Lutheran World Relief president & CEO Ambassador Daniel Speckhard is participating in the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit, a high-level assembly called by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to address the increasing number of international crises, including war, natural disasters and climate change that are forcing than more than 60 million people from their homes.
At the Summit on May 23 and 24 in Istanbul, Turkey world leaders, including heads of state and officials from the humanitarian community, will affirm their shared commitment to humanity and humanitarian principles, to actions that will address these crises, and to sharing information about effective humanitarian practices.
Disasters More Frequent and Complex
Speckhard says that the international community, including national governments and humanitarian organizations, need to adapt to the increasing frequency and complexity of disasters and crises.
“We must accept the fact that the world’s old way of responding to humanitarian crises as isolated events is no longer adequate,” he says. “Climate change is fueling more frequent and more devastating natural disasters, and we are also seeing climate- and conflict-fueled crises that are triggering simultaneous, pan-regional emergencies. No longer do we have the luxury of dealing with one situation at a time.”
Fortunately, he says, we now have tools that forecast many impending crises, enabling a response that is better prepared and more integrated. “The international community must rethink its funding mechanisms and develop a system that is more robust, more flexible and makes resources available before disaster strikes, allowing for more rapid and nimble responses and perhaps even averting large-scale crises before they evolve,” he says.
LWR has signed on to a set of U.S. NGO Commitments for the World Humanitarian Summit that spell out how major humanitarian organizations believe they can pursue more effective humanitarian action that will better serve the world’s most vulnerable people. Particularly noteworthy is a call to uphold the norms that safeguard basic humanitarian principles, including protection for civilians and institutions such as hospitals and schools, and access for humanitarian aid workers to the people we are striving to serve. These measures need to be stressed in light of recent bombing of hospitals and schools, and the denial of humanitarian access, especially in Syria and Yemen.
Another important issue is the commitment to collaboration with local partners and the affected populations with whom we work, and promoting their ownership and decision-making. An example of this is LWR’s emergency response to the earthquake that struck Nepal one year ago. Because LWR was already working in Nepal with our local partner COPPADES at the time of the earthquakes, it was well positioned to immediately engage and coordinate its emergency response with the government of Nepal and local committees. This coordination allowed LWR to reach those most in need faster and with official support. It also served to prevent aid duplication and identify gaps in coverage.
LWR Cited by U.S. State Dept Refugee Bureau
Faith-based organizations like LWR have an important role in reaching out and forging strong relationships with local partners because of their extensive reach in vulnerable communities and the trust they earn among those populations. During a session at the humanitarian summit, Anne C. Richard, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, cited LWR (which is funded by the PRM) as she emphasized the importance of faith-based organizations in responding to humanitarian challenges.
One possible concrete outcome of the World Humanitarian Summit is a “grand bargain” among donors, implementers and states that would increase funding and would also better target financial support to humanitarian response, with more money to local responders. That would be a major, positive step forward.
It is our hope that this two-day encounter will begin a dialogue and international collaboration that will continue to develop in the weeks and months ahead, as we all strive to more effectively respond to these global crises and to serve the women, men and children suffering from them.