Humanitarian summit aims to tackle ‘broken’ system

UN chief Ban Ki-moon says summit necessary to address rising humanitarian crises

Global leaders gathered yesterday for the first World Humanitarian Summit to tackle a “broken” system that has left hundreds of millions of people in need of aid.

The conference, arranged by United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, attracted more than 150 political leaders and 6,000 delegates.

However, such key figures as US president Barack Obama, British prime minister David Cameron and Russian president Vladimir Putin did not attend the event. French president François Hollande was also absent.

Mr Ban said the summit was necessary to address the rising humanitarian crises and the declining political will to deal with them.


An estimated 125 million people worldwide require humanitarian assistance, including some 60 million who are displaced from their homes.

Mr Ban called on business leaders, aid agencies and governments to commit to halving the number of displaced citizens by 2030. “We are here to shape a different future,” he said. “Today we declare: We are one humanity, with a shared responsibility.”

Participants discussed an international framework for refugees and asylum seekers, more legal pathways for migration, combatting migrant trafficking, and eradicating gender- based violence.

The conference also proposed a compromise between donors and service providers to bridge the current gap in humanitarian financing and accountability.

The “grand bargain” would see donors commit to longer- term, more flexible funding in exchange for more thorough reporting from the most-funded 15 organisations.

The summit was attended by political leaders, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and President of Ireland Michael D Higgins.

Mr Erdogan said he was hopeful the summit would lead to “auspicious outcomes” for hundreds of millions of people struggling to sustain their lives under great distress.

Common goals

“Pain knows no colour, race, language or religion,” he said. “We will never close our doors or our borders to people. We as leaders and responsible individuals of the international community can only succeed if we work under common principles and goals.”

Addressing the summit, Mr Erdogan criticised the UN Security Council, saying it should have more than its current five permanent members (the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China).

“It is illogical, unconscionable and unfair to confine all peoples’ fate to the political interest of five countries,” he said.

Eamon Meehan, executive director of aid organisation Trócaire, said the summit could achieve little without the presence of Mr Obama or the British, French or Russian leaders.

“Angela Merkel is the most senior figure here,” he said. “That is a real problem here. We need to sort out the veto powers because they exercise those vetoes in ways that are supportive of their political interests but not in the interests of ordinary people.”

Dominic McSorley, chief executive of Concern Worldwide, said he hoped the summit was the beginning of a renewed focus on humanitarian aid.

“I have been 34 years in this business ,” he said. “I have been at every other conference about climate change and development and humanitarian is an add on. This is the beginning, I hope, of a series of summits that will deliver on commitments. It is overdue.”

First step

None of the commitments made at the two-day meeting are binding. However political leaders insisted this would be the first step of many in addressing the humanitarian crisis, described as the worst since the second World War.

The summit pledged billions of euro to assist children and youth hit by disasters and war to access education.

Gordon Brown, the UN special envoy for global education, said that, without school, children are at risk of “becoming vulnerable to extremism and radicalisation”.