We must choose humanity over division and despair

Herve Verhoosel says we should declare a new world where every person is given the right to thrive, not just survive
Herve verhoosel

This week, innovators from all over the world are in the UAE for the 13th Dubai International Humanitarian Aid & Development Conference & Exhibition. For a long time, innovation has been considered essential for economic gain. Despite great progress in technology and development, we are witnessing the highest level of humanitarian needs since the Second World War. With the world stretched for resources to address the needs of millions of people affected by conflicts and disasters, it is time to think of cost-effective and efficient solutions to end their plight.

At the beginning of 2016, 125 million people in 37 countries around the world are in need of humanitarian aid. If all of these people were in one country, it would be the 11th largest in the world, bigger than Japan.

Disasters are devastating the lives of millions, leading to an unprecedented number of refugees and internally displaced people. The cost of conflicts to the global economy is $14.3 trillion (Dh52.25tn) per year –13 per cent of the world’s GDP, increasing humanitarian assistance by 600 per cent over the past decade.

We witness the damaging impact of climate change around the world every day. We see lives, communities, countries and entire regions stressed and destabilised. In the face of these violent challenges, the resilience of communities and nations is being tested. And so is the strength of international cooperation.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, believes that business as usual is not an option. This is why he has called for a World Humanitarian Summit. In May, leaders will gather in Istanbul, to commit to do more to prevent and resolve conflicts, act to reduce the impact of future crises and secure the financing needed to save lives.

To chart a way, Mr Ban drew upon his experience as an internally displaced person in Korea. He put forth the agenda for humanity, calling on leaders to stand up for our common humanity and reduce suffering.

At the summit, representatives from governments, the private sector, multilateral organisations, civil society, academia and crisis-affected communities will have their opportunity to announce commitments to deliver the agenda for humanity, and launch new initiatives.

Focusing on the five core responsibilities for humanity set out in the secretary-general’s recently published report – One Humanity, Shared Responsibility – the summit will address a range of issues that will shape the way we respond to and prepare for humanitarian crises for years to come. These range from reducing humanitarian needs to respecting international humanitarian law and humanitarian principles, to addressing displacement, to preparing for disasters, to empowering women and young people to be leaders in their own communities.

The secretary-general’s hope is that the summit will represent a turning point – one which helps create the political momentum for change for the better. To succeed, it requires global leaders at the highest level to be part of this historic moment, including from GCC countries.

While certainly ambitious, this can be achieved. In 2015, global leaders demonstrated against the odds that they can accept shared responsibilities and act decisively, with compassion and resolve. Whether endorsing the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction Framework, or agreeing on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Paris Agreement on climate change, they showed that unity is stronger than division.

This progress would not have been possible without the commitment of political leaders. With the summit less than 70 days away, this is the time to build on that progress. We must urge everyone to bring their brightest ideas and their most adamant commitment to Istanbul and declare a new world, where every child, every woman and every man is given the right to thrive, not only to survive.

Today’s complex challenges cross borders and surpass the capacity of any single country or institution to cope, it is therefore important to come together and be on the right side of history. It is important to choose humanity and compassion over division and despair. It is important to show the millions of people living in conflict and affected by disaster the solidarity that they expect and deserve.

Herve Verhoosel is the spokesperson of the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul