link health services with community outreach, which is so crucial for saving lives and goes hand in hand with safety of volunteers, community health workers, staff and people.
  • We call on all relevant stakeholders to strengthen health responses to respond to crisis, while maintaining the provision of essential services to non-affected populations.
  • We call on donors and humanitarian organizations to increase investment in mental health and psychosocial support programmes, including research into interventions that prove effective in challenging settings.

D. Helping people in urban settings

Currently, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas; by 2050, this number is expected to increase to 70 per cent. This rapid and often unplanned urbanization has led to a fundamental shift in challenges faced by humanitarian actors in responding to crisis in those contexts, whether in situations of armed conflict or natural disaster. Cities are complex systems that require humanitarian actors to adopt very different approaches from those more traditionally used in urban areas. The interplay with other global challenges such as climate change and environmental degradation, and displacement and migration, further contribute to an increase in the scale, complexity, and impact of humanitarian crises in urban settings.

Many contemporary armed conflicts are unconventional internal and asymmetric conflicts, with warfare taking place in densely populated urban areas. Urban warfare puts large numbers of civilians at risk and has severe consequences for essential infrastructure and services. The use of explosive weapons having wide-area effects only compounds such consequences. Whether it results from conflict or natural disasters, the destruction of road and public transport networks, water and sanitation systems and marketplaces has the potential to affect many more people now that areas are becoming more densely populated. This means that traditional humanitarian approaches with a primary focus on the provision of the most basic services, mostly implemented in camps, are not appropriate in urban settings. Humanitarian responders will have to develop approaches that support or strengthen existing systems while continuing to respond to urgent needs.

As a Movement, we continue working towards increasing our expertise in responding to crises in urban settings. We will continue to strengthen both our policy and operational understanding of what is needed in such contexts. Highlighting urban risks through the World Disasters Report in 2010, the IFRC and many National Societies have since been working on understanding the urban aspects of disaster risk reduction and management. The ICRC has equally devoted resources to better understand how to provide services in these settings as summarized in its recent research report “Urban Services During Protracted Armed Conflict”. The report provides lessons learned that can help the Movement and other humanitarian actors to improve their operational practice in such contexts.

As the challenges that are seen in urban settings exceed the knowledge and capacity of any single actor or organization, the step to create an Urban Expert Group during the WHS preparations is seen as a welcome one in order to ensure that urban issues do get the attention they need at the Summit. These preparations initiated the Global Alliance for Urban Crises (the Alliance), which will be formally launched at a Special Session during the WHS. The Alliance brings together a diversity of entities comprising humanitarian agencies, built environment professional institutes and, critically, municipality representatives to work together on informing both policy and operational practices. The Alliance will have to prove itself to be a contributor in developing strategies and tools for more effective and appropriate responses in urban humanitarian crises. The aim is to work in partnership to achieve common outcomes, improving effectiveness and helping to break down traditional silos.

What we pledge to do

  • We pledge to further develop and tailor our own risk reduction and emergency management approaches to take into account the particularities of urban settings, and continue to strengthen our logistical and technical capacity to meet the challenges of these complex environments.
  • We pledge to cooperate with others to support building urban preparedness and resilience in the face of crises, including through the Global Alliance for Urban Crises and the Urban Crisis Charter, to which the IFRC is a member and the ICRC an observer.
  • While maintaining our response to urgent needs, we pledge to support the maintenance, resilience and continuity of large-scale water, sewerage and energy infrastructure and services in cities affected by armed conflict.

What we call for

  • We call on humanitarian and other partners to support the efforts of and coordinate with the Global Alliance for Urban Crisis and/or sign the Urban Crisis Charter.
  • We call on parties to armed conflict to avoid the use of explosive weapons having wide-area effects in populated areas.
  • We call on donors and international financial institutions to increase their own investments into urban areas affected by armed conflict and fragility to enable resilient services for all.

E. Needs-driven innovation

Our world is changing at an unprecedented speed and, along with it, the nature and scale of natural and technological disasters. Humanitarian challenges are set to further intensify, threatening hard-fought achievements in human development throughout the world. In this new interdependent, interconnected and fast-paced reality, we need to innovate to be relevant to the changing nature of conflict and natural disasters, and live up to the expectations of those affected by them. Innovation can help us be more effective, efficient and respond more appropriately to the needs of people we work to assist and protect.

The Movement fosters innovation driven by the needs of people affected by crises – we neither innovate for the sake of innovation, nor are we solely driven by the potential advantages of new technology. We identify and support the tremendous assets and capacities that exist within communities. We search for what is already working before designing new solutions. We approach innovation as much as to enable those affected to respond to crises, as to improve our own efficiency and impact.

Every innovative initiative we foster is driven by our Fundamental Principles. This means we focus on human-centred solutions for those we assist and protect, regardless of gender, age, nationality, ethnicity, religious beliefs, class or political opinions. Innovation should not, in the end, negatively affect humanitarian action nor do more harm than good.

Through the Global Humanitarian Lab, initiated by the ICRC and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and joined by the IFRC, Médecins Sans Frontières and World Food Programme along with the Governments of Switzerland and Australia, we will mobilize and bring together the collaborative energies of innovators, whether refugee entrepreneurs, computer scientists, or digital volunteers, to ideate, design, test, and implement solutions – from 3D printer solutions to new operational models and ways of doing business.

What we pledge to do

  • We pledge to foster dialogue and participation of communities in grassroots innovation and to support community-led innovation.
  • We pledge to build an eco-system of value-driven partners to design and deliver all aspects of in- novation, from assessing needs to final adoption.
  • We pledge to find new approaches to make our own process of innovation more timely, cost effective and collaborative.

What we call for

  • We call on all relevant stakeholders to increase collaboration across the sector in sharing successes and failures in innovation in humanitarian action
  • We call on donors to provide funding that is flexible enough to allow for innovation and failure.