World Humanitarian Summit: 5 things you need to know

19 June, 2014
14 May 2014, Wurotorobe, Burkina Faso: A community meeting in Burkina Faso - part of the lead up to today's first World Humanitarian Summit Regional Consultation. Credit: OCHA/Ivo Brandau
14 May 2014, Wurotorobe, Burkina Faso: A community meeting in Burkina Faso - part of the lead up to today's first World Humanitarian Summit Regional Consultation. Credit: OCHA/Ivo Brandau

The first Regional Consultation of the World Humanitarian Summit starts today in Abidjan,Côte d'Ivoire. The summit aims to create a new global humanitarian system that is more dynamic, more efficient and more inclusive.

The consultation will bring together a diverse group of aid professionals, representatives from West and Central African Governments, academia, civil society, the private sector and, most importantly, communities affected by conflict and disasters.

Here are five things you need to know about the World Humanitarian Summit:

1. Humanitarian action needs to adapt to a changing world. Globally, the international humanitarian system is at a crossroads. In the past decade, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has doubled. In the same period, the cost of humanitarian action has tripled. Some countries have been caught in the grip of prolonged humanitarian crises – be it the result of conflict (as is the case for Syria, or the convergence of poverty, failing climates and instability (in the Sahel, for example).

At the same time, the number of actors involved in humanitarian assistance has exploded. More governments are responding to crises within their own borders, and the number of small, targeted and non-traditional humanitarian organizations is growing rapidly.

“Conflict and natural disasters, combined with rapid population growth, persistent poverty and climate change mean that ever more people need help every year,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon when he announced the Summit in late 2013. “We need to find innovative ways to make humanitarian action more effective and inclusive to respond to the challenges of the future.”

2. The World Humanitarian Summit is about listening to the people who have the most at stake. The voices of people who have been affected by conflicts, natural disasters and protracted crises will be heard from Abidjan all the way to the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2016.

In the lead up to this first regional meeting, Summit organizers met with communities in the Central African Republic, Liberia, Burkina Faso and Chad, seeking their insights into the assistance they had received and the improvements they would like to see.

3. Humanitarians need to be more innovative. In a changing world, humanitarians need to find ways to stretch limited resources further and to reach more people in need. In the lead up to Abidjan, the Summit team held a West and Central Africa innovation contest – challenging people to find novel solutions to intractable problems in their region. Three winners have been selected and they will present their projects at the regional meeting later this week.

4. You can be involved. Part of this whole initiative is the idea that the humanitarian system needs to be more inclusive. It needs to represent the true depth and breadth of humanitarian actors: NGOs, religious groups, national and regional governments and people like you.
You can take part in online consultations about issues that are important in your region, or you can share your views on different thematic issues.

5. The journey has only just begun. Once Abidjan has finished, the World Humanitarian Summit roadshow will head to Japan for the North and South-East Asia consultation on 23-24 July. Online discussions are already underway.

A further six regional consultations will be held over the coming 12 months. Two global thematic consultations will take place at the end of 2015. It will all culminate in Istanbul, Turkey in May of 2016.

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