World Humanitarian Summit: “We are here to shape a different future,” says UN Secretary-General

23 May, 2016
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opens the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey. 23 May 2016. Credit: OCHA
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opens the first-ever World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey. 23 May 2016. Credit: OCHA
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At the opening of the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in Istanbul today, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon joined the President of Turkey, relief activists and international celebrities to urge the global community to shape a different future for the world.

“We are all here because global humanitarian action is unprecedentedly strained,” Mr. Ban told thousands of participants attending the opening ceremony, adding he had proposed the Summit four years earlier out of concern for rising humanitarian needs and declining political will. “Today, the urgency has only grown,” the Secretary-General stressed.

The United Nations estimates that a record number of people – 130 million – currently need aid to survive. More people have been forced from their homes than at any time since the end of the Second World War.

Speaking to those gathered this morning, the Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O'Brien, stated that we must not underestimate the gravity of what lies before. “This is a once in a generation opportunity to set in motion an ambitious and far-reaching agenda to change the way that we alleviate, and most importantly, that we prevent the suffering of the world’s most vulnerable people,” he said.

O’Brien challenged attendees to turn the Secretary-General’s Agenda for Humanity, including its five core responsibilities, into a reality. Over the next two days in the Turkish capital, WHS is bringing together stakeholders who have a vested interest in improving the global humanitarian system, including more than 65 Heads of State and Government as well as leaders from the public and private sectors.

Prior to these remarks, survivors of humanitarian catastrophes—both human-made and natural—spoke to the audience in emotional addresses, recounting their ordeals and how they overcame them with the desire to now support others.

Victor Ochen, a former child solider from northern Uganda, spoke about growing up with violence everywhere around him. At the age of 13, he chose a different path, forming a peace club in his refugee camp to discourage children and young people from joining the armed forces. “Peace comes from within,” he said. “Be human and act human.”